Monday, December 24, 2012

Film: Scarlet Star Studios Christmas Tradition - Toby

I love this Christmas video. It's been a tradition for Scarlet Star Studios to send out this video, "Toby's Christmas Miracle." It's fun. It's made by a couple of really cool and fun and very smart, creative people.

I wanted to share the smile.

I hope the season is being kind and there is much joy and cause for celebration in life right now. Yes, I know times are not easy for many people for many reasons. I know there is darkness in the world and suffering. And I know that gratitude practice is important, too. As well as not being consumed by the darkness.

May this video bring you moments of light and hope. And a smile.

And thank you, Gretchin and Sven, for its creation and the sharing.


Friday, December 21, 2012

With or Without Ritual, the Season Changes


This is the time of year when even our clocks feel the stretch. There is so much more to do or at least the expectation that we have more to do and yet we are only left with a daily budget of twenty-four hours.

I know there is someone reading this and saying something like, "Well, you see, Dot, in truth we have exactly yadayada hours and umtydum minutes and xyznanoseconds." I'm sure there's some formula or measure where the number isn't exactly twenty-four hours. Or maybe it is. I don't know. What I do know is that our clocks measure out approximately twenty-four hours every day and that is what we have to work with.

The amount of lightness and darkness we experience changes as we tilt and float through space. But the hours are basically the same.

Different religions and spiritual beliefs hold celebrations during this time of year. They claim different deities or leaders, different dates and significance, different rituals. And we still turn. Whether or not we celebrate, regardless of how we celebrate if we do, the daylight grows shorter and then longer. And cycles back.

The world didn't end today.

But a cycle did. And as we passed the marker in time a new cycle began.

This is a time of change. Of going deep and returning. Of dreams and hopes, reflection both inward and outward.

May all of us be connected to the Greater Good. May our true path and dreams be manifest as we move through our life. And may our connections to the earth and all beings be strengthened.

I wish for light and blessings for all of us as we move into a new cycle and for strength to stay balanced when the darkness threatens to overtake us.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Free Workshop - Kim Stafford

In case you haven't heard about this, here is information about a free evening workshop with Kim Stafford in January.
Honoring Big Stories by Writing Brief Chapters
with Kim Stafford

Wednesday, January 16, 2013   5-8 p.m.

Lewis & Clark College, Graduate Campus

Teachers, students, and other citizens often carry stories too big to manage, or secrets too strange to tell.

As a launch for Kim Stafford's new book 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared, this workshop will explore how “the trick of beginning” can release possible epiphanies from the silence of impossible stories.

The evening will include refreshments, writing time, readings from the book, and music. To RSVP visit

Questions? Contact the Center for Community Engagement at 503-768-6040 or

Sunday, December 16, 2012


There were two more horrific events since my last post. I'm not going to recount what happened. If you know it already, you don't need to hear it again. If you haven't heard about them, you have your reasons and you probably don't need to hear about them. Sometimes I take media breaks. Times like this I wish I was in an anti-news phase; but I'm not.

What I'm heartened to see is that some people are reaching out.

Not everyone is asking why or whose fault is it or where is the next threat or "event" coming from.

I am happy to see people saying, "hey, if you're hurting and need help, call me" or "are you okay" or "I just need to cry and need a quiet space" or even, "honey, I'm running a little late, I should be home shortly" (when maybe they'd just let it slide this time, again).

Two of the major incidents involved guns; there was a one-on-one incident locally which involved a gun, too. But the third major incident did not involve a gun.

I'm not meaning to open a debate on gun control laws. That is not my point. I see both sides of that issue throwing blame on the other side and proclaiming their own viewpoint right and as the solution.

I do believe that one factor is our lack of connection to each other, to our community, even to our true selves. Which is putting it too simply and doesn't really begin to address the issue. But that is the kernel of this truth.

Blame the parents. Blame the teachers. Blame the father or the brother or "the system." Blame the lack of mental health care or of health care in general. Blame lack of individual responsibility or over-working or economy or the belief that the world as we know it is ending in a week. Politics? The military? Video games? Cartoons?

Whatever. Some of those things are probably contributing factors in one or more of these tragedies.

My feelings about these events are bigger than my words to explain what I feel right now.

Except that I think we need to reach out to each other. To check in just because. To ask, "how are you?" To say "I love you" or "I care" or "I'm here for you." Or maybe even, "how can I help you?'

I know. There are things which need fixing. But it's easier if we see each other as travelers in this shared world and if we find ways to work together instead of always arguing about who's right and who's wrong.

Look around. The world isn't black and white. It's made up of many colors and shapes and sizes.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Creativity when the World Outside Feels Crazy

I realize that there are wars around the world. There are people who kidnap and kill and maim and torture on, probably, every day of the year, somewhere. Or nature releases another "event" which floods or carries away or explodes property and people and land. And I don't mean to say that it is only when terrible things happen near home that I notice. That is not true.

What is true is that sometimes, when horrible things happen and it's near home, I feel it at a different level or in a different way. Or I am struck with a renewed realization of the tentativeness of life, of the random possibility of something or someone outside disrupting life.

Whether it is grief I feel for completely unknown people in other countries or the knowledge, again, that the victim of a recent incident could have been a friend or neighbor or partner of someone I know - the feelings are powerful.

Yesterday there was a shooting at the Clackamas Town Center mall, which is a few miles from home. It is far enough away that I didn't feel my physical home nor neighborhood were in danger - and I was several miles in the opposite direction when I heard the news.

The shooting was one of the random acts. Because the shooter is dead, I don't suppose we'll ever know the real reasons. There will be speculation and guesses and experts putting together the pieces, trying to make sense of why two people were killed, another nearly killed (she is expected to survive, I read this morning), and unknown numbers hurts. The mall is closed today and people have important possessions left behind in the mall when it started and the police department assured people there will be a process for them to get back their belongings: baby strollers, medications, purses, purchases, and so on. But - unless the shooter left a note explaining everything, we will never know, really. And even with a note, there is probably more hidden away in his now dead brain.

A random act. People dead. More people hurt. Many more afraid and asking "why?"

Family and friends and employers/employees checking on each other. Police visibility is increased at all of the malls/major shopping areas now.

And this incident a couple of days after an 11-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy with a loaded gun tried to rob a woman in a pickup truck. The boys were initially returned to their parents. Why? One of them immediately ran away but was chased down and again returned to his parents. Again, why? Then the following day the boy was taken into protective custody and the father arrested. Okay.

And more. I'm not going to recount the stories in the news which have impacted me in this last week. After yesterday's situation at the mall, and when the police said the shooter had been "neutralized" - which also bothered me, just tell us he's dead or in custody or something, but "neutralized"?, c'mon - I had to talk to my partner. Not because I thought she was in danger or hurt, but just because I wanted to hear her voice, to talk, to say, wow. Random.

In thinking about this further, I realized that how we can get through these things - whether it's these types of incidents at or near home, or in a country we've never touched - is to connect and to create. It's good that we have feelings and react - in appropriate ways. And using the power of the emotions to create is one way.

I also wanted to update the contact improvisation link in the sidebar. The one I have has been there a while and it's time for a new one.

In my search for a new video, I found this. Even if all you do is watch the opening dance improvisation part and skip the TedTalk, I hope it at least gives you a smile. I enjoyed watching the dance and listening to the giggles. And I enjoyed the talk, as well, it's a wonderful description of contact improvisation dance, with a demonstration at the end, as well.

Connection. Creative flow. Being present and in the moment. These are the things we need to write or dance or paint - for any creative endeavor. For getting through the emotional times.


Monday, December 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Stats

The Office of Letters and Light released some of the NaNoWriMo stats for this year.

Amazing! Look at those numbers.

For NaNoWriMo main:

•341,375 participants, up a whopping 33% from 2011’s total of 256,618 writers.
•We wrote a grand total of 3,288,976,325 words, up 7% from 2011’s 3,074,068,446.
•This averaged out to 9364 words per person!
•We had 38,438 winners, giving us a 11% win rate!

For NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program: 
•97,864 participants, up 21% from 2011’s total of 81,040. (Edited to correct an error in numbers!)
•We wrote a total of 419,152,844 words up 14% from 2011’s collective word count of 368,143,078.
•This averaged out to 5,077 words per person.
•We had 18,531 winners, giving us a 22% win rate!

This November, we also had 37,120,542 pageviews, and a total of 5,939,711 visits: up 10% from 2011’s 5,384,040 visits!

Top 50 NaNoWriMo Cities (according to Google Analytics, based on number of November visits from these fine places)

.London 118,030
2.New York 90,055
3.(not set) 72,912

4.Seattle 58,670

5.Toronto 52,686

6.Sydney 51,498

7.Chicago 49,290

8.Melbourne 44,689

9.Los Angeles 43,511

10.Denver 41,574

11.Portland 36,905

12.San Francisco 35,593

13.Brisbane 32,118

14.Washington 31,301

15.Houston 27,971

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One-Day Writing Conference in Portland on 1/26/13

I have been looking forward to this conference. I've held the day in my schedule even before I didn't have all of the details. The only thing I knew was that it is put on my Jessica Morrell, a local author and editor whose workshops I've attended a couple of times at Willamette Writers Conferences. (She has another workshop I'm looking forward to being able to take someday when my schedule doesn't conflict with when it is scheduled; still keeping my eyes on when the next session for that editing workshop.) I also knew that Lidia Yuknavitch was the keynote speaker.

But that was all I knew.

I received the information today and - wow - I am going. Just waiting for the final registration instructions and how to pay and I will be there.

Click on the Workshops/Classes page above to see the schedule and more information.

This looks so good that I know I made the right decision a couple of months ago to hold the date.


Making it in Changing Times
A One-Day Writing Conference
January 26th, Portland, Oregon
The accelerating change and innovation in the publishing industry today is dizzying, and the pace can be overwhelming. But this change/forward/fast environment is also ripe with opportunity for those who embrace it and learn to adapt and innovate. Find answers and valuable insights at a practical, one-day conference filled with just the information that you need to propel your writing career to the next level and muscle your way to publication.  
Times: 8:30-5:30
Location: Tabor Space, 5441 S.E. Belmont, Portland, Oregon
Keynote by Lidia Yuknavitch The Worth of Risk.
An Editor’s Wish List, Jessica Morrell 
Kick Start Your Writing in 2013, Gigi Rosenberg
10 Signs You’re Telling, not Showing, Jessica Morrell;
Unraveling the World of Amazon PublishingDeborah Reed
Immersed in Books: Building Your Literary Life Kevin Sampsell
Q & A: Risk It To Get Published with Jessica Morrell, Deborah Reed, Kevin Sampsell

View the full schedule at:

 Cost: $99 includes continental breakfast and lunch(Refund given in case of cancellation due to weather) 
(For registration information, see the Workshops/Classes page above; or go to Jessica's website by following the schedule link.)

"You don't want to miss this event. Seriously."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Power of Music - of The Arts

I was driving from the pool to work today, listening to NPR. There was a rerun of a story I heard driving home after work last night, and then a new program came on. Traffic was heavy on I-84 so my focus shifted to the road and away from the story, though I caught pieces of it.

When I merged onto I-5 South, I had a couple of miles until the next bottleneck in my journey and tuned in to the story again. Part of the problem is that I couldn't quite catch where they were talking about on the radio.

But I did catch that they were talking about music being banned. It had started as a ban on "satanic" music, meaning any type of music which conflicted with their Islamic beliefs (meaning from the government's view), which soon became any type of music in this country whose name I didn't know.

The name of the country or of a group was mentioned, finally, just as I hit the second congested part of my drive, where I have to make a crazy jog from I-5 South onto I-405 North for a few feet and then this weird overpass onramp to Highway 26 West. It doesn't matter the time of day, there is always some type of backup or traffic interference there, and there was a minimal slow down. So when the country was mentioned, and it wasn't one I was familiar with so I didn't quite catch it, it slipped away.

But when I was safely on 26 and in the lane I wanted I could focus, again. And I caught the end of the story with a festival organizer talking about the life of musicians in this country.

He talked about them having to hide their instruments. If they wanted to play music they had to do it very, very quietly with all drapes and windows closed and no neighbors home; and even that was extremely risky. Even mobile phone ringtones were banned, and of course any type of music players - digital or otherwise.

I was thinking about this and at the same time I was thinking about the people who doubt the power of music. Or of any of the arts. And here was a government who thinks that the music is so powerful that it will corrupt an entire country so they've banned it all.

Music - and art, writing, dance, theater, creativity - heals. It teaches. It gives us cause for and enhances celebration. It calms us and excites us and eases our fears. It puts us to sleep and it wakes us up. Creativity gives us purpose and goals and reasons to keep on, well, keeping on. Music and writing and all types of creative activity help us explore and express our experiences.


I was able to find the country with the total music ban: Mali. Click on the picturesk and the one headline, of Mali musicians below to read some articles about this situation. And, yes, I know there are other places where music and writing and art have been banned. But this is what I learned today. And it struck me as powerful and as something more to explore.

cool planet. on the line.

militants declare war on music
about muscian, Keletigui Diabate

... and a video of Mali music to listen to. Beautiful. ..


Monday, December 3, 2012

Theatrical Interpreting Preparation Series is Under Way

I met with the participants in the first Theatrical Interpreting Preparation Series workshop on Saturday, December 1st. It's a diverse and wonderful group of interpreters and I'm looking forward to our time together over the next four months.

This coming Thursday they will be attending "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at PCS. I didn't give them a lot of homework, but a few things to look for which relate to our meeting on Saturday while they're watching the play. Then when we meet again in two weeks we will talk about those observations and wrap up that topic and begin the next one.

I've rented a conference room at The Armory from Portland Center Stage and it's nice to be in a theatrical setting for this workshop. The room is comfortable and access is easy for pretty much whatever we need.

This is a great group for my first run of the theatrical interpreting workshops I have planned.

Don't worry if you missed it this round - I will be doing it again next season. And I have other performance interpreting workshops in the development process, as well.

For now - a lovely first gathering!


In other news, I wrote another blog post go out for Portland Center Stage and it went out last Friday - posted by the amazing Katie O. You can read the post by clicking on my Bard collage below (I had fun making this digital collage for the post).

"Interpreting the Bard" by Dot Hearn


Saturday, December 1, 2012

I am ...

... an official NaNoWriMo Winner! Yes, indeed, I wrote over 50k in 30 days.

Five for Five (five consecutive attempts = five consecutive wins) 


My 2012 NaNoWriMo word count calendar. And I'm not worried about all the red squares at the end; I'd already passed 50k and wasn't updating my word count.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 24 : Sleep and Slow Down

I wrote about 400 words on my NaNoNovel today. Again, that's okay. I stayed up pretty late doing something which turned out to not be necessary, I found out several hours later when I made my "middle of the night" bathroom trip (which was actually middle of most people's mornings - oh well).

Then one of the contractors was in the house to do some more work in the downstairs bathroom. No, it's still not done. Yes, it's the place where our washer and dryer live, so we're still without those. Which means, yes, this is important work and he has been very considerate in not coming over until after 10:30 AM because of my work schedule.

So I had to get more sleep. Which wasn't easy with a contractor downstairs, hammering, sawing, drilling, and so on. And a cat who was thrilled to have one of us still in bed so he could have a body to nap on; after a few turns around and readjustments. I did get the amount of sleep I needed but it was spread out. And it meant I got up very late.

I did move the story forward a bit.

I did get to work on time.

I did get in a walk.

I did make progress on organizing some samples for next week's workshop.

So I guess it was a good day despite the late start. Though not much progress on the NaNoNovel Which Needs a New Name.

Friday, November 23, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 23 : 50k in 30 Days Benchmark Achieved

I did it!

I came home after work and said hello to my partner, who was still up reading. Then I poured a glass of wine and played a couple of games of Sherlock to let go of work (the logic puzzle game; nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes - the goal is to work with the clues given to figure out how these 6 things are grouped).

Then I got opened up my NaNoNovel, saved a backup copy in case something happen and I lost what I was about to write, and started typing.

And a little while later, I did it! I passed the 50k mark.

In the story, there is still a big mystery. Although those two characters are on the very edge of revealing what it is. I don't totally know what it is - but there was something revealed two chapters ago that there is a link between the person who died in the beginning and this person who the bartender is having an affair with. And  that may be somehow mixed up in the recent bomb threat - where an actual bomb was discovered - at the post office a couple of streets away from where the bartender works. And it probably is related to the murder of the dog, although nothing has been said about that, yet.

So, we'll see where this goes from here. I will try to get to the end of the first draft of this novel by the end of November. That is my goal and I'll see how it goes. I have another big event happening on Saturday, December 1st - the first meeting of the theatrical interpreting preparation workshop series I've started. I'm very excited about that and have been pulling together material, but I have a few more things to do to get the first session ready. So now that I've passed 50k in the novel and I feel like it is well under way and fun and like I've found its rhythm in terms of story, I might have to back off on the daily word count to make sure I get the workshop material all in order. And I feel like I can do that with this one and not lose that plot thread.

I will get a first draft of this NaNoNovel done! Whether it is by the end of November or not.


Five for five NaNoWins! I can't officially validate my word count as a winner until November 25th. But I did run it through the NaNoWordValidator and my word count as of right now is 50,325.

Yay, NaNo!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 22 : I Thought I'd Reach 50k Today, But -

It didn't happen. And that's okay.

I barely wrote. I was too tired after work and then I slept a really long time. So I missed my writing time and I missed my swimming time. And I was on target to make it to work on time, but traffic was very unexpectedly not in my favor. Only a couple of minutes late, but still not good.


Words written today were 391.

Total word count now is 48,853.

I'm going to see if I can pass the benchmark on Black Friday. *smile* Better than shopping!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 21 : Approaching the end but not The End


I made good progress today on my NaNoNovel. Both in terms of word count and in terms of the story.

Words written today = 3,103
Total word count = 48,462

And, yes, this means that I am nearing the NaNoWriMo benchmark of writing 50k words in 30 days. Except that I expect I will have it completed tomorrow. So 50k in 22 days. Not bad.

But the story is still going. The novel is not yet done and it is coming together quite nicely. I do think this will be another one to work on completing and editing and working towards publication. One of the first things to go will be the title. There is a little bit of that in there, but it is definitely not the point of the story. And that is okay.

This is NaNoWriMo and for me that means creative exploration. Letting the story come as it will and being willing to throw out any preconceived ideas about where we're going because, after all, this is the characters' story - not mine.

Yes. Tomorrow I will reach the end of my 50k NaNoWords. But I won't reach "The End."

All is good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 20: Travel and Writing

Today we headed home from the coast. We saw a few trees down, a lot of debris of course, and some flooding. We were only detoured one time - an expected area of road coming out of Tillamook, which floods easily and often.

We made a stop for an appointment in Tigard and then headed on home. After which I met a friend for dinner and conversation then went on to work.

The appointment in Tigard wasn't mine - it was my partner's. So what did I do? You guessed : I sat in the car and wrote.

The words written today is 2082.  My total word count as of right now: 45,359. Yahoo! Way ahead of schedule.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoPhoto Update

...this is the photograph to go with today's post (though the storm photo works, too)...
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

NaNoWriMo Day 19 : Illuminating

The storm was raging hard this morning. Winds blowing the ocean back against itself and causing it to find alternate pathways to the shore in places. Trees were shipped forward and back and sideways.

And at 9:30 AM the power went out in this whole tiny town. Trees had come down across power lines along the coast highway. Water had flooded the highway north of here and only large trucks were being let through. Other highways closed because of trees, an accident, overturned trucks.

And I sat her with a fully charged laptop, a mostly charged Blackberry with minimal data connection and I wrote. And wrote.

The power finally came back on about 9 hours after it went out. We were able to make a hot dinner and hot tea and watch a couple of rounds of Law & Order. And I wrote some more.

My new total word count is 43,277 and today I wrote just a hair under 4,400 words.
Now, time to get ready for bed because tomorrow morning I head for home.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, November 18, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 18 : Writing Out the Storm

It's been very stormy all day today. It did pick up, as predicted, about 5 PM. I haven't heard for sure, but they said there would be winds up to 70 mph and higher gusts, with buckets (my word) of rain. And that is what it felt like.

We did venture down to one of two restaurants in town for burgers, lattes, and wifi. I'm lucky that I do have mobile service at the cabin; most carriers don't here at all. So I have been able to check email, post to Facebook *grin* and check in on a few other things. Though the service is slower than normal and extra patience is require.

Which are good things. It keeps me off the internet and keeps me focused on why I'm here: NaNoWriMo and writing.

Which I did.

My current word count is 38,350 with total words written today of 4190. I was writing up a storm inside while the wind and rain raged outsidr.

Another good writing day. And I think major parts of it will even be salvageable after November.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 17: Writing Grains of Sand

It's been stormy at the coast for most of the day. The cabin is warm with its old fashioned heater and the fully stocked kitchen has made staying in to eat easy and healthy.

There was a break in the storm for a while and, since I had written about 3,200 words by that time, I decided to take a break and go to the beach for a walk.

The wind was mild and the temperature cold, but I didn't care. I had on layers and my rain coat, since I could see the rain hovering on the ocean which could hit the town before I got back. But once I got on the beach, I took off my Keens. My feet needed to feel the sand and the salty water, even though it was about 43 degrees.

No, I didn't go wading, except to cross a couple of small streams running to the ocean.

A nice balance to the sitting and typing. Ah.

Then, after a shower to thaw my feet and warm my chilled body, I made a kale salad and a side of quinoa.

Followed by more writing. Some of it against a backdrop of Law & Order on the TV. (Perhaps that's what influenced the murder of a dog in the novel today. Hm.)

I'm calling it a day - and a good writing day it was. My total word count is now 34,180. Total words written today? Just over 5,000.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, November 16, 2012

NaNoDay 16 midnight update

My word count at 2 minutes to midnight is now 28,526. A good writing day.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

NaNoWriMo Day 16 : Somewhere Over the Ocean

I know, it should be "rainbow." But there is no rainbow, only miles of Ocean. And the air is salty from the sea, mixing with the sometimes horizontal rain being dumped from the sky and blown about by the strong winds.

Inside the rental cabin, which is really the upper floor of a vertical duplex, the heater warms the cold air. We unpack the New Seasons groceries, our clothes, the necessary laptop, a bottle of Cabernet.

As of 10:30 PM I've passed the minimum daily average written words : 1675 words for a total of 27,696 words on my novel so far.

It is feeling more novel-like and the writing is more fun.

Now back to my writing and send this before I lose the unstable connection (I'm lucky; most carriers don't even work in this town!).
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 15 : Null

I took today off of writing. That wasn't my intent when I woke up this morning. I got up, went for a swim, had a healthy breakfast of oatmeal with soymilk, fruit, nuts, and a hard boiled egg, plus a decaf soy latte. I packed plenty of water and a tuna/spinach/lettuce salad and Ambrosia apple for work.

I was set with the recent editions of The Writer magazine and Writer's Digest to read in the expected (but what turned out to be non-existent) down time.

And  a plan to write tonight.

Writing didn't happen and while I could have tried to get more of the story out tonight, I didn't. It's been a long week and it didn't end on an easy Friday kind of note (today is my Friday).

I'm exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. I needed the night off.
Rusty Red by Cathedral Ridge Windery

Besides, I have the next four days off from work with the primary intent to write and sleep and write and eat and write and walk ... You get the picture.

So, a night off. Watching a movie at home with a glass of wine. Chillin'.

Tomorrow I will write.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 14 : I Showed Up

Today I showed up - for a haircut (after paying the property taxes) - for therapy - for writing - for work.

And I think the novel is coming together. Progress and movement and a real story. I feel the conflict and plot are actually coming into being - whew.

That's all I have to report today. There's a bit of mystery and tension in the story now - finally.

Word count = 26,021.    Words written today = 1991.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Radical Writer Confronts a NaNoCold: NaNoWriMo Day 13

I am being diligent in resisting this cold which is hitting almost everywhere I go. Where I work. Where I write. At home. I. Will. Not. Get. Sick.

"Germy" by Dot
But I have the early signs of the illness, according to my partner : namely, a little "blue" and a feeling like everything is an uphill battle, a little tired with spurts of energy which disappear, and a few aches. This morning I felt like I had the beginning of a runny nose - but thankfully that has gone away.

I skipped swimming today because of this. But I am taking walks on my work breaks, because getting exercise isn't the problem - but sometimes the chemicals in the pool irritate my throat on good days (they seem to have moved away from the Salt Pure system, but it still seems to be low chlorine).

Anyway - enough of that!

It's NaNoWriMo Day 13 and, despite the feeling of this being a worthless endeavor and the writing is stupid and why am I stressing myself - I'm still writing. I will not let the mid-month blahs set in and I will not let the stubborn germs take hold.

I did get some extra sleep. And I did retrieve my coat from the writing place where I forgot it yesterday (another illness coming on symptom for me). And I wrote. This is just the type of day for which I like to have some extra words in the bank.

Today I wrote 1153 words before going to work, for a closing word count of 24,030.

This writer, whether feeling at all radical or not, will not be stopped from writing by a little cold germ.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo day 12 : A Wandering We Go

Today I wrote another 1,791 words - giving me an ending total word count of 22877. Not a palindrome, but a nice tidy number.

photo from urbanspoon

The words I wrote today were much more scenic, thanks to the ex-girlfriend and her trip into the Gorge. She told me stories as I waited for my soup and salad plus tuna at Fresh Thyme Soup in Beaverton. She waited patiently and let me take bites between sentences. And she didn't get very far, but she did spice up the landscape of the novel with her trip descriptions.

That was the first half of my word count for today.

Black Rock Coffe Bar, Beaverton

I left Fresh Thyme Soup Company and headed over to the nearby Black Rock Coffee Bar for my daily (or nightly in this case, it was 4 pm) decaf soy latte. With a delicious and very hot latte I drove to work and parked my car, got out the laptop, and proceeded to write the rest of my words for today. Yes, in the car in the parking lot again, with a very hot latte.

I'm keeping ahead of the word count target and, at this point, NaNoMonitor says I should finish around November 26th.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 11 : Heading to Hood River

photo by Johnny T. Cherig at The World of Waterfalls

Today one of my characters decided to take a little trip to Hood River, out in the Gorge. Well, let me back up and correct, because that's what she did. Earlier in the novel she was already out there at the house of her dead ex-lover, starting this bardo process. But today she told me that my muse told her that my scenes were boring, flat.

And she, of course, had the perfect anecdote: she was going to have me tell her travels of how she got from her lovely home in the West Hills of Portland out to the gorgeous house on the hill overlooking the Columbia River.

But wait, I said. That came earlier in the novel than where we are now.

So? she said. This is NaNovember and the order of how you write the details doesn't really matter, does it? Or are you pulling out your editor already? Her job comes later.

Okay, okay. I said and started typing. She's right. Editing doesn't happen yet and there will be plenty of time to rearrange the pieces.

And she's right that the scenes are minimal, and not in a minimalistic, sparse landscape, interesting kind of way. Dare I say it - boring!

So I wrote some today, right about 1000 words. My current word count is 21,086. This is 1086 over the target for the end of the day on Monday, and I will be adding more on Monday. So, for right now, I'm in good standing to finish on time, even a little early.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 10: Writin' in da Hood

Today my friend  who is a NaNoWriting Buddy, too, and I drove to the all-state write-in.

Where was it? You may ask.

In my 'hood! I'll tell you. Where I spent my formidable years growing up. Today I found myself at the Salem Public Library with a bunch of other writers from the Salem area and from Eugene. I don't know if there were others from the Portland area. No, wait, I do know - someone mentioned Sherwood. There was also someone from Grants Pass.

We arrived about halfway through the day, but in enough time to join in the continuous story, some word sprints, and to partake of the NaNoAura of writing in community and challenges and the sound of keyboards being hit repeatedly and pens and pencils dragged across paper. The winner of one word sprint wrote about 920 words in ten minutes. Amazing! No, it wasn't me.

photo from The Amateur Gourmet 
And in my NaNoNovel. Well, not much forward movement in the plot I thought I was going to write this month. But that's nothing new.

What was new is that one of the characters is having a little affair of sorts, while the girlfriend is off taking care of the possessions of a dead friend. And it turns out that the bartender is also an excellent cook and much was said about the flaky biscuits and the midnight after sex breakfast meal. Eggs, bacon, and biscuits.

I can also see there is probably another death on the horizon. It may not happen and may only be a scare, but it looks like it. I may still have a conflict on which to draw out the rest of this novel. And not just the cheating bartender.

It's amazing the cliches that come out in the word sprints. But that's okay. Probably I needed to get them out of the way to get to the good stuff.

My ending word count today is 20,034, which could be enough to hold me through Monday with no further writing. That won't happen; I do plan on writing each of the next two days. But I love having a cushion in case things get busy and I fall behind. I am hoping to get this novel done by Thanksgiving - I've done that in three of the past four years. The first of the theatrical interpreting preparation workshops is on December 1st and I want a little time in the days before that to make sure everything is in order. I can do it all even if I have to wait to turn in my NaNoNovel at 11:59 pm on Friday, November 30th; but it would be great to have the novel wrapped up (at least the first 50k of it) by Thanksgiving weekend.

And the total words I wrote today was 4,483. Not bad.

Friday, November 9, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 9 : Palindrome and Circling

I hit another palindrome in my NaNoWriMo word count. Right now I'm at 15551 words (total words written today was 2,231). Forwards and backwards, it's the same.

picture from
In the novel, another character is acting out. The bartender is a little upset about the girlfriend going off to help the dead ex cross over. Except. Well, who is really dead? Not the bartender, who has an attractive customer with a secret. I think. I don't know what the secret is, but hints have been left in the story.

I'm feeling a little lost and am not sure where the story is going. I tried to rein it back in to the plot line I thought I had, but it's not following my direction well. Earlier today I posted in a NaNoGroup that I have to let go of trying to run the story because it's not letting me.

My characters seem to have a different idea of where they're going than I do and I have to accept that. Twice I've tried to pull it back on track and I became bored. It's pretty bad when the author doesn't like the story they're writing.

I know, it's part of the process and I still have to get it out onto the page and out of the way of the story. But today was not a particularly enjoyable day of writing. I didn't hate it. I. Was. Just. Bored.

Tomorrow I have a writing date with about 75 other people. Hopefully it will be productive and I can push past this stagnant, wheel spinning, WTF is going on, period and move into something more fun. And which moves the story forward.

I hearby vow to let the characters tell their story. They don't like what I want to do very well - although they seem to like it as a background to play against - so I'll let them tell me what it going on in their world.

And, inner editor, stay out of the way. Your job comes later.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 8 : Slogging in Bardo

Over half of the portion of the NaNoNovel wrote today was by hand. Caught in snippets - pieces as they floated by between bouts of work. My page word count remained about the same as it has been the last couple of years when I have pieces written by hand: about 150 words per page. I'm using a wide lined composition book and writing quickly - not always legibly. So that will be another challenge when I go to type it into the novel, to read what I wrote!

My word count when I type in the words will also undoubtedly change just a little, since my count was also quick and rough. But by my count so far, 773 of the 1609 I wrote today were by hand.

As of right now, my total word count is 13,320. That is only 14 words behind the target for today if I was to be on track (it should be 13334). Not bad, considering I've been working every single day of NaNoWriMo so far. I am off work for the next two days and don't start work until mid-afternoon on the third day. So I expect I will be able to get ahead a little bit on my writing. I do have two writing dates set up: one tomorrow night and then the all-state write-in on Saturday.

So - what's happening in the novel now? Um. Well. There has been a death. The character is just coming to terms with the fact that she is dead. And her ex-lover, best friend, is preparing to help her transition into enlightenment so she doesn't have to come back again. Except that the dead person realizes an important task in the land of the living she has to repair or take care of or something (she hasn't told me what it is yet) so she can't leave this world entirely. So now we have this conflict of the one who's dead doing what she needs to in the bardo state to be able to come back and complete her karmic duties; and the one who's living is doing what she needs to do to help the spirit of the one who is dead be able to go through the light and into the other world.

Oh, no.

Not for the first time, I'm wishing I'd done just a little more prep about the bardo state. I did some. I have some bookmarks of website - reliable websites, not just Wikipedia and some are really in depth. But I have to find them. And with so much working, I've barely found time to write, sleep, swim, eat, and so on.

This is so totally NaNoNormal. Which is why I do have a four-day trip to the beach planned for the middle of the month. To catch up and to get ahead.

But for now, I'm feeling a little stuck because I don't know many of the rituals. Not enough of the rituals and the words. And I feel like I don't have enough to go on to flesh this out to 50,000 words.

So, that little creative voice inside my head says, let it go. Let it NaNoGo. Don't worry about the facts - those come later, in revisions. Just tell the story. You're trying to direct it too much, like a play, and you can't. You have to let them tell the story their way. Let it Go Go.

And she's right. I learned two NaNos ago that I can't force the story; it doesn't work and it isn't good.

Okay, Muse, back to you. Carry on.

The Nine Muses


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaNoNote on Day 7

I just hit a NaNoWriMo palindrome!

My current word count is


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NaNoSpin: Write What You Know? Write Where You Are!

photo from
This NaNoAttempt I'm trying to avoid some of the "write what you know" stuff. Although at this pace, it's a little hard not to have some of that. I'm okay with having pieces from my life of from the lives of friends, but I vowed that this time around my MC won't be a writer. She hasn't been every time, but there usually is a prominent writer in the scene somewhere. Not this time; nope.
But as a twist on that topic, I am going with "Write Where You Are" this year. I've always done that a little bit, but it seems that circumstances this year are presenting me with even more odd opportunities. Like the laundromat yesterday. Which turned out just fine.

Today I was presented with another scenario. Not toally unusual - but it was writing in my car. I had gone to lunch-dinner somewhere where I have gone to write between an appointment and work before. But that didn't work out this time, so I ate and left. But I still had an hour between that time and work and I had my laptop.

Luckily my laptop has a good battery and it was still at 75%, so I parked in the lot outside my job and, yes, indeed ... I wrote about 1000 words on my laptop in my car. With the laptop balanced on my steering wheel and my belly I typed away.

And a new turn has come up. It's not a twist in the story and it's not a new direction - but it's a little side trip in the story. It's with the secondary MC who is vying to become the main MC. So we'll see where she takes me. And she's threatening a sex scene, I think. She's in a relationship and she's remembering her previous relationship.

She's down at Angel Fire and then in Taos (there is some of the "what I know" information). And she meets this trashy yet not trashy waitress. And it looks like they're headed to bed. Though I'm not sure. Something is going on between them.

Ah, NaNo, the paths you take me on.

And, no, this is not a romance and not chicklit. It was billed as a mystery, and that is there. Somewhat. Trying to be there. Hints have been dropped.

Okay. I made my word count for today and I'm sitting at 10,542. This gives me a cushion of 542 words. I'd like a little more, but I think my writing for today is done.

A good day of writing in the car!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Radical Writer in the NaNoWriMo Zone: Day 5

"One Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Dieties" from Rigpa Shedra
Today was an interesting day. I made my word count early.

Okay, I'll qualify that relative term - "early." It means I wasn't scrambling to type out my words on my late night lunch/dinner break or in the wee morning hours. It meant long before I went to work today (which I start at 5 pm) I had my minimum done.

Due to the state of the downstairs bathroom, which is where our washer and dryer are housed, we don't have a working laundry system at home. We have to go to the laundromat. This is our current state for another two or three weeks. Luckily, we have Belmont Eco Laundry just a couple miles from home. It's clean, good machines, there's an attendant, and they have wifi.

So, today, I got my writing in at the laundromat. As the clothes spun in the washer and then the dryer, I spun out my tale. Or the tale of my MC (main character, in NaNoSpeak). Because I'm no longer driving this ship. I can't even rightfully claim who is the MC; I have two characters vieing for that position. Maybe I have two MCs.

But the story is progressing. There have even been a couple of mentions of the plot essence I went into NaNo12 with showing up here and there. Not that I have much clearer of a picture of the path of this novel - I don't - but at least the topic I brought into November is present.

So. Progress is being made. The novel is sort of coming together. There are some good pieces which may be salvageable and there is some junk which will be tossed without a twinge of guilt.

And I may have a love scene coming up. I haven't had too many of those in my novels; I haven't been avoiding them, they just haven't come along. And I started with a death - but that's more than the readers would know. It's kind of obvious that someone has died, but it's in the interest of my novel's plot that who died isn't clear. And that's holding true. No one knows who died. I think even I don't know even though I have a guess. With today's writing, I think even that mystery may be left to the characters.

Oh boy. NaNoWriMo is a wild ride if you let it be.

NaNo NaNo!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 4: Water, Writing, Work

"The Birth of Bardo" by Adia Millett
(Another piece from the artist whose work is inspiring my NaNoWriting)

Today I made good progress on my NaNoNovel 2012. I'm back on track with the average daily work count because ...

... are you ready?

Today I wrote 3.224 words. Which means my ending word count is 6,724 (the goal by the end of today was 6,667).

This is kind of amazing. I'm still feeling a little sick, although better than yesterday. I have a little more energy, though it doesn't stick around for long. But I did also manage to go swim today before work.


Go to the store to get dinner provisions for the week at work. I had this brilliant idea and for tonight it was great. Now I just need it to be great for the next three days and all is good. See, adding in writing about 1700 words per day into my schedule can eat into time to prepare meals. Unfortuantely, with the bathroom situation and my trip to Berkeley, I started NaNovember off with a deficit in the preparation department. I'm not talking about a deficit in novel preparation, but grocery shopping, food planning and things like that. Oh, and laundry; but I have an excuse since we don't have a working washer and dryer at home.

Anyway - back to my work meals. Two baked chicken breasts, a bag of spinach, a bag of "coleslaw mix" (which is really just green cabbage with a sprinking of red cabbage and a very few slivers of carrots), and a box of organic chicken broth. It was really tasty: chicken soup! And I don't have to worry about packing meals for the rest of this week (luckily we have a couple of refrigerators in the break room, so I left everything in a neat little bag on the shelf).

Then after that, I had enough time left to do some more writing.

So, day four and I'm back on track with my word count. I was able to swim. I have work meals.

All is good.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 3 : cold versus word count

We have one complete bathroom at home now!


I woke up with a cold.


Just enough of a cold to be tired from the inside-out and a little bit cranky. But I slept a lot. Then I had to get up and shower (at home, yes!) and dragged myself to work.

I went a little bit early so I could get a bit of writing done before I punched in. But that didn't really happen - there was more traffic than I planned and I had way less time to write than I planned. Only 100 words today. Which is why I have an orange square for today.

Better than zero, right?

Right now I'm sitting at 3500 words. I should be at 5000. Day three and I'm already behind. Not good. I will get caught up; hopefully sooner rather than later.

Maybe I can get a few more out after I get off work. Doubt it, as tired as I'm already feeling - but sometimes I get energy on the drive home (a good thing!) so if there's some left, I'll try to get out another chapter at least, and then try for more writing before work tomorrow.

I do have one full day devoted to writing next weekend. Well, driving to the state write-in and writing. It will be okay.

This is one of those colds where I have to remember to "not believe everything I think" because my thoughts are a bit dulled and wallowy right now. I know I will get caught up and I will make it through this 50k+ novel this month. It's still way early. (And I have a weekend writing retreat planned mid-month for just that purpose.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Daily Update: NaNoWriMo Day Two feels like three

I'm ending the second day of NaNoWriMo with 3404 words. That's pretty good, though I'd hoped for more. But, judging how things have gone the last two days, I'm fine with ending the second day on target.

See, in case you're joining me late in this story, we had a water pipe break at home. Upstairs on the second floor, in the bathroom, behind the cabinet. That has been a very long process of dealing with a water damage recovery company which led to discovering asbestos backed floors in both bathrooms and having to move a claw foot tub for the new floors (both bathrooms) and more. Delays and haggles about what would or wouldn't be covered; miscommunications; wrong orders. One thing and another. Oh, and this happened on September first. Not a typo - September first; and today is November 2nd and we just got the upstairs bathroom all put back together today. Or I hope so; I haven't been home to see if it's final or not, but they were working on it when I left.

Two months without a working shower, without our washer and dryer. Luckily we do have a half bathroom and I do have a gym membership.

Today they arrived to start work at a time which was just a little over six hours after I arrived home from work. Ah well.  I moved things being stored in the guest room from that bed and climbed between the washer and dryer being stored there to get into the bed, where I slept for the better part of the next two hours. See, the upstairs bathroom is off of our bedroom.

Anyway. Then the contractors had to show us some "bad news" they found under the downstairs sink and explain why the downstairs - which is where the washer and dryer live - is going to be delayed another 2 - 3 weeks.

Which made me lose my swimming time but I had just enough time to get to the gym to shower before my chiropractic appointment. Which isn't quite true because I was 5 minutes late to the appointment, but that all worked out fine.

But I did manage to grab 45 minutes with a decaf soy latte and a breakfast bagel sandwich at a little coffee shop and managed to knock out about 1100 words before going to work.

Then at work, on breaks, I managed to scrape together about another 600 words.

So, my little story is chugging along, although the last 600 I typed are probably fit for the early parts of the book, maybe the opening. With some major rework but I like parts of it very much.

So, for today, I met the minimum daily average. And I'm happy.

NaNoWriMo Day Two

There are still some hours left in the second day of NaNoWriMo, but I wanted to post an update. I'll be working the rest of the day, so what I've done so far may be it: I hope not, but it's possible.

This morning I had to move to our downstairs bedroom for an additional two hours of sleep, because the contractors were at the house by 8:30 am to work on the bathroom off our bedroom, and I didn't get home from work until a little before 2 am. So I took myself and a blanket and my clothes downstairs to the guest room; which is now a storage space for both the washer and dryer, miscellaneous things from the downstairs bathroom cabinets (on which the work has been delayed - but that's okay - we'll have a full bathroom, complete with shower and tub tonight!). I had to move a few things off the bed, which I did, in spite of being so tired I was dragging, and I lay down on the bed and slept for almost another two hours. Then chiropractic appointment. Then a stop at a nearby cafe for a breakfast bite and a decaf soy latte ... and ... to do some NaNoWriting.

And I did. About 1100 words in 45 minutes. This leaves me another 567 to reach the day's average. I'm hoping to be able to get that out on my dinner break tonight; we'll see!

I also wanted to post the calendar I made for my laptop wallpaper. Every year I make a calendar which inspires me and is somehow related to my story (or the story as I know it when I make the calendar!). A few years ago another Wrimo made a calendar template to cut and paste to make your own. It has the date and the target total word count. It's helpful to keeping on track.

I searched the internet for an image for my calendar with the keyword "bardo" (my NaNo working title is "Forty Nine Days of Bardo") and found some really nice ones. But this one really spoke to me. Several images from this particular body of work were candidates, but this one won. The body of work is called "The Birth of Bardo" by Adia Millett. The picture below shows four of the pieces, and you'll see my calendar and which of the four I chose below that. I am looking for more information on this artist's work. I like it and want to learn more about her.

"The Birth of Bardo" (series) by Adia Millett

I chose the red, top right one, which is "The Birth of Bardo 2." Here is the calendar I made, complete with my word count targets for each day in order to reach 50,000 by November 30th.

I've also put this calendar on my Blackberry, so it is always with me and always visible. It is inspiring and speaks to the essence of my plot. Which is good. The essence is about all I have; still.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day One

I made it to the midnight NaNoWriMo big write-in at PDX. And I made it with 15 minutes to spare before the big "go!" - just enough time to grab a decaf soy latte, get plugged in and set up.

And in about 80 minutes I'd reached 1700 words. The daily average is to aim for 1667; that times 30 equals roughly 50k.

So it looks like things are off to a good start in the being on track wise.

The story? Meh. Too early to tell, thank goodness!

The words flowed from brain to keyboard. No. The words flowed through my fingers; I don't know how much my brain was involved in tonight's writing. It's certainly not anything where I guessed my hints would go.

But I have have my first death. It's a little murky now if she - or anyone else - has died. Hopefully in the next day or two we'll find out. For now, I just have to not fall too behind (maybe not fall at all behind) in my word count.

Thank you Vancouver NaNoWriMo MLs for setting up the write-in. It was a fun place and fun group of people.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween and that means?

No, this is not a trip through the etymology of "Halloween" nor the various origins of the celebration.

This is ... come on, you can guess it ...

...a short post to say,
It's NaNoWriMo time!

Tonight I'm leaving work a little earlier than normal to dash across town to join 40 or 50 or more people in the first write-in of NaNoWriMo 2012. The Vancouver NaNoWriMo group has put together a fun place to get our 50k+ novels started - PDX. Even though they are the Vancouver group, they are of course welcoming Portland (or other, I'm sure) NaNoers to join them. Which I will.

"And what's your novel about this year, Dot?"

"Uh. Um. Well. I have a title!"

"And that is, what?"

"Oh, my title? It's, well, see, it started when we went to see Laurie Anderson's 'DirtDay' and I was inspired on several levels. But there was this one part and I was like, wow, oh wow, that. And then I got inspired with a TINY germ of an idea, but the title was instantaneous."


"Oh, sorry. I'm just so excited. But first I have to go get a blood draw (how appropriate is that for Halloween?!) and then I have a personal appointment. After lunch I have an appointment. No - first the blood draw and then some laps in the pool and then -"

"Dot - focus!"

"What? Oh."

"The title?"

"Oh. My NaNoTitle! Yes, after I swim, then I have to get some lunch if I have time but I think I will and. Oh. Title. Gotcha. My NaNoTitle is 'Forty-nine Days of Bardo.' Like it?"

"That seems like an awful lot to live up to. In 30 days?"

"It is."

"What's it about?"

"Well, 49 days in bardo."

"But your story, I mean."

"Oh. Well, you can follow my progress and you'll know almost as soon as I know. And you know I'll be posting updates here. Every day. I hope."

"And everything will be NaNo-ized, right?"

"That's right. Thank you for stopping by and - "

"But how do we follow you?"

"Right. You can check it out over here on my NaNoDot author page."

"Oh boy. NaNoDot?"

"NaNo NaNo, as Mork used to say."

"You're not...."

"No. I'm not bringing Mork and Mindy into this. NaNo just, well, saying NaNoThis and NaNoThat, and it brings to mind Mork and Mindy and - "

"Dot. Bye."

"Thank you, Ms Muse, for checking in. Um, could you please visit me every day? Just to say hi, and maybe through - no, I mean, throw - a few inspired thoughts along my brainwaves and fingers? Please."

"I'll see what I can do. For now, I think I need to get some extra ZZZZ's. I can tell this the next few weeks are going to be a little busy."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Razor's Edge : Taking a Vacation

I've been posting the Razor's Edge on Fridays for a few years. Or on most Fridays.

My original intent was to post the weekly prompts, keeping them fresh and incorporating music, video, photographs, and word prompts. I've made most Fridays, with a few missed deadlines or vacation absences.

I still support the idea of weekly writing prompts. But I also feel like the essence of "Razor's Edge" hasn't been met and I'm thinking about this.

I am on vacation this week and didn't get the weekly post put together before I left town.

And I've decided to give "Razor's Edge" a hiatus while I think how I want to proceed. I may bring it back with a new format, or I may do something different.

I will keep posting other things.

Oh, and NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so you know you'll be reading about those adventures!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: The Flawed Guru

There is a tendency to seek out teachers or mentors or artists we want to emulate. This is a good thing. Like that old saying, "why re-invent the wheel?" But sometimes we want to know how the wheel was constructed. What things did this person try - and what worked or didn't?

What are our options?

Did you know that in the past, it was common practice for developing artists to copy the works of The Masters. And I don't mean to follow their style or interpret a famous painting. To actually try to paint a painting of one of The Masters. To duplicate it in order to get the feel of the brush stroke, the shadowing, the colors, and so on.

Some writers do that, too, I've seen that advice here and there over the years. Copy, by hand, some poetry or a short story or piece of a novel of a writer you admire and whose style you strive to achieve. Not to plagiarize, no, but to get the feel of their language and their pace and the thing you like to read in their work into your hands and your body.

And then there are the writers we want to learn from. It may be from book s or workshops or videos. From online seminars or writing retreats or magazine articles. This, too, is good.

A couple of days ago I discovered I had an audio book in "my library" at This was from 2004. My technology at that time was very different than what I have now - and the technology at Audible didn't work with what I had, and so on. So I had this audio book, "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott (and I also own printed version). I'm going on a road trip and was thinking about getting a couple of audio books for the road, maybe taking Audible up on their special new member deal right now ($7.49 per month for the first three months, which gets you one book per month). I was happy to discover I already had a book, so I could test it out with the Bluetooth in my car. And it works, really well. Yay.

But in listening to her read her book, there were some familiar pieces of advice. In her own words and her own style, of course. But a few things were very similar to Natalie Goldberg; one of my writing gurus. For example, Anne Lamott has a different version of monkeys and things which take away our attention - but I'm particularly fond of Natalie Goldberg's discussion on "monkey mind" in "Zen Howl" and some of her books, which draws us away from our writing or our creativity, maybe making us feel hungry or like we have to go to the bathroom when we don't if nothing else works.

Then while thinking about that I was also thinking about some well-known writers who have inspired me over time, like the two I just mentioned, and a couple of other mega-famous writers. How sometimes we think their lives are probably perfect (or perfect for a writer) and everything they say is golden and we should pay attention. But then they prove themselves to be human and we back away. We may feel betrayed or tricked in some way and we may start to feel that what we thought was excellent advice is now not worth our energy.

I admit to doing that a time or two. Not that I've completely disregarded someone I used to admire, but they had fallen in my opinion.

But as I listened to Anne Lamott talk about her monkeys and started thinking about Natalie Goldberg's Buddhist "monkey mind" and remembering another writer who talks about the things which distract us. Something has come up regarding each of these writers which put me off, caused me to take them off the pedestal where I'd placed them.

Wait. The pedestal was mine. I placed them there. They are human. They are not perfect. They have a right to be who they are and - I don't have to throw out everything I liked about their  advice and insights because there religion is too conservative for me or they were snobbish during a workshop (note to self, however: never go to another in-person workshop with that very big name person again, stick to her books, which are awesome and fit my style) or they have too many discriminatory "isms" for me.

Really. Gurus are not perfect, nor should we expect them to be. Lead by example - sure. Be a good role model - okay. And are there people whose work we may want to not support? Sure. But in the case of the ones I have in mind, their work on writing is pretty solid. Well-known. Recognized. And some good advice which has helped thousands or millions, I don't know how many.

So I was thinking that sometimes we mistakenly want our mentors or our gurus to be perfect. To have all the answers. To never slip. But in reality they are human. Just like us. They have flaws. But being flawed does not negate their good, they are simply our flawed guru.

image from