Learning to Say No: NaNoWriMo 2014

NaNoWriMo is coming up and I’m feeling complex feelings about it. I am so super busy—do I really have time to commit to 50,000 words? On the other hand, I have participated in it the last 4 years, and won the last 3, so I really want to. A lot of my friends are doing it this year, and I want to support them as well…

It seems that I have so much to do, and not nearly enough time to do it in. Recently, dips in my health and energy levels have left me too fatigued to get things done. I’m juggling:

  • a full-time course load—I’m taking 12 credits, the school recommends 3 hours of study per in class hour: 48 hours per week
  • my job as the Queeries Program Coordinator at our QRC: 20 hours per week
  • writing, editing, and meeting for the Black Girl Dangerous EIT Program: 5 hours per week, minimum
  • writing for TheProspect.net—interview prep time, interviews, transcription, writing, formatting, editing: about 5 per week
  • volunteering with the Vanport Multimedia Project—interview prep, filming, interviewing, transcribing, editing, meeting: about 5 per week
  • work around ongoing protests in Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Justice. That’s All, and Ferguson October—photography, editing, blogging, social media, organising, conference calls: 12 hours per week for the last 10 weeks
  • one-off events: Intersections event (about 3 hours per week for 5 weeks), OSP Poetry Slam (averages to about 1 hour per week for 3 weeks)…
  • sleep—I really do try for 8 hours a night, with greater or lesser degrees of success: 56 hours per week

That adds up to about 155 hours per week. There are 168 hours in a week.

Does anyone have a timeturner I can borrow?

I jest, but it’s true that there’s something wrong here. Eating, showering, other household stuff takes up that remaining 13 hours or so per week, leaving no self-care time. I’ve been struggling with my health a lot this past couple of weeks, and this much work is far too heavy a load.

NaNoWriMo is kind of a big deal: writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days requires writing about 1,667 words per day. I’ve done it for the last four years, and even “won” the last three while handling school and my other responsibilities, and I’m so tempted to try again this year. But even at my fastest, that’s a solid two hours of typing, assuming I don’t take any breaks, and I know that I’ve never had such a heavy load before. With so much on my plate, can I really commit to something like this?

The answer is no.

Yet, I find myself so ready to be convinced to say yes. As my friends gear up, start finding writing buddies and planning write-ins, I find it harder to hold myself back from volunteering, from signing up and committing to this feat. Truthfully, my health is nowhere near good enough, and my housing is up in the air—meeting my current commitments is proving too much. My heart says yes, but I’ve got to buckle down and say no.

All of the work I’m doing, everything I say “yes” to is fantastic; I’ve gotten so many great opportunities and met so many amazing people. It’s really hard to say no to things you want, but sometimes it’s necessary, so that you can say yes down the road.

 

Do you have any tips you’d like to share about practising self-care and setting boundaries? I’d love to have them; you can comment on this post or send me a message through the contact form.

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Final July Read-a-Thon Update!

That was such a great time! I got more reading done than the June read-a-thon, too, which felt great. I sacrificed the second half of Day 22’s reading time to getting my Camp NaNoWriMo project completed and checking in at the Willamette Writer’s Conference, which I am volunteering at this weekend.

My final count, as of midnight on 31 July 2014, was:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 295 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: no update.
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 111 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: this is such a hard read, but I’m learning lots. I totally have to put it down mid-sentence to steel myself for the next topic, though…
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.
  • 136 pages of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Notes: finished the paper, but didn’t re-read the whole book.

Final page count: 1,252

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 22

It’s the last day! Wow…

I’m gonna try to get more reading in before midnight, but I also have to finish up my Camp NaNoWriMo piece as well—I’m only down about 800 words, so I’m not worried about that so much, but it cuts into my reading time.

Current count is:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 295 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: no update.
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 110 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: harrowing reading…
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.
  • 113 pages of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Notes: almost done with the paper, and about halfway through the book.

Running page count: 1,238

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 16

I’m getting a lot more reading done this Read-a-Thon. The June one was shorter, yes, but I also just have way more reading to do, and I have to prioritise it, because it’s for class!

Still loving my re-read of the Sherlock Holmes canon, and I’m really enjoying a lot of the reading for my non-fiction writing class–have read a couple of memoirs I would not have picked up on my own.

Number of pages I have read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 229 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: still reading!
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished.
  • 52 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: I’m behind on this one—I ought to be at 100 pages—but I’m getting through. Still a difficult read.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.

Running page count: 991

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 14

So swamped! Just started my third class for the summer, so that’s another pile of reading on… Whew!

Page count to this point:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 145 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: just trucking along…
  • 232 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: finished. I was uncomfortable with Bechdel’s use of pejoratives in describing her father’s sexuality, but aside from that, this was a brilliant work—I blasted through it in one day, because I didn’t want to stop reading.
  • 38 pages of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington. Notes: this is a hard read, emotionally, but it’s been on my list for a while, and I’m gonna be reading it for a class on scientific racism.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: finished.

Running page count: 893

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 12

I’m struggling to get caught up on writing while balancing reading and getting school work done. I loved the writer’s meet-up on Saturday, though it meant that I didn’t actually get any writing done…

Pages read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 135 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: just trucking along…
  • 84 pages of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Notes: wow! This is amazing. The use of a graphic novel format is an interesting one, giving a curious distance and an intimate closeness simultaneously. This is such an excellent read so far, and I am already thinking of who I want to hand it off to once I’m done.
  • 100 (manuscript) pages of my friend’s WIP. Notes: I got the chance to read my amazingly talented friend’s manuscript and offer feedback. It’s going through revisions now, and then it’ll go off to the editor, and hopefully get published soon. I feel privileged to be trusted with alpha reader status for my friend, who is a stunningly good writer!

Running page count: 697

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 10

I was far more exhausted than I expected to be! Lots of sleeping and relaxing, and now I’m getting caught up on my writing for Camp NaNo.

Pages read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: finished.
  • 108 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: the stories are quite short—shorter than I remember them being! It’s very episodic, and the ends tend to wrap things up fairly neatly, often with punchy quotes and situations that echo earlier parts of the story or past stories. Still really enjoying it, and seeing where recent adaptations have been faithful or have departed.

I’m headed to a writer meet-up now, which means transit reading. I’m excited to start on reading for the next week, which includes more Sherlock Holmes, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel for my creative non-fiction class, and Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington for my Scientific Racism course.

Running page count: 486

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 8

Wow—what a trip! I spent all day yesterday at the Make Progress National Summit (I’m planning write-ups about the panels I attended), and then visited the White House today for a group meeting with the associate director of public engagement. The meeting was about priority issues that millennials are interested in, and he kindly took questions from us all for an hour.

Now, I’m at the airport, waiting for my flight back home. I’m excited for all the plane reading I’ll get to do, and to be back home and get some writing done. I didn’t get much  reading or writing done while here, sad to say, but I had a great experience nonetheless.

Pages read so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: now finished. Didn’t get it done by Sunday night, because I had school work to do and packing to finish and writing to get through. Still, it’s done now, and quite as good as I remember it being.
  • 141 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: aaaannd finished. There’s definitely some racism indicative of the time, and I made awkward faces a couple times, but still a good read. And the end references the beginning in an amusing way.
  • 21 pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: it’s interesting to observe what pieces of the original stories were preserved in the recent BBC adaptation, and what parts were cut for time and modernity’s sake. Also, obviously, to have an overarching villain, they’ve shuffled things around and expanded the role of Moriarty in the show. I rather prefer the books/stories in this respect, though I have always preferred faithfulness in adaptation to a large degree—which is why, I suppose, I’m not a screenwriter. (An exception can be made for re-imaginings, in my view, but not change for change’s sake alone, which is what I sometimes feel Like Moffat has done. But he’s show-runner, not I, so…)

Boarding begins soon, and then I’ll have a long stretch of sitting before me. Have a good day, all!

Running page count: 399

Camp NaNoWriMo Stats: Midway

Well, that’s the halfway point. Here’s a screen cap of my stats on the Camp site, as of midnight of the 15th:

Not too shabby, huh? My cabin is oddly silent (hit me up if you have an active cabin open for one more member!), but I’m plugging along. I’m in Washington DC until tomorrow night, so I’m not sure how much writing I’m going to get done, but I purposefully have been keeping ahead of my goal, just in case something like this happened, so I’m not going to worry too much about it.

Also, Washington DC! This is the best. I love it here. (Even if it’s really awfully humid…)

Pictures are going up on Instagram, if you’d like to see what I’m up to.

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 6

Y’all, I am in Washington DC. This is amazing!

I came last July, but didn’t have any time to myself for sight-seeing—the best I managed was a selfie in front of the White House at 8 in the morning. Today, I totally have the chance to sight-see, and I’m gonna do it.

That said, here’s my page count up to now:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: no update.
  • 150 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: now finished. Didn’t get it done by Sunday night, because I had schoolwork to do and packing to finish and writing to get through. Still, it’s done now, and quite as good as I remember it being.
  • 85 pages of The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: more than halfway through this one. Anticipate it will be done by tonight. Cooling off in a Starbucks now, so I’ll probably read some before braving the humidity again.

I’m trying not to get heat-stroke or dehydrate here—it’s seriously bad compared to Portland. Also, DC is not the most pedestrian-friendly place I’ve ever been…

Still, I have been to the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, and I’m headed to the Library of Congress (because of course I am). Still have an essay to finish but I’ve got some time before I can even check in to my hotel, so I’m enjoying being in DC!

Running page count: 322

July Read-a-Thon Update: Day 4

Doing a read-a-thon and NaNoWriMo session at the same time is a lot of time spent reading and writing!

Checked off my list: over 4,000 words towards my 40,000 word Camp NaNo goal—including 1,000 words of poetry, 1,000 words on a photo essay about my family’s military history for my creative non-fiction class, and work on my memoir—and about a quarter of the reading I need done by Tuesday.

I’ve been making an effort to stay at least one day ahead on my NaNo writing, but I want to get 2-3 days ahead before I leave for Washington DC on Monday night, since I won’t have guaranteed internet access again until Thursday evening, when I get back.

Page count so far:

  • 61 pages from Detection by Gaslight: 14 Victorian Detective Stories by Douglas Greene [Ed.]. Notes: no update.
  • 26 pages from On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. Notes: This one is fascinating. Horowitz is both informative and informal in tone, dropping in tidbits of the wealth of information her companions shared on their walks, and inspiring me to be more mindful of the world around me. I highly recommend this book! I think I may finish it on the plane to DC!
  • 26 pages of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notes: The first of the Sherlock Holmes reading! I’m very excited, and remembering how very much I love these stories. I want to finish this one today (I’m ambitious that way) and move on to the next reading for tomorrow.

Coming up: the rest of A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, and four stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Hopefully, I’ll also get to 22,837 words on my manuscript, which will mean it won’t matter if I don’t write in DC.

Running page count: 113

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2014!

If you follow me on other social media, you may be aware that I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, with the aim to produce roughly 40,000 words of poetry and memoir.

I started out planning to just put  together a volume of poetry and essays, but one of the essays spiralled and expanded, and now I appear to be writing a memoir, which is a big departure from my previous writing. I’ve done some research and talked to other writers, and I have sort of mapped my course, based on their advice: I’m going to write down everything I remember—the piece will cover my feelings about my father from two years before he died to about a decade later.

A lot of this is stuff I’ve probably needed to write about for a long time. I’ve been trying to sit in my feelings when they come up, all the nostalgia and tears, and allow myself to feel them and remember. I don’t like crying (as a result of how much I did for years after he passed), so this has been a challenge, but it’s one worth taking on, if only for the potential closure.

Once I’ve gotten all my thoughts and recollections out, I’m going to read through all of my poetry and journal entries from that time, and then I’m going to interview my mother, other family members, and family friends who were adults when I was a child to see where my account differs from theirs, and either confirm or disprove some of my thoughts. Again, these are conversation I’ve probably been needing to have for a long time, and I’m making the opportunity to do it now.

Hopefully, I’ll come out of the month with at least 40,000 words written, and the beginnings of a publishable piece on childhood grief and its effects on adulthood, as experienced by me. If you’re interested in daily word count updates, you can follow those on my Twitter, and I’ll be sharing some resources and interesting info on my Tumblr. Comment if you’re participating—I’d love to hear what others are working on!