Why I’m not Doing NaNoWriMo

If you hang around the creative writing world at all, then you know that October is NaNoWriMo prep month – that is, the time to prepare for November, which is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I’ve done NaNo before (let’s not talk about my pathetic word count). Earlier this year I was looking forward to doing NaNo again and at least bettering my word count for the month, if not actually “winning” (that is, writing 50,000 words in a month). But as the fall approached, I realized that perhaps I’d be better off not doing it.

My writing load has greatly increased over the last few months. Here’s a brief rundown of what I’m currently working on:

     Editing/rewriting novel #1 of a trilogy

     Writing first draft of novel #2 of same trilogy

     Writing weekly posts for my blog

     Writing 10-15 posts a month for my job

     Working on three short stories that I hope to have published by the end of the year

I’m not saying all this to brag about my writing endeavors (though I am excited about and thankful for the paid writing opportunities that have come my way recently).

I’m also aware that this laundry list of activities could sound like nothing more than excuses. Hey, we’re all busy: jobs, families, holidays, general life. Nobody has extra time lying around in November to devote to NaNoWriMo. If you want to do it, you have to make the time to do it.

I could make the time to do NaNo. I even have a story idea that just needs a little thought and outlining, and it would be ready to go for November. Even though I have a busy schedule, (and two other jobs besides the job I write for), I know I could make the time. I’m just not sure my brain could handle it.

My focus is spread thinner than I’d like right now. I’ve developed a weekly writing schedule for myself, so that I don’t try to write for everything every day. Switching between so many different subjects and styles of writing on a regular basis can easily sap my creativity and mental energy. I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there who manage the constant switching just fine, but since this is all rather new to me, I don’t want to put any unnecessary stress on my poor amateur brain.

I look forward to participating next year. I don’t know what my personal and professional writing life will be like in a year, but I want to be able to fit NaNoWriMo into my schedule and my mind by then. In the meantime, I will enjoy the writing that I’m currently doing, and will use this experience to become more disciplined with my mind and my schedule.

I love NaNoWriMo and everything it represents: getting people excited about writing, creating a sense of community for an otherwise solitary activity, a great platform for setting and tracking goals. Whether you’re a published author or you’ve never written a thing since your last essay in high school, I think participating in NaNoWriMo is a fun and inspiring thing to do.

So to all you WriMos for 2014 – go write!

Inconceivable! And Other Words That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

If you understood the reference made in the title of this post (hint: if you haven’t seen The Princess Bride, stop reading right now and go watch it), then you probably know what I’ll be discussing in this post.

In a living language like English, words sometimes change their meaning over time. For example, we use the word “prosaic” to mean dull or unimaginative; but originally, it simply meant “prose,” as in literature that wasn’t poetry.

So yes, words change, and even the most contentious literary lover might misuse a word or will encounter a new word they didn’t know before. But some words in recent years seem to have become problematic for many people. Here are a few of my pet peeves:

Literally. This means “exactly, without inaccuracy.” Nowadays, though, most people use it as nothing more than a modifier to add emphasis to a statement, like beginning a sentence of moderate importance with the word “dude.” There’s nothing wrong with “literally” moving into slang usage in this way, but where I take issue is when people forget what it actually means. Saying “Dude, my head literally exploded” in everyday conversation is one thing; but if you’re trying to sound professional in either your speaking or the written word, just remember that you wouldn’t still be here if your head had literally (i.e. actually, truly) exploded.

Alright. I’ve blogged about this word before. There’s not much to say here, because “alright” isn’t a word at all. What you’re trying to say is “all right.”

Welp or whelp. First of all, welp is not a real word. I see welp or whelp used in slang and conversation as an alternate way of saying “well” at the beginning of a sentence. For example, a Facebook update might say “Welp, there goes my great idea for my school project. :-(” Again, I’m fine with slang usage for words, but please don’t forget what the actual definition is. While “welp” doesn’t mean anything, a “whelp” is the pup or cub of a dog, a bear, or other animal, or can be used to as a somewhat derogatory term for an obnoxious child.

I’m sure there are other words that could be added to this list of “words that don’t mean what you think they mean.” These three are a good start, I think, mostly because I see them used (or misused) so frequently. What misused words would you add to the list?

Music Review: “Just the Two of Us,” Secret Garden

After nearly 20 years of composing and performing, the Norwegian-Irish New Age group Secret Garden is going back to the basics, as it were. Secret Garden’s latest album is titled Just the Two of Us, and features Rolf Løvland on the piano and Fionnuala Sherry on the violin.

Even though Rolf and Fionnuala have performed with other musicians, singers, and orchestras for all of their other albums, a duo of piano and violin was always at the heart of their music. For their ninth album, they created a simpler, more intimate experience for their listeners.

Every melody on this album is a delicate resculpting of tunes that would be familiar to long-time Secret Garden fans: “Awakening,” “Song from a Secret Garden,” and “Papillon” are some of my favorites on this album. Two new pieces are featured for the first time here: “En Passant” and the title track “Just the Two of Us.”

There aren’t any of Secret Garden’s upbeat Celtic jigs or songs with full choirs on this album. This easily could have been called “Ode to Simplicity,” as one of the tracks on the album suggests. I feel that Rolf and Fionnuala achieved what they set out to do – create new life while revisiting the past.

If you’re looking for a soothing instrumental album, full of variety but without any jarring musical surprises to interrupt relaxation or enjoyment, then I would highly recommend Just the Two of Us.

Secret Garden’s website

“Song from a Secret Garden”