Tag Archives: New Year

To NaNo or not to NaNo

22 Dec

Logo_of_National_Novel_Writing_Month

 

Isn’t that the question?

Unless, of course, your question is “what the hell is a NaNo?”

NaNoWriMo, as it’s awkwardly and affectionately called, stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is billed as a competition – something you either win or lose – to push people to write a 50K word novel in 30 days.

It’s ridiculous, frankly. And it’s something that, considering my writing schedule, I have always disregarded, even, looked down upon. After all, I get up at 4:45 in the morning, 5 times a week (okay, fine, lately it’s been more like 4 but I’m OLD as sin so leave me alone). I write regularly. I don’t write because there’s some random competition about word count.

BUT.

I’m a SLOW writer. I worked for years on Palimpsest before it went out on query. But that’s okay, I tell myself. Anything good takes time, right?

Maybe.

I do believe that writing is an art that must be practiced. I don’t believe that you can sit down in one month and write a book that will be worth a damn. I believe that writing is a daily act, that writing is rewriting and that you need time to do that.

But…I also feel like I write TOO slow. That a book that should only take 1-2 years takes me 3-4. Sometimes more. Not that there is anything wrong with this. But it is frustrating. I had been working on this Ghost Book for a few months and lately, it seemed, I was just re-writing the beginning over and over again. I wasn’t moving the story forward. I was, in all honesty, stuck.

So this year, I NaNo-ed.

I signed up for an account and on the morning of November 1st, the first day of the competition I did exactly what you weren’t supposed to do.

I cheated.

I entered my word count when I finished writing that morning at 20,352 words because that was the point I was at in the Ghost Book draft. In order to complete 50K words in 30 days, according to NaNo, you need to write 1667 words a day. And not just week days.  Every day.

So I was feeling pretty good about my 18K word lead.

And that good feeling lasted for awhile. Each morning I was hitting 2K words or so. This is about as fast as Ally goes, by the way. After that my brain melts inside my skull and runs out my nose.

For about two week, my word count was way above where it needed to be and when I entered in my numbers at the end of the morning, I was feeling great.

Then, things changed. I missed a morning (not to mention weekends) and the space between my word count and the necessary word count started to diminish. I watched my chart on their website with anxiety. (Yes they literally make you a graph. It’s too much.)

Like I didn’t have enough to be anxious about in life, now stupid NaNo was making me feel lousy. Had I turned this thing that I normally loved to do, this art making of mine, into something debased?

Maybe.

Was I advancing my story? Definitely.

Were the words great? Some. But the rest were fixable. See, it’s in the editing and rewriting that I find my voice. But if I don’t have the words on the page, well, there’s nothing to fix. Nothing to work with. It’s like trying to bake with no ingredients.

By the end (technically before but now I’m just being petty) I had 55, 250 words. The NaNO site gave me a little trophy next to my graph.

I’m not gonna lie, I felt like I deserved it.

In the end, it was an interesting experiment. I don’t know if I would do it again. On the one hand it pushed me through that middle ground where I had half a book and couldn’t envision where to go from there. On the other hand, when my word count started to dip, I felt lousy. I don’t want writing to make me feel lousy (at least not more than the usual run of the mill every day lousy it makes me feel.)

I will say this: I’m competitive, especially with myself. So having a bar to hit every day was a genuine motivator. I know some other writers that have systems similar to NaNo where they give themselves marks (or stars) on a calendar for every 1K words. They track their progress. That might be a good path for me going forward.

I don’t know when I would have finished this first draft of Ghost Book if I didn’t do NaNo. Mabye 4 months. Maybe more. What I do know is that getting up to write every morning is HARD. Writing is hard. If something like NaNo helps you get your work done, why not try it?

Just don’t take it too seriously.

And finally, as we wind down 2018 (this was a long one wasn’t it?) and we take stock of what we accomplished and what we didn’t I think it’s important to remember, especially as a creator, that only part of this process is in our hands. So if you didn’t get the agent this year, or sell your first book, or whatever, that’s okay.

All that matter is that you did the work.

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So here’s to 2019. Another year. Another chance to do it.

magicalworld

Let’s go exploring.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

No Vera. It Was Just A Really Good Day

20 Dec

“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.”

— Leia Organa

leia

The day before my last cancer treatment I went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I adored the movie – found it to be the most feminist Star Wars that has ever existed and while I love Rey and Rose, it was Leia that stuck with me. Partially because we lost Carrie Fisher, yes, but more so because it was Leia that I had as a little girl to look up to. Leia who never once faltered in her belief in goodness.

In her belief in hope.

That night I had a nightmare that I missed my appointment and had to walk from my hometown about an hour north of NYC to Mt. Sinai Downtown. Needless to say I woke up feeling pretty anxious.

I know that seems silly. It’s been three and a half years since diagnosis. Three and a half years of active treatment. Three and a half years of injections and constantly hauling myself onto the scales to ask am I good enough? Am I doing enough? Am i trying hard enough? Am I somehow going to be free of this burden?

Who wouldn’t want it to be over?

But it being over meant I wasn’t seeing my doctor every month to look at my charts and tell me I’m okay. No, obviously he couldn’t tell me if I was popping off another tumor somewhere but he could tell me what my estrogen levels looked like and that was important. It was reassuring.

It felt like a safety net.

And now it was over.

When I was at my appointment I double checked with my doctor. I asked him, “You sure it’s okay to stop now?” and he told me the same thing he’s been telling me the whole time: There’s no scientific evidence that continuing with the ovarian suppressant beyond three years yields a better outcome.

I nodded. Okay. I believe in science.

I left him and went down to the treatment area for my last injection. Again I’ve been coming here for three years so it’s a bit of a Norm situation when I walk in the room:

Image result for norm cheers gif

That’s what happens when you have treatment for three years and every time you go in you’re the youngest one in the room.

My nurse, Avada gave me my last injection. I was lying on the cot and she took one look at me said “What’s wrong with you?”

“It’s my last injection,” I said. “I’m done.”

zero

I had been photographing myself for the final five months counting down to the last shot. Day Zero.

She was so happy. Gave me a big hug. When we were finished I hugged my other nurses and NPs, especially Camry whose been there from Day 1 when I walked in that office so afraid my hands were shaking. They all told me to come visit when I get my check up in 3 months. I thanked them for taking such good care of me.

Camry said, “That’s our job.”

Nurses are amazing people. One day you’ll need them, and they will be there. No matter what.

I walked out and cued up Lady Stardust by David Bowie.

 

And I stepped outside into a chilly winter morning and I felt……alive.

Free.

Done.

Wonderful.

I felt like I was floating.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I’ll still have scans and MRIs for years to come but in a very real way this chapter is closed. I feel like the board has been reset. In a way, I can join the rest of you who never know what’ll happen. Who don’t wonder and worry every day. Who pass through their life in the moment.

Those who just live.

That night I went out with some very dear old friends to celebrate. It was a truly wonderful time full of much laughter and tears and wine. At one point we tried to guess our waitress’s name. I guessed Danielle.

When we asked her she told us her name was Vera.

She was wonderful and dutiful and because we were making such a ruckus at the end of the evening she asked, with a wide smile, if it was someone’s birthday. Clearly we were celebrating.

We all sort of stopped and I looked at her and I said, “No Vera. It was just a really good day.”

It was just a really good day.

I woke up this morning feeling fantastic. Truly completely fan-fucking-tastic.

As this terrible year winds down, I hope all of you feel as fan-fucking-tastic as this ex-cancer patient does. I hope you have hope that gets you through the long night. I hope you have joy and wonder and beautiful friends to share it with.

I hope you all live in the moment.

No matter what always remember, it’s a magical world. Here’s to the New Year.

Let’s go exploring.

magicalworld

 

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

Bugger off 2016

31 Dec

 

First off, a quick thank you and shout out to Rebecca at Albany Poets for this amazing review of Better Luck Next Year

Even though Malinenko is discussing how cancer changed her life, her multi-dimensional self-exploration allows the reader to appreciate how any life altering experience can disturb the way we once saw ourselves and our placement in the world.

So….here we are….finally reached the end of this terrible terrible year that in many ways went to shit on January 10th, 2016 (I still miss you Bowie) and then continued to plummet to absolute hell after that.

And it’s not like there’s much to look forward to in 2017 with the monster taking office and the GOP running everything. It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be ugly. People are going to get hurt. We are going to have to keep fighting and resisting and it’s going to be exhausting.

But there’s still us. You and me and the rest of us who didn’t want this and who will fight against it. There are more of us than there are of them. That matters.

Not to sound all Gandolf-y but no one wants dark times. But that is not for us to decide. All we can decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Tomorrow is the first day of a new year. There’s art to be made. Art to fight, art to comfort, art to make us laugh. We’re at the starting line, artists. Take your mark.

On that note, writers, photographers, artists of all flavors, John Grochalski is restarting Winedrunk Sidewalk. He needs your help. Submissions can be sent to winedrunksidewalk@gmail.com

I’ve told my husband a few times that I think this year is worse than 2014, and he keeps disagreeing with me. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe that’s the power of perspective.

But on the last day of 2014, after the diagnosis and the surgery and the radiation and everything was finally finished, and the worst year of my life was coming to an end this is what I posted.

magicalworld

I still believe it’s a magical world. I always will because that is central to the core of who I am and how I navigate through my life and this world.

And not cancer or a monster in the white house is going to shake that.

Happy New Year, my friends. Know that I love you. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s go exploring.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

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