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I’m not a fiction writer.  As you may be able to tell from this blog, the stuff I write is non-fiction.  I like to write travel tales, memoir, poetry, essays.  I think if I have to pigeonhole myself into a category, I’d call myself an essayist.  It covers a lot of ground. 

I had heard about NaNoWriMo – which, if you don’t know, is National Novel Writing Month – a few years ago from Kelsea’s school.  I think there was a “junior” version which the TAG (Talented and Gifted) kids were encouraged to do.  Kelsea’s been at work on her own novel for a couple of years now, so the program wasn’t quite for her.  She’s happy with her progress, and seems to know what she’s doing.

But due to some flicker of madness that crossed my mind a few days ago, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  In NaNoWriMo, you make a committment to yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  Over 165,000 people participated last year.  You start on November 1, crank it out, and upload it by November 30 to “win”.  Winning really means that you DID IT!  A lot of people say they are working on a novel – and say it for years and years – but few ever actually complete one.  This is about quantity, not quality.  The editing comes later. 

Since I don’t write fiction, this project feels like a real challenge – but I felt like challenging myself.  I’ve now got 2 ideas, both in very abridged outline format, and I have 5 days to choose one, think about my characters, and sharpen my pencils. 

It seems (now) very doable to write 1700 words a day.  We’ll see how it feels when I’m a week into it and floundering.  The NaNoWriMo people give you a few tips:

“Tell everyone what you are about to do. The more people who know what you’re up to this November, the less likely you are to slink away from victory in a rare moment of exhaustion or doubt. Friends, neighbors, family, pets, coworkers, civil servants, and strangers—tell ’em all!”  —  OK, via this blog, I’ve just told a whole bunch of people what I’m doing.

“Bargain with those around you. Suggest to your housemates that if they take care of chores during November, you’ll cover the following two months. Make sure you’re not signed up for soccer game snack-duty, volunteering in the neighborhood—any helpful or productive task that isn’t writing your novel—until November is past.”  —  This one?  I live alone.  No bargaining possible.  And I’m not missing Kelsea’s basketball games.  We’ll just have to make it work.

“Incentivize success! To reach 50,000 words in November, treats work well but the threat of awful tasks works better. Tell your neighbors that if you don’t reach your word-count goal, you’ll mow their lawns for a month. Promise your boss that you’ll work one Saturday for every thousand words you fall short of the 50,000-word mark. (For my part, I’ve already pledged to buy Chris Baty a coffee for every day that I don’t reach 1,667 words.)”  —  If you have any suggestions for negative incentives, let me know.

“Put away the time-wasters. On November’s eve, unplug the cable box and ask your roommate to hide the cord. Give World of Warcraft to your friend for the month. Lock your remote control in a safe and give away the key. You’ll thank yourself come November 30!”   —  The cable box isn’t going anywhere.  But I have committed to not going online each day until I have completed my 1700 words, since I know I’m most productive in the mornings.

More details about all things NaNoWriMo can be found at http://www.nanowrimo.org/.

There are groups all over the place in the Boulder/Denver area – people who are planning to get together to write their hearts out in one another’s presence.  I don’t think that will be me, but I will use this as an opportunity to find new places to write – coffeeshops, libraries, who knows?  I’ll find places and it will be fun!

Since I got my first rejection email the other day (which is actually a yippee – other rejections have just been silence), I feel like I need something to give me some confidence with my writing – this should help.

Wish me luck!

I spent a lot of time last weekend reading up on how to start my business, get clients, etc.  I would get very motivated, very excited…and then very intimidated.  It became positively overwhelming — making lists of potential clients and contacts, finding a web hosting service, considering brochures, letters, business cards, direct mail, sample, and on and on.

I retreated to the safety of the same book that inspired the angst – The Well Fed Writer – and it was somewhat comforting.  There’s just so very much to do to create a business presence in the freelance world.  But I’m doing it.  I spent this morning working on a website – hosting through FatCow is fairly easy, but I don’t really like the template options that they’ve offered me.  Still, it’ll do for now, until I can upgrade to something spiffier.  At least it’s one bite out of the elephant.

So what’s on the agenda for this afternoon?  I guess it’s the next bite – starting to look for possible jobs and making that client/call list.

Last night, someone told me I looked “radiant.”  I haven’t heard that for years.  To what do I attribute my newfound radiance (apart from 10 fewer pounds and a lot of cold medicine)?

Yesterday was my last day at my full-time job.  Yes, my 8-month contract ended yesterday.  I had been there almost 9 years to the day (except for a relatively brief hiatus.)  And I haven’t shed a tear.  I haven’t felt awful or depressed or overly scared.  As I said before, I will miss the people and the paycheck, but not the job.

As I’ve been talking to people about my new business, I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback and encouragement.  In fact, I am meeting with my first potential client on Tuesday.  I’m excited!  And nervous.  As he described the project on the phone, I realized that it was something I could actually do.  In fact, it was very similar to a project I’d done before at my half-time job.  So I’m cautiously optimistic.

I met with my financial advisor (yikes, that sounds pretentious, given the teeny tiny amount of money I have) yesterday morning to talk about other things, and we wound up talking about starting my business.  He gave me fatherly advice, and asked me a lot of practical questions that I need to be able to answer for myself to make things run smoothly.

This weekend, I’ll be putting things together for the business-end of the dog.  Next week, I’ll start working on the barking-end of the dog.

I’m just feeling very, very positive, and after such a long dark spell, that’s a very good feeling.

That’s the little sign on the corner of my computer monitor.  The little sign at the top of the computer monitor says “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.”  Both are pretty apt for me these days.

I am getting ready to leave my job – well, more accurately, my job is leaving me – on Friday.  I’ve been coming here off and on for almost nine years to the day.  That’s a long time.  It will be strange not to drive up, walk through the doors, settle at my desk.  Fortunately, at least in my head, the company is moving everyone into our “back-up” building, into a completely different environment/layout/set-up, so I comfort myself by thinking that it would be very different anyway.  Had I stayed, I might have switched to full-time work-at-home – which I’m going to do anyway with my own business.

But what I will really miss (aside from the steady paycheck) is the support system.  I’ve known the women I work with for a long time:

Kathy: 9 years – she heard my sorrow over losing my Mom daily; I’ve helped her through dating, marriage and two kids, and we’ve been each other’s moral support through some hellacious work schedules for the past 7 months
Kathy: 9 years – she was first my boss, and then she became my friend; she helped me move out when I left Pat
Denise: 5 years – very much like a sister to me
Kris: 20 years – we’ve been together at two companies and through the deaths of my parents and her dad
Debbie: 4 years – we compare notes about our kids
Colleen: 4 years – we’re talking about painting houses together in the summer
Christine: 5 year – we’ve always wanted to go out together, but we agree that might be dangerous – a big support for me during times of transition

With all of these women, I have shared tears, laughter, dreams, and rants.  At times, they were the only positive thing about coming to work.  While I know that I don’t need to let the relationships go, I’ve never been good at maintaining relationships, and the dynamic changes once you’re “out” when they’re still “in.”  I want to change my old pattern of letting people go, and try to keep these women in my life.

I know that some of them are closely following my plan for working independently, and wishing they could pursue their own dreams.  They’re watching to see how I do.  After all, if I can do it, they can do it.

So I owe it to them, as well as to myself, to be fearless.

“Sometimes you have to venture into the unknown before you can know true success.”

Have you ever felt like you were standing in your own way of doing something you really wanted to do, and it’s as if the most obstinate mule in the world is blocking your path?  You try everything you can think of – bullying, cajoling, bribing, ignoring – but nothing budges the blockade that is you.  That’s where I am now.  Is it sheer laziness?  That doesn’t sound like me.  But it’s something I can’t figure out.

I have notes from several trips, all written in longhand, and want to do articles on them all, as a start to the Guidebook concept, but I can’t seem to move myself into the creative space to do so.  I know they’d be saleable.  Instead, I spend my limited free time watching old movies and trying to find places around the world to live – what’s up with that?  Clearly, I need a different carrot or a different stick.

This isn’t traditional writer’s block.  It feels like a fear of rejection, a fear of success, a fear that I may fail in my dreams.  I wrote last week that it’s easier for sometime never to pursue their dreams, because if they fail, they have no more dreams, and that’s the worst thing imaginable.   Which is all wrong, because even if these dreams don’t work, doors and windows open all the time – something will work.

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