Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

At Sea

I can’t leave my house today because the road is closed. It feels like an at-sea day.  (Non-cruise-loving travelers, allow me to explain.) On cruises, the trip revolves around the places of port – the journey’s milestones where everyone on the boat files off, spends 8 hours stimulating the local economy, then clambers back on board in time to sleep and wake up somewhere else.  I’ve been on two cruises – lesbian cruises (which is a blog post for another day) – and to me the best days were the at-sea days.  The days between ports, when the boat was our unavoidable container and there was nowhere to go. (Would you hate being stuck on a boat with 2,000 lesbians?)

Knowing my options are limited is a great relief to my system. It’s getting the prix fixe dinner vs. the insurmountable 32 page book-of-a-menu at that Chinese place. No angsty deciding. No contending with constant imaginings of all the things I could be doing if I wasn’t here. So I’ve been counting down the hours today, not with “when can I leave?” but with “how many more do I get?”

I wish I could say I was rapidly spiritually evolving with this poignant reminder that accepting limitation is so freeing.  In reality, my distractions today have only downsized to the 10 million things I can/ need to do in my house.  What next?  Work?  Yoga?  Organize the scary cabinet?  Write the next great American novel?  Nap?  Make cookies?   Someone in me is hoping there’s someone else in me who’s in charge of these matters.  It’s a little disappointing then when I get the typical response: “uh….let’s check Facebook while we decide.” Irretrievable hours of my life later, I’m back at the beginning and I’m contemplating how social media has successfully replaced TV as my unconscious time-waster of choice.  (At least it’s interactive and about people I (usually) know and care about.)

What’s true is today has been exactly like most days.  I spend the bulk of it sitting and staring at a lit-up rectangle.  The sun comes and goes, and I’m alternately 1) doing the holy work of housing and feeding myself, 2) avoiding doing the holy work of housing and feeding myself or 3) thinking about the limitless array of things I’d do if only I didn’t have to house and feed myself.

At least I didn’t lose those five minutes toying with the notion of driving down to get my mail and a mocha, which is the other favorite thing I do to keep me from having to sit still.  And I’m seeing a little more clearly how often I scan for that delicious distraction that will keep me from focusing on my heart’s desire  – and ultimately, from the full measure of success and fulfillment that I know is available to me.

It’s November, and I decided at the beginning of the month to again attempt the ridiculous and totally do-able endeavor of writing 50,000 words in 30 days for NaNoWriMo. It’s November 21st, and I’m at 5,348 words.  Another day of another year, and my prize is seeing how relentlessly I avoid doing what I want to do.

My house is littered with messages to remind and encourage me.  I get wonderful pep-talk emails twice a week.  I am haunted by self-help book titles, like Mary Goldenson’s It’s Time: No One is Coming to Save You.  I made a poster and stuck it on the wall by my bed that says in big letters: There Is No Time To Waste.

And.

I have apparently not seen what I do enough yet.  I have not felt unsatisfied enough yet to turn my seeing into change.  Getting to enough is key.  And remembering enough, even more so.  I don’t believe anymore that simple laziness is to blame for keeping our dreams out of reach.  It’s habits, usually super attractive, unconscious habits that strap us in the comfy chair, and desperation that pushes us out.  We only shift when we have to.

Of course, saving ourselves is ultimately up to us. But help is useful. Friends are good. I think we should start a friends-don’t-let-friends-get-complacent campaign.  I think we should make interventions a daily practice and the ultimate sign of friendship. Not interventions of shame but of the ultimate care – the care for our soul’s wellbeing. I think we should make explicit our real goals and ask our friends to help hold us accountable  – to check in on us, call us out and shine light on our excuses, even when we kick and scream (which we will.)

I don’t know how this would work.  Phone check-in’s? A website? Written contracts? Maybe I’m the only one who wants this.  Am I the only one?  Please tell me I’m not the only one.

As of four minutes ago, the road is officially open again, so you can come on over and brainstorm.  Maybe I’ll make cookies.

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Filed under invitations, lisa goettel, writing

All Roads Lead to Rome (and Here)

I’m enjoying, or not, depending on the moment, a stunning lack of focus lately.  I’m feeling oh so resistant to making any choice that could limit my options.  I want it all.  And I’m discovering the irony in this… that this mentality keeps me from fully picking, doing or enjoying anything, really.

I’m reminded as I write this of a pep-talk note we got from author Janet Fitch during NaNoWriMo.  I’m going to go right now to look it up…  Here’s part of a story she shared with us about a huge writer’s block she ran into around Chapter 8 in her book White Oleander

“I just couldn’t decide what to do next.  I’d try this, try that, but each time I’d get stuck. The character would put her toe in and pull it out again. No, not that. Should  I just bag it? Write a different book? Go to law school? Watch reruns of Hogan’s Heroes? I was absolutely blocked at the crossroads.

Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn’t commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, ‘I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all.'”

(Sigh.)

That’s it exactly.  Forget writer’s block.  I’m having people’s block.  (For the record, the word I really wanted to use was LIVEr’s block, as in one who lives.)

I see how this plays out in my day-to-day… because it does, alot. I’m a toe-dipper.  Which becomes a thin-spreader – or a spreader thinner… which leads to a bad case of overwhelm.  Or I become a masterful avoider.  Lying in bed for hours, dreamily playing out loads of reckless fantasies for my life in my head, but really I’m just lying in bed.  I’m a dreamer, avoider, procrastinator… which, by the way, also leads to a bad case of overwhelm.

IT’S TIME, Lisa. Time to step up and step out. Take the non-habitual road.  Pick something, and DO. You know creativity thrives in limitation, so create a framework.  Follow one of those lists you love making so much.  GO. Be in the world.  (This is being said by my loudspeaker voice.  Do you have this voice? The one that comes in behind your left ear and gives you the firm and clear answer to any question?)

Janet Finch advises fellow blocked writers to pick something that will make trouble for their character.  She writes, “Find the thing (your character) loves most and take it away from him. Find the thing he fears  and shove him shoulder deep into it. Find the person who is absolutely worst for him and have him delivered into that character’s hands. Have him make a choice which is absolutely wrong.”

This excites me. Anyone else up for getting into a little trouble?

Oh, and a framework.  I do love frameworks.  I found this on the blog of a friend of a friend.  Wanna play? Copy the bold and fill it in.  Ten minutes or less.

*i am annoyed by slow drivers who won’t pull over on the highway.
*i want it all.
*i have six billion ideas.
*i miss cuddling.
*i fear I won’t be able to say no if I say yes.
*i hear the furnace clicking, the solar batteries charging and the wind.
*i search for some imagined “right way”.
*i wonder what will happen if I just say, “screw it.”
*i regret not having more skill and self-awareness in my past relationships.
*i love big.
*i forgive you, if you were that slow driver on the highway.
*i ache for no-holds-barred connection.
*i always make my bed.
*i try to eat well and do yoga every day.
*i seem unapproachable when I’m being shy.
*i know this.
*i feel like walking to the beach today.
*i dance around my house naked.
*i dream of being independently wealthy. But
*i give all my money away when I have it.
*i listen carefully to everything you’re not saying.
*i sing all the time.
*i laugh till I cry sometimes.  I love that.
*i can’t believe it’s noon already.
*i write because I have to.
*i cry at every single therapy session. It’s annoying.
*i sleep like a rock.
*i am really happy about that.
*i see the sun!
*i need to clean the house.
*i should forever banish the word should from my vocabulary.

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Filed under invitations, life, lisa goettel, writing

Destination Perfection

It is 3:22am on a Saturday night/ Sunday morning and I am certain I am the luckiest girl alive.  Because luck does not look as one expects, I am learning. I did not win the lotto, or the cake walk at the the local fair today (thank heavens), but I am remembering, at this quiet, precious moment between days that the whole wide world has conspired in my favor. I cannot do any wrong thing.

My friend Paula Shaw’s raspy, dramatic, and always convincing voice often rings in my head, saying things like “Just go! All roads lead to Rome!” or “It’s hopeless. But not serious.” Today I’m reminded of her missile metaphor.  She explained that launched missiles, with all their technology and precision are almost never moving on target.  The only way a missile knows how to reach its destination is to move in that general direction, and when it’s far enough off course, it recognizes this and corrects.  So in fact, it is always moving in an ongoing zig zag, rather than some imagined perfect arc.

I am reassured by this. I can follow all my human little longings and mind trips and insecurities and hiccups down a river of sad or shame or give up… but even these rivers belong to life.  And life always takes its course in the direction of perfection.

Example A.

There are, let me check, 20 hours and 31 minutes left in National Novel Writing Month.  The official goal of this is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  An absurd and absolutely doable task, that more than 100,000 people in the world will accomplish this year.  I will not be one of them.  I am at just over 15,000 words, for a variety of reasons.  Namely, 1) my life is fuller than full, and 2) I cannot turn off my inner editor.

Fuller than full is pretty self-explanatory.  I have four jobs, have moved three times this month, had friends visit and competing priorities. The editor piece is interesting. With the exception of a few moments, I have successfully wrestled my inner critic into submission. (Woo!) However my internal editor (there is a big difference) and I have something of a love affair.  I love, love, love polishing as quickly as I create.  I have not yet found faith enough to follow the rough edges of the story unknown far into oblivion.  My editor chimes in at every turn and pulls me back into a course that feels “more inspiring” to follow and then my inner Taurus must go back and fix the story accordingly.  I knew this whole novel-writing business would be one big giant personal process.  I was right.

The great success here is that I am not beating myself up terribly for my un-winning. I have, in fact, altered the rules to fit suit my needs and am extending my personal deadline to the 1st of the year.  50,000 words in two months is fine with me.  And no, the slick little progress bar on the right there will not accommodate, so I will post my own word count updates there instead.  (And I do invite you to hold me to it.  Peer pressure can be used for good, you know.)

In sum: I aimed high and decided to do this thing.  I am missing the goal, and still the whole thing has plopped me exactly in the middle of myself with great success.

Example B.

It was 11:15pm this evening, now yesterday, and I was at a choicepoint.  Do I spend my whole Saturday night alone at home with the novel writing or take a break and see some live music/ have some actual human interaction?  Such choicepoints, as mundane as they seem, always feel at the time as though the fate of my whole existence is at stake.  But what will I MISS if I choose this?  Which choice is really coming from CENTER? Blah blah blah.

I hemmed and hawed.

I’m in a groove with the writing again, so the kindest thing would be to stay here and do this for myself.

I wrote 2,000 words today and deserve a break. Live music! Go enjoy yourself.

I have a sore throat. I should sleep.

I have a sore throat. I should drink whiskey.

I went with the live music and the whiskey.

And now I’m here.

This “here” is not exactly the same as the “here” I would be experiencing if I hadn’t made that decision.  The learnings would look different. (And my lips wouldn’t be tingly.) But I am absolutely, beyond a doubt certain of the fact that I would have gleaned exactly what I needed to know to steer myself on the course I am choosing for my life, no matter what I did.  Whether “less drinking, more sleeping” is my renewed intention or “less hiding, more contact” – my course is correcting itself in the direction of my perfect evolution.

The world is conspiring in favor of my growing up.

I cannot do anything wrong.

Choices and events that bring me pain and suffering are powerful motivators.

Choices and events that bring me joy and fulfillment are powerful indicators.

In this season of thanks and gratitude, I am feeling mighty grateful for this knowing.  What a relief(!) to relax into this grand paradox – this faith – that I am always on the path, despite myself.  I won’t remember this most of the time, and it doesn’t even matter.  Is this not the most wonderfulest thing ever?  Call it god, call it life, call it fate, call it what you will… I just know I have this great gift of choice, and no matter what I do, I am being lived.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Filed under life, writing

Procrastination Station

I don’t need NaNoWriMo’s procrastination station.  I have an infinite supply of my own. Like this blog.  I should be writing many, many words right now. In my novel, that is.  Instead I’m writing words here.  Because my brain is working like these sentences. Small and random and not well put together.

So here’s my random collection of things to share this evening.

  1. Nano halo with ice cream horns

    Nano halo with ice cream horns

    This is a picture of what I look like right now. I’ve decided this is my Nano halo, complete with ice cream horns.

  2. I am weary. I moved houses, again, today. This is a house I will move out of on Dec. 1st, so I can move back into it on Dec. 15th. And I will live there until at least April.  April!  Oh god! If you want to know how I feel about this, go look at the cover of the latest New Yorker Magazine.  You should seek it out anyway. (Thanks Dale.)
  3. It is ridiculously beautiful in Big Sur right now.  I feel bad for all of you who live in places that are cold and rainy.  It is sunny (not now, because it’s nighttime) and 80 degrees and I did yoga on a deck this morning next to a hot tub, overlooking 180 degree blue blue ocean view. (Thanks Nadine!)  I say this to inspire you all to come visit. Since I will soon have a house. And to say “Thank you god for not making me move in the cold rainyness.” Because today I would have just sat down in the mud and cried.
  4. My friend Mike from London is coming to visit on Monday.  Yea.
  5. I’m having lunch with my friend Chris tomorrow. Yea.
  6. I’m going to Mexico in February. Yea. (Thanks Mom.)
  7. I’m going to San Francisco this weekend to write dangerously, at the Night of Writing Dangerously.  And I found out today I’ll get a prize, for raising all those dollars, from all of you!  Hey! Thanks!  I’m also hoping to march in the streets.  You can too! http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/?t=anon
  8. Which brings me, aptly, to number 8, the post-Prop 8 despairdrom.  Seriously. I have been ruminating much on this. So have other people who are speaking out most eloquently. Namely, Keith Olberman and Joe Solomonese. Please take some minutes and click on both those links. And it seems I have something to say too.

The passage of Proposition 8, which takes away the right of gay couples to marry in California, right there in the Constitution, has been beyond a disappointment to me and so many people I know.

To me it feels personal and it feels mean.  What a pointy contrast to the presidential outcome and The Big O’s message of hope – appealing to the best, most heartfelt, inspired, humble and giving parts of our humanness.

I am sad, but I not at all hopeless. I know in my knowingest knowing that the passage of Prop 8 will be more inspiration for all people, in every state, to engage in a dialog.  And dialog will save the day. Dialog with those who are directly impacted by it is important, but also those that aren’t. Those who think this has nothing to do with them.  Those who think that the rights of someone they haven’t met are not inextricably linked with their own. And it is my fervent hope that this inspires dialog with ourselves.  What an opportunity to discover what our own beliefs and (often subconscious) intentions are bringing to the world!

They say a “value” only changes when two held beliefs come in conflict.  It can be a painful and sometimes lengthy process, but it happens all the time.

Example: I believe the gay lifestyle is wrong.  My son just told me he is gay and I love him.

Whether or not it seems so, I promise, these two statements are fully incompatible.  These incompatibilities force something to shift.

My invitation to you is this. Take an opportunity, right this very minute, to shine a kind and honest light on your most deeply embedded beliefs about love and relationships in general.  All your parts.  Write them down. Your parts will disagree and you may not like some. But in so seeing, we have a chance to more consciously choose which part we want to lead our lives.

Cheri Huber says something to the effect of “You can have a wounded little whiny person in you who just wants to get whatever she wants all the time.  You can love her and listen to her and accept her as a part of you.  But you don’t give her the credit card and keys to the car.”  (I have a part of me who wants to pop other people’s zits.  But I do not let her go to parties.)

Ok then. Remember to check out Joe and Keith’s links.

Back to writing.

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Filed under life, lisa goettel, offerings, politics, writing

Moving, Electing, Noveling.

Oh my, my.  I moved today, for the 14th time since July (but who’s counting.)  And I am living in America, a country I am proud to live in for the first time in 8 long, long years.  And I am many thousands of words behind in my novel-writing word count, but am having a fantastic time now, after days of less than fantasticness.

** Moving **

I am learning the art of moving gracefully and painlessly.  I am not yet to a place of enthusiasm.  But I am grateful.  Grateful for having so many amazing friends who have extended their homes to me whenever I need them.  I am grateful for living rent-free for 4 and-a-half months.  I am grateful for the awesome realization of freedom that hit me at 4:00 today, that I could pick up and drive anywhere on the continent and make a life there, right now. I am grateful for getting rid of things, slowly, with each move, and I don’t miss any of them.  (I can’t even remember them.)

** OH! BAMA! **

Speaking of grateful… although truth be told, ecstatic is the better word.  Or ebullient, giddy or glee-filled.  AMEN! HALLELUJAH! AMEN! (this is being sung by a big gospel choir in my head.)

I watched the returns come in Tuesday, accidentally, down at Esalen with the only person I know in Big Sur who is as big of a political junkie as I am.  We shook and laughed and cried and screamed and sat quietly and hugged. (Thank you, J.)  This was followed by a trip down to the local pub where there was much dancing and whooping. The profundity of this decision sunk in only after the fact: a black man, a black man with integrity and heart, a black man with courage and humility and vision and presence and grace, has been elected President of the United States by the majority of Americans.  I can’t decide which is more impossible to believe: that Obama actually won, or that whole states of people out there voted for Sarah Palin.

I am learning what it feels like to be represented(!) and what it’s like to be in the majority(!).  I am finding myself two degrees more courageous since Tuesday.  I am just a little bit more willing to risk hoping.  And I am reveling in discovering that just a little bit is so, so big.

** Writing Novels **

All I can do is sigh, with pity for this little human that I am.  This ambitious and earnest and fragile little person.  On Wednesday, I still didn’t have any vision for my story.  I was writing disjointed fragments and as quickly as I wrote them I hated them.  I hated my characters, my lack of a plot or vision, this whole big dumb idea of writing a novel.  I stared at my screen for one whole hour without writing one whole word.  I got up and ate chocolate and drank wine. I sat down to write again and fell asleep instead.  I woke up and walked around slamming doors.

It was about this time that a little voice whispered in my ear, saying “This is why you signed up for this. Right now. This.

I looked up an e-mail that I got from my super bestest novel-writing mentor ever, P, in the week before the NaNoWriMo started.   I had relayed my anxiety to her about the whole thing and she offered this response.  (She offered a complete list of points a thru i, but I only needed to read to d, this time. Hope you don’t mind me sharing, P.)  She writes:

oh, i hear you, sister friend. i hear you.

and i hope that you will:

a. give yourself permission to write the worst crap ever. like, seriously awful crap.

b. and that for a while it bothers you, how much crap you’re slinging. that you start to wonder if you have any business at all writing.

c. and i hope that when that happens (because it will) you keep writing.

d. and after you keep writing even though you hate everything coming out of you, that you start to think it’s fun and silly and awesome (because you will and it is).

It was the two degrees of relief and hope and trust that I needed to start writing again.  I haven’t stopped since.  I am still way behind the word count I should be at, but I don’t much care.

If you fancy reading the occasional, random excerpt, I’m posting them at:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/425881 (Click “Novel Info”)

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Spilling

My life is spilling over the top.  Full and full and fuller.  Storms and websites and jobs and e-mail classes and moving and novel-writing… up to the eyeballs.  Doing doing doing from sun up to way past sun down.

But I dashed off a little poem note to myself this morning in my journal, and thought, I’d like to post this.

Happy, HAPPY election day, by the way. (I am so very excited I can hardly stand it.)

so much doing,
and believing,
and unfolding –
still
this will never be
satiated –
no amount of money
or fill
or jars of jobs well done
will relieve
this breath,
or remind you
there is no earning
of joy.
you already belong to it.

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Filed under life, offerings, poetry, writing