Monday coffee: A month of living dangerously


For many creative writers who have writing lives on the internet, November is a month in which one walks softly and carries a big coffee cup. Why? Because November is when all the challenges Douwe Egberts koffie kopcome out of hiding, and it’s so hard for a writer to resist. To name just a few:

And these are just a few of these events.

Each of these events has detractors. And they are often right to point out problems. Some argue that really good writing needs to happen in its own time and under its own steam. Others believe that the process of creation is more important than the goal (whether that goal is a number of poems written or the number words on a page), but that some of these events focus on goals and discourage mindfulness. Some people need to move on – to pass up the “game” feeling and do the serious, ugly work of revising. Still others have tried one of these events and found the month to be frustrating if one has more than one outside responsibility.

So why do any of these things? Last year,  I did two of these events simultaneously.One of them was the November chapbook challenge. But the other? That was Nano.

I’ve always said I could never write a novel – I’m a short form gal – and I decided to put my money where my mouth isn’t. I decided to prove myself right by trying to write a novel while taking care of my kid (who has some special needs involving lots of doctors and therapists) and holding down a full time job. And I felt GREAT. I was sleep deprived, and overworked; I got carpal tunnel, and the resulting novel was and is truly lousy. And I still would not trade that month for anything.

What I learned was that, really, when all is said and done, I may not be a novelist, but I love writing. I love the words, I love the turn of phrase, I love the transfer of images from my head onto the page. That recognition – the recognition of one’s self as a writer? That’s priceless.

So will you share with us? You know you’re an artist (a writer, a painter, a sculptor, a director…) or you wouldn’t be here at this blog. Are you participating in any or all of these writing events? What does participating, or not participating, tell you about your own creative heart?

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16 thoughts on “Monday coffee: A month of living dangerously

  1. Well, Ina, I have to tell you that “Yes! I’m a challenge kind of gal.” This month it’s PAD and NaNo for me. I did three one year by adding the NaPiIdMo to the list.

    I’ve never completed a NaNo Challenge because life is a sadist sometimes and throws at least one disaster into November that throws out the second half of the month as undo-able. I have PAD chapbooks from a few years and haven’t organized, edited, or submitted any of them to publishers.

    So why do I keep picking up that Challenge gauntlet each autumn when it’s dropped at my feet, tantalizing me with its glimmer and weight? I’m one of those who seldom blows off a dare, that’s why.

    So far this month I’ve kept at the pace that works for me most of the time. I’m actually getting things done. I’m 4 for 4 in PAD, and have almost 12K words in my word bank over at NaNo HQ. As well, I’m keeping up with Poetic Bloomings, and trying to keep Meena Rose’s and my website current. I’m doing in-person write-ins for NaNo here in town, meeting with other area writers for the first time, and generally creating a life for myself oustide my office.

    This is my year for living dangerously with regards to this thing called a writing life. I hope everyone has a good time and gains something from their Challenge experiences. That’s really the final goal, isn’t it; to gain something useful, even if it’s only more respect for oneself for having taken up that guantlet and stuck with it for the whole month?

    • WOW. Claudsy, I’m totally impressed. I don’t know how you are keeping up with all that, and keeping it organized! You’re right – we gain something, different things for different people.

      • Don’t be too impressed, Ina. Lots of things got put aside so that I could attempt this month’s challenges. My priorities list sometimes looks like a agitator in the washer; going in 10 different directions simultaneously at full speed. An editorial calendar is a must anymore as well. It’s the only way I can keep anything straight anymore.

        Okay, that and Office 2010 Sticky Notes all over my monitor screen.

      • I hear you – Excel and I have developed this serious love-hate relationship, trying to keep track of the projects!

      • To be honest, I’m on the hate wagon when dealing with Excel. I don’t know what it is about that program, but most of the time I’d like to destroy it for causing me so much frustration.

      • Thanks, Linda. Sometimes I can go with the flow and sometimes I have to swim like mad just to stay up with the tide.

  2. Challenge, like the word “Hero”, is an over-used and misunderstood word. Recovering from a setback and now displaying what my doctor is calling “Parkinsonian Traits” (tics and hand tremors the most notable), I deal with plenty of daily challenges, so I have ceased to look upon the April/November PAD and all the “GoWriYoMoFoAssOff” types of word play as such. I write because I love to write, what I can, when and while I can. My voice recognition software and an updated spell checker are the best tools in my bag of tricks lately. The blood-thirst has gone out of my pen. I love the prompts to stimulate me, and I’m not naive enough to swear that I won’t compile a chapbook to submit to Poetic Asides when November slips into the books. So writing for the sheer joy it brings to my heart and those of others does suffice. It would be nice to be widely read and well known, but that flight has flown. If my words don’t go any further than my group of poetic “friends”, I won’t be too sad. They had me at hello.

    • Well, I for one always feel privileged to read your words, as you provide them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Walt, and yourself.

    • You are a talented writer, and I (and many others) enjoy reading your work. But, yes, health comes first and you have the right attitude.

      Voice recognition software? I’d like to hear more about the benefits of that (though I probably can’t afford it anyway).

  3. I like the challenge of prompts and will try to do the November chapbook. I loved being honoured with an entry into Burning the Midnight Oil’s contest and just sent off 3 poems to Amy for that (she extended the deadline until Nov.15th but I had them ready so thought I’d get a bit of a jump on it for once). Lately, more and more I’m trying to decide why I write, what is important to me and concentrate on only working on things that truly interest me. I really love the community and the recognition is precious to me so I know that I will always take that into consideration … of course, having enough sleep and energy throws a different light on everything, so tomorrow I might have another slant on the whole business, who knows?

    • Good luck on the Midnight Oil contest!

      I think you’re right that reasons change (sometimes rapidly!). It’s interesting,though, there always seems to be a reason 🙂

    • Oh, crap. I’ve got one entry in but that probably won’t be enough to beat you, Sharon (and I should know because we’ve been writing together for how long now?) Anyway, I wish you luck! .

  4. The first time I heard about NaNoWriMo and NovPAD was in October 2010 – just in time to take part. I was very successfull and enjoyed every bit of the two challenges. Regarding novel-writing, that was my first mature attempt at writing fiction. I had sticked to poetry until that. NaNoWriMo was a revelation for me.
    Regarding NovPAD, I enjoyed something I had not known before – community and persistence in writing poems. Until then no one but my father had ever read my poems. Then, in November 2010 I started writing poems only in English because there were suddenly so many people (any number over 2 was “many” for me) who would read and consider what I wrote.
    I made some very good friends during the NovPAD which stayed 🙂
    In 2011 I took part in both again. As is the case this year. Only this year my NaNoWriMo is not real, I am only using the pressure of word count and deadline for the practical purpose of getting a couple of university project finished, or at least brought to some agreeable stage 🙂
    Yet, the NovPAD I’m doing now is as sincere and genuine as ever.
    🙂

    • I’m glad you’re doing NovPAD too – I’ve been enjoying your poems (and a lot of other people’s as well!) – I wish I could comment more, but that !@_#$()@* server overload problem drives me nuts 🙂

  5. Hi Ina,

    I confess to being too involved in prompts. They become an addiction. I have sent a poem to Burning The Midnight Oil, and continue to submit to Poetics Aside, Poetic Bloomings, Sunday Whirl, Tuesday Tryouts with Margo Roby, We Write Poems, Wonder Wednesdays from Poets United, and Haiku Heights. I try to leave Fridays and Saturdays free to write on my own!

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