Tag Archives: nanowrimo

a solution for “but”

this morning i posted this on twitter:

question to my buddhist friends: fear of connecting deeply with dharma/the divine = fear of ego death?

william replied in a blog post, ego and the self.

he has some interesting thoughts there that i encourage you to explore, and finishes thusly:

the more we meditate and practice various forms of mindfulness, the less it — the ego — feels a need to hold on, knowing that we always come back to the body and its collection of smaller selves we call “me.”

my immediate reaction was, but meditation is exactly one of those things that my ego resists like crazy!

my second reaction was: i just returned from a few hours of solution focused counselling training and would like to see if i can apply some of the things presented there (by richard hyams, by the way).

you see, one of the things we talked about was BUT.

as in,

  • i’d like to apply for this job but i’m too old
  • i think going to school would be a good idea but i have to wait until my law suit is over
  • it’s really time for me to go on a vacation but with this bad economy …
  • i guess this would be a good idea but my friend joe tried it and it didn’t work

you get the drift.

here’s a little dialogue i wrote out in response to my objection:

question: on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being next to nothing and 10 being superhuman force, how strong would you say the resistance is?

answer: different on different days.

q: that’s interesting! what’s the range? maybe 3 on one day and 9 on a really tough day?

a: hm. i’d say somewhere between 4 and 10.

q: superhuman force? you’re pretty strong!

a: well, maybe not superhuman force. enough to keep me from doing it; but i WOULD meditate if i had to or if others were doing it, too.

q: that’s a … what on the scale?

a: 6.5, maybe. actually, a 5.5 because it’s not that i don’t want to. i just don’t do it.

q: interesting. and what would life be like without that resistance?

a: aaaaah. very free.

q: what does that freedom feel like?

a: free. joyful.

q: free and joyful.

a: yes. real good.

q: hm. so. so i take it you’d really like to have that freedom?

a: absolutely! but …

q: but …?

a: but i’m afraid it wouldn’t last.

q: you’re afraid this freedom wouldn’t last?

a: yup.

q: do you think it’s possible to NOT have that fear?

a: oh, yeah, definitely.

q: you sound quite convinced.

a: oh yeah.

q: so you’re convinced that … never mind, why don’t you tell me in your own words. you’re convinced that … ?

a: i’m convinced that it’s possible not to be afraid of losing my freedom. the freedom i’ve gained from losing the resistance to meditate.

q: i wonder what that would sound like if we made it shorter; it’s hard to say it with all the “not’s” in there. what would it sound like?

a: let’s see. okay, here: “i’m convinced it’s possible to … live in the freedom … the freedom that comes from wanting to meditate, and meditating every day.”

q: mmmmh. what’s that like, saying that?

a: it feels like there’s already some freedom. it feels like there’s some space that opened up in my head.

q: in your head?

a: yeah, in my head, because that’s where that fear and reluctance sit.

q: and now there’s more space?

a: yeah. and … i have a question.

q: what’s that?

a: how can i hold on to this, and act on it?

q: let me ask YOU a question: how would you know that you ARE holding on to it, and acting on it?

a: that’s pretty obvious. i’d be meditating every day.

q: and you’re wanting to do it, and it feels very free,

a: yes. i’m wanting it, and it feels free.


a: you know what? how much time do we have left?

q: about 15 minutes.

a: could we meditate together, right here and now? would that be alright?

q: of course! about 10 minutes?

a: perfect!

… and 10 minutes of meditation ensued. thank you, richard!

now what, you wonder, has that to do with NaNoWriMo? you may recall that i pledged to connect every post in november to NaNoWriMo.

it’s actually quite simple. certain of my creative endeavours have a strongly spiritual element. my novel is one. somehow it connects me to the divine. in fact, when i first posted the tweet that i mentioned in the beginning of the post, i was thinking of the slight reluctance to work on the novel.

nuff said. i will now continue with my good novel.

obama: yes we can!

obamaslavedriver in brazil“yes we can!”

i’m imagining the hero of my NaNoWriMo novel, joe – or kosi, his african name – watching obama’s acceptance speech tonight.

“yes we can!”

my novel spans close to 250 years, starting with a west african amazon who ends up a slave in louisiana. joe is her grandson. he dies and – well, he hangs around, learns things, starts to help people.

when he was a slave on that plantation by baton rouge, what would he have said if someone would have told him that in 200 years, a black man would become the president of the united states? and not just any president – a president committed to unity.

if someone would have told joe, a man who enjoyed the love of a man as much as the love of a woman, that this president, within the first few minutes of this historical speech, promised to bring together “young and old, rich and poor, democrat and republican, black, white, latino, asian, native american, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” – would he have run away from the plantation, to die at the edge of the swamp? would he have stuck around and said,

“yes we can?”

how impossible that would have sounded for him back then.

yet later, when joe decided to hang around even after death, he began to learn … and maybe it’s the same lesson that obama learned.

but i don’t know what obama learned. what i know is that he is one of the few politicians who has ever captured me. there is something of gandhi and dr. martin luther king about him. what i know is that obama’s message goes straight to my heart:

“yes we can!”

would obama have been able to send that message 200 years ago?

i don’t think i’m making much sense right now. i am awestruck by what i have just witnessed.

“yes we can!”

i’ll let that take seed in my heart, and i’ll send the seed to my joe, and ask my muses to water and shelter it and send it good sunshine, so that my novel will blossom and be of service to the world; a tiny little metaphor, i’ll hope, for a peaceful, united, and affirming future for this great country to our south, america.

dia de los muertos and NaNoWriMo

dia de los muertos - day of the deadit’s dia de los muertos today, day of the dead. thought i’d give you a little excerpt from my novel, right when the hero dies, slumped against a tree after running through the swamp. the hero is joe, who lived as a slave on a sugar plantation in louisiana.

anyways, here i was sitting against that ol’ tree. big gum tree, man, and the stories he can tell (yup, a he tree, i know a thing or two about gum trees). i was just sitting there and i knew i had come to an end. i was surprised, mostly. not that i had come to an end, either there or at my age; no, i’d been ready for a long time. i’m telling you this, guys, because you don’t think that like here [note: he’s telling this story to a present-day audience; he died in 1830]. but back then, at the plantation, dying is always happening, you get used to it, and it sure isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. something to think about.

anyways, the reason i was surprised was the feeling of life seeping out of me. i mean, i had kind of seen it, seeing other people die, but feeling it, that was totally different. there was no fear. yeah, i was surprised at that, too, i’d thought that might be a scary feeling. but it was just interesting, you know. like all those little bacteria that the dutchman talked about, them all just quietly packing up and leaving, leaving town. that was another surprise, that there was a town left.

at the same time, i noticed, somewhere far away, mr james-patterson and elise standing over me, elise’s hands touching me somewhere, somewhere on my body, i couldn’t tell anymore where but i still recognized it was her (the PEOPLE, they were easy to recognize, maybe i’ll tell you why later, once i’m done with this here), and it was strange, this seeping away and the far-awayness of the world and at the same time, this strong, clear knowing.

and then it was over. they know what they’re talking about when they say it’s like the last grains of sand running out an hourglass. just like that.

but the “it” that was over was just one thing. because what happened next was that somehow i knew i had to make a decision. it’s like there were, all of a sudden, all kinds of ways before me but i HAD to choose one. why i had to, i don’t know. it was like a horse and four running, there’s no way to stop them, so you gotta turn them left or right.

“i” – that’s a whole different story. it’s a different “i” altogether – but never mind, that’s not what i’m talking about right now.

i coulda gone up to heaven. yessuh, i coulda done that. there was actually such a thing. and it looked like they woulda taken me. but that’s not what i chose.

also, there was a road, and it just disappeared, softly, into nowhere, or what looked like nowhere. that would have been the easiest one to go, for me at least, but i didn’t end up going there.

there were lots others. somehow i knew a bit about each one of them. but the one i chose, a little off to the left, it was, how can i describe it, at first glance it looked like a little cul-de-sac, right there, right off the road, right by that old tree.

i went in a little ways and i just sat there. well, as much sitting as i could do, let’s not forget i’m talking about something that’s hard to talk about, right? let’s not forget that.

that was probably the biggest surprise. that i went there, into that cul-de-sac. i mean, i hadn’t known there were so many places to go to, that there was any place to go to, and that there was that place there. and that i chose to go there. i had no idea how that choosing happened, i still don’t, but at the same time i know that i made that decision.

now what was there in that place?

… aaaand the other reason i’m presenting this today is because once again, i’m participacting in NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is short for national novel writing month. everyone who signs up pledges her or his hope (or iron-clad intention, as it may be) to write 50,000 words towards a novel in the month of november. that’s how i started with my novel last year. i’m a NaNoWriMo “rebel” because i choose to continue to work on an existing project (the official idea is to start with a brand new project although the 4-time NaNoWriMo writer i met at the kickoff party today declared that there was nothing wrong with continuing an existing project.)

what’s really, really exciting is that in our household of six, four are participating. can you believe it? my 11-year-old daughter (she participates in the young writers’ part), my husband and one of our roommates are writing, too! i’m so thrilled, atingle, elated, delighted, ecstatic, hopped up over this – as one of the characters in haroun and the sea of stories would say, by one of my favourite writers, salman rushdie. yes, yes, we writers love to read.

so. for the month of november, my task here on this blog is to relate every entry to NaNoWriMo (except for the wordless posts). there’ll probably be quite a few excerpts from the book, and all the other posts, well, maybe some of the connections i’ll make will be a bit hair-raising but then i think all of NaNoWriMo might turn out to be hair-raising!

image by buggs

OMG – NaNoWriMo

this is a first, folks. more precisely, two firsts and probably one last.

the first and the last: this is definitely the first time you’ve seen me say OMG here, and quite likely the last. it’s just not the kind of thing that makes me ROTFLMAO (okay, that was probably also the last time i said that).

and NaNoWriMo? that stands for national novel writing month. yup, i’ve signed up with them. i’ve committed to working on a novel every day of this month. don’t know whether i’ll write the requisite 1,666.7 words a day that would qualify me for an entry to be the winner but that’s not what this is all about.

what is it all about? it’s about chasing that dream of crafting an “extended fictional work in prose; usually in the form of a story”“a conviction of our fellow-men’s existence strong enough to take upon itself a form of imagined life clearer than reality“… “a representation of civilization” … arrrgh! can i handle that?

tim robbins seems to think so. the author of even cowgirls get the blues sent a pep talk yesterday to all us aspiring novelists. i want to share that with you here because i think what he says is inspiring way beyond novel writing.

take it away, tim – hold on to your canoes, folks!

when you sit down to begin that novel of yours, the first thing you might want to do is toss a handful of powdered napalm over both shoulders”so as to dispense with any and all of your old writing teachers, the ones whose ghosts surely will be hovering there, saying such things as, “adverbs should never be…”, or “a novel is supposed to convey…”, et cetera. enough! ye literary bureaucrats, vamoose!

rules such as “write what you know,” and “show, don’t tell,” while doubtlessly grounded in good sense, can be ignored with impunity by any novelist nimble enough to get away with it. there is, in fact, only one rule in writing fiction: whatever works, works.

ah, but how can you know if it’s working? the truth is, you can’t always know (i nearly burned my first novel a dozen times, and it’s still in print after 35 years), you just have to sense it, feel it, trust it. it’s intuitive, and that peculiar brand of intuition is a gift from the gods. obviously, most people have received a different package altogether, but until you undo the ribbons you can never be sure.

as the great nelson algren once said, “any writer who knows what he’s doing isn’t doing very much.” most really good fiction is compelled into being. it comes from a kind of uncalculated innocence. you need not have your ending in mind before you commence. indeed, you need not be certain of exactly what’s going to transpire on page 2. if you know the whole story in advance, your novel is probably dead before you begin it. give it some room to breathe, to change direction, to surprise you. writing a novel is not so much a project as a journey, a voyage, an adventure.

a topic is necessary, of course; a theme, a general sense of the nexus of effects you’d like your narrative to ultimately produce. beyond that, you simply pack your imagination, your sense of humor, a character or two, and your personal world view into a little canoe, push it out onto the vast dark river, and see where the currents take you. and should you ever think you hear the sound of dangerous rapids around the next bend, hey, hang on, tighten your focus, and keep paddling”because now you’re really writing, baby! this is the best part.

it’s a bit like being out of control and totally in charge, simultaneously. if that seems tricky, well, it’s a tricky business. try it. it’ll drive you crazy. and you’ll love it.

more hallowe’en treats

hootin’ annie’s, i’m still at it – handing out hallowe’en treats right into november. i better keep my word – i said i’d do this for the rest of the week!

the “strangers” who will receive treats today are totally and completely random. i’ll go to google search and hand out link treats to the first three blogs that i can find for “NaNoWriMo” and “canada”. don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? i’ll tell you tomorrow.