November Wrap-Up

Reading Life

  • Total books read: 10
  • Books read for 2017 so far:  144
  • Couldn’t stop listening to the audiobookRighteous by Joe Ide and a re-listen of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (and I haven’t reread a book in years– so glad I did.)
  • Nonfiction topics explored: insect sex in Sex on Six Legs by Marlene Zuk and US history and genocide in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • ARCs read: One, but it was a great one. Check out Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak. My review is here.
  • Books Purchased because of good deals: (number redacted for marital harmony purposes)
  • Best of the Monthi be, but i ain’t by Aziza Barnes (a powerful poetry collection) and Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler. If you haven’t checked out Butler’s Lilith’s Brood series, you’re missing out. Some extremely interesting sci-fi that delves into gender, family, and power.

Writing Life

won nano

I won NaNo.  (deep sigh of relief). This is a really big personal achievement for me and there is something euphoric about writing without filtering yourself at all out of necessity. Even after finishing three novels, I’ve never been able to commit to and win NaNo before (and I’ve tried at least seven times). If you didn’t win this year, try again because you never know!

Even better than finishing 50k in a month is falling knee-deep in a project that I can’t stop mentally plotting.

Next goals: finish draft one by the end of the year, which I can do if I write about 1k a day. Now that I’m in a daily writing habit again, anything feels possible.

Life, Etc

  • Research papers graded this month: 72
  • Number of kids in my house singing Jingle Bells non-stop since November 15: 2
  • Turkeys roasted, with all of the fixings: 1
  • Days of Turkey leftovers: Let’s not talk about it, okay? I’m not gobbling any more, but last week…

Real talk about turkey leftovers: these turkey enchiladas are my favorite thing to make… besides turkey sandwiches with leftover cranberry dressing.


One more month to go this year. Finish strong, my friends.

NaNoWriMo Check-In: Part II

Alright, friends. I’m back from my break with the internet and staying accountable with the goals I set, which were:

  1. Stay off of social media until Saturday this week: check
  2. Write 15,000 words of NaNo project from 11/16-11/24: almost, but not quite. broke the 12k mark and over 40k total on the novel!
  3. Grade 30 research papers: check!
  4. Finish reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States before Litsy Feminist Bookclub’s discussion on 11/25: So close, but yet so far. About 80 pages left and the discussion starts today. I’m ready for today’s question and should be finished before tomorrow’s. Phew.
  5. Eat, drink, and be merry with family: check, check, and check. Made my famous cranberry relish to accompany the traditional turkey and tried out a new dressing this year (I discovered too much sausage is a thing, apparently.) Good pie, great company, and lots of playtime with the kids
nano as of 11-25
progress as of 11/24 (haven’t written today yet)

I can feel the NaNo goal in sight and it feels very attainable. My goal after that is to push through December and finish the full first draft (really, it’s a draft zero for how messy it is) before the end of the year. Hints on the theme: on the side I’m reading books on Renaissance astrology and tarot cards, as well as boning up on my Shakespeare.  I’m having fun– I think I get why people do this. 🙂

Those NaNoing, whether you’re close to your goal or not, best of luck in this last week!

Why be bored?

This is about writing, so stay with me here…

I’m Catholic and we just finished the season of Lent.  Lent is supposed to be a time of self-denial and people give up all sorts of things: meat, candy, beer, Facebook, etc.  This year I looked at my life and tried to see what was distracting me the most in my free hours.  I came to the conclusion that I was watching too much streaming video (HBO Now, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, whatever you associate that with).  When I washed dishes, I would watch VEEP.  When I cleaned, I might stream a Good Wife episode. I might watch Downton Abbey in the bath.  I cut the cord, at least for Lent.

What I discovered is that it is really hard to allow yourself to be bored.  I don’t watch much TV otherwise, and streaming video was kind of my background noise while I did meaningless/easy tasks or unwound at the end of the day.  Suddenly, my brain had to cope with silence and it did not like it.

At first.

Several studies, including a recent one in the UK and several in the US, show how creativity can come from the brain being presented a boring task.  Simply washing the dishes, taking a walk without listening to a podcast, or riding the subway without playing a game on your cellphone can be enough to elicit your brain to keep itself interested.  I thought this claim was a bit dubious at first, but as my time without video went on my word counts on my novel went up (WAY up.)  No one else was writing plots for me to enjoy, so I had to write my own.  This phenomenon is mentioned in Stephen King’s book On Writing.  He writes rather off-handedly about how idiotic most television is (though his books and movies have become TV themselves.)

So, I challenge you to take your own Lent from something that you fill the entertainment quota in your life.  Matt Cutts has a great (and very short!) TED talk about his personal challenges to improve his life called Try Something New for 30 Days.  In just 30 days you can experiment with leaving something behind that distracts you and see what comes of it creatively.  Maybe nothing will happen, but you never know until you try.

(Plus, if you start today, you’ll have exactly29 days until the Game of Thrones season 6 premier, and you could cheat by just one day… but only for that.)