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Wayside and Waylaid (Or, What Fell Apart While I Did Nanowrimo)

So, I finished Nanowrimo! Not the novel — I’m at 53,000 words or so, but I’ve got a whole second-half-of-second-act left. But it’s cool. It’s nice to be done with the Nano part of things, and then eat a lot of turkey for a holiday and then just sleep like crazy over a long weekend. Recovery!

When I tell people in my real life that I’m doing Nanowrimo (like at Thanksgiving dinner), they always look at me like I’m nuts and ask, “Is it fun?” (Well, after they ask what the heck Nanowrimo is.) And I laugh, because in some ways it is — because it’s always a little fun to play in the imagination, especially when you decide to write fantasy stuff like flying horses and wind dragons.

But a lot of the time it is not. Nanowrimo is weirdly grueling at times. I’m always amused-slash-horrified by how certain things in my life fall apart when I do Nanowrimo — doing it every year is a bit like planned destruction. I try to kid myself that Nanowrimo is easy, just cramming in an extra bit of writing here and there, but in full honesty, something always falls to the wayside or plans get delayed, and I realize the limits of productivity. But watching the wayside happen is kind of an object lesson, a reminder of what’s vital and what isn’t, what’s genuinely a need and what isn’t. This year’s report of innocent bystanders and friendly fire:


Obviously! My day job is lots of writing, so I was either doing that or writing my novel much of this time. I try to believe that writing juju is abundant and never-ending, but the truth is, sometimes there’s only so many words I can bleed before I’m completely drained.

Going to the Gym

So I didn’t hit the gym as often as I usually do while doing Nanowrimo. I did make up for it with running outside (brrr!) and playing Dance Central. But I realized that, weirdly, I do miss going somewhere to exercise…because otherwise I’m cooped up indoors all day or I don’t see as many people. I missed talking with the charming front desk dude who gives me my towels, or the random nice girl I see in the locker room who works out at the same time I do on Mondays and Wednesdays. I was a little surprised at how much I missed the little ad-hoc community the gym’s become in my life. Is that weird? Or is that just a byproduct of working from home all the time?

Recreational Cooking/Grocery Shopping

You know, the kind you do where you find a recipe and you run out and get ingredients and you devote a few hours to trying something new. So no new dessert experiments, no breads, no special entrees. It was pretty much eating out of my pantry most of the time, which means lots of starches, carbs and, well, omelettes and frittatas, since I can whip those up in a snap. And I ate out a lot more than I usually do. Food isn’t really as much as of a pleasure during Nanowrimo; it really is just sustenance. And guess what? Lots of starches and pastas and rice make you feel like crap after awhile. Next year I plan to just do slow-cooker recipes during Nanowrimo, because otherwise, ugh.

Shopping of Any Kind, Really

I’m not a huge shopper, but I do like to peruse the racks when I get around them. I don’t live in a museum- or gallery-rich town, so sometimes I think window-shopping (or inspiration shopping, as I like to call it) has taken the place museum-going used to occupy in the visual/tactile stimulation part of my brain.

But that fell by the wayside during Nanowrimo, because who has time to wander the stores? I’ve always been fascinated by the connections and relationships between shopping and creativity, and so I noted with great amusement that my first instinct after finishing Nanowrimo was to GO SHOPPING. I think there is just a part of my brain that likes what I call “3-D reveling in pretty, colorful, interesting objects” that no amount of online perusing or Tumblring can take the place of. I realized just how much I like to hold and touch things, and how weirdly connected I feel to reality and being out in the world when I have time to 3-D revel. I don’t necessarily have a need to possess (thank god for my wallet), but I do like just being in the world and looking at things. We don’t often think of visceral, tactile, sensuous beauty as a “need,” but I think it is one, especially just on a soulful level, and it was something I missed during Nanowrimo.

Other Creative Projects

Oh, Nanowrimo: such a demanding bitch. You just can’t really work on anything else, especially if you work a soul-sucking day job. I had so many plans for other things: posters, drawings, a little film, but alas, a novel demands.

So that’s my Nanowrimo life casualty scorecard! Other things that fell apart: TV/movies, reading other books, my mums (R.I.P.), laundry. What didn’t fall apart: riding horses, my bowling night (social group accountability), playing my favorite iPhone game Happy Street, going to my writing class. Basically either stuff I pre-paid for, my relationships, or mindless stress reduction via distraction. Sometimes you just have to play a dumb game for 30 minutes or watch a stupid sitcom. That’s a need, and I’m sticking with it.


The pic above has nothing to do with Nanowrimo! It’s just my favorite Irish bar in my town, where I like to sit and drink on a cold winter night and stare at pictures of famous Irish writers and wonder why can’t I be Irish and a writer?

Also: I’m going to be in Los Angeles next weekend! What should I do and eat? I like experiences and nature and hanging out.

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All Things Glorious and True: Love Letters to Pop Culture, New York, Fashion and Other Objects of Affection is a collection of essays exploring how my crushes on music, dive bars, books, outfits and so much else gave me a braver soul, more open heart and even love. All Things is like a great, stylish mixtape: surprising, kind of punky, fun and often heartfelt.


Tags: cooking, life scorecard, Nanowrimo, shopping,