Lessons from a (failed) NaNoWriMo

At the start of November, I proudly announced that I would be participating in National Novel Writing Month, a project where you endeavor to write 50,000 words in a month.

And like the last time I announced a goal to all of you, I failed.  I blew it.  Instead of 50K, I clocked in at just over 10,000 words.

So why did this happen?  Why can’t I carry through?  I promise, I’m not usually like this.  Get off my back, internets!!  Sorry, sorry, just feeling a little defensive.  But I do have some thoughts and things to try differently next time.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail

Without heeding my boy, Benjamin Franklin, I did not put together a writing schedule.  The first day (a weekend), I cranked out more than 2000 words.  This will be easy, I thought!  Look at me go!  I’ll just spend a little less time surfing the internet each day, and I’ll be fine, teehee!

Well.  It got harder.  The words did not just magically flow from my fingers.  And I realized that (hopefully) two hours of nap was not enough time for me to eat lunch, respond to a few emails, draft a blog post, and write 1700 words.

So to make it work I would have to (A) cut back on my blog posting, something I did not want to do, or (B) carve out time in the morning or evening to write.  Option B should have been palatable, but I just couldn’t stomach it.  I realized . . .

I’m still fighting feeling too scheduled

I wrote before that my favorite thing about being SAH is the breathing room.  I don’t feel rushed all the time.  Before, it was get Henry up at this time, feed him and dress him and spend time for X minutes, and get him out the door or James would get stuck in traffic.

Now I enjoy the flexibility.  I like feeding Mac and knowing we can just stare at each other.  Granted, there are other interruptions *cough* Henry *cough* but the time just feels different to me.

I absolutely could have made time in the morning or evening and still had plenty of time to stare at Mac.  I just didn’t want to.  I’m rebelling against schedules.  The pendulum was very far in the scheduled direction previously and now I am enjoying being way in the other direction.  I’ll get back to the middle eventually.

Mornings with Mac are still unpredictable, but they are getting better.  In the not too distant future, I’d like to have mornings where I get up, exercise, and spend some time writing before the kids get up.  And when I do, I’d like to . . .

Focus on writing time and not word count

NaNoWriMo picks 50,000 words as “a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children.”  The idea is that you write words without focusing on your inner critic.  A crappy first draft is better than no first draft.

And I get that.  I agree that there is value in silencing your inner critic.  But I felt like I was writing just to get words out.  Flinging them onto the page to meet a tally.  I’d like to spend a little more time.

The word count also made me discouraged.  Once I got behind, it started to feel impossible to catch up.  I’d like to try more of the Jerry Seinfeld approach on motivation.  Don’t break the chain.   Eventually, I’d like to have a daily writing goal, even if it is just for 15 minutes.  That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to more than 90 hours a year.

So we’ll see.  I’m not there yet.  Maybe I’ll try NaNoWriMo again.  Maybe not.  I didn’t get into the Berlin marathon like I hoped (sad face), but at least you guys won’t have to hear about failed running goals anytime soon.  Right now I’m going to just keep trying to blog every weekday.  This seems to be a good goal for me for now.

Did you NaNoWriMo?  How’d it go? 


Monday morning quarterbacking the vacation

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We had a great time in Tuscany earlier this month.  As we prepare for Munich in a few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what we could have done better.  Any travel lessons to apply?  Things within my control anyway.  Off the top of my head, I’d say “have it not rain” and “have Italian restaurants open earlier” would have been significant trip enhancements.  But I digress.



Plan, plan, and plan some more

I thought the key to traveling with two young kids would be a more relaxed, go-with-the-flow attitude.  I don’t think this hurts, but we should have created a tighter plan within which to go with the flow.

You see, I thought we planned.  We had a place to stay.  We had restaurants we wanted to try and knew their hours of operation.  We had ideas of things we wanted to see.

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Nope.  This was not enough.  We need more solid game plans.  We need backup plans so that I’m not completely thrown when the restaurant that says it will be open at a certain time is not actually open.  We need to think about what sights we want to see, how much time should be allotted to each sight, and how much is reasonable to try to accomplish.

Granted, these plans should be held lightly.  They should not be structured in a way that there will be extreme disappointment if something changes.  We need a plan, but we need to be able to PIVOT.

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Il Campo

It’s OK to eat at home

Instead of hotels, we’ve been seeking out the strategic airbnb.  This time, we stayed at a bed and breakfast type place, but we had our own kitchen.  This seemed great, but once I learned breakfast was included, I stopped focusing on it.  Oh, sure, three meals a day in restaurants with kids would be awful, but two meals sounded doable, why not.

I wish I had focused more.  We had one night where it was rainy and everything was closed.  We ended up with takeout pizza eaten way later than was ideal.  This would have been a good night to have curled up at home.

I think I was hesitant because I wanted it to feel more like a vacation.  You know, a vacation where someone else does the cooking.  I’m also a little leery of doing this too much.  If we are cooking at home, we might not venture back into town or try that one more thing.

But it is an important tool in the arsenal.  You better believe, next time, I’m scouting out not just restaurant locations but grocery stores as well.

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Torre del Mangia

Travel with a wine opener

Nuff said.


Siena is awesome

You may be wondering about the random pictures throughout this post.  After three days in Volterra and San Gimignano, we stopped in Siena on the way back home.  We took the escalator into town, wandered a little, saw the duomo, had a nice lunch, and ate ice cream on the Campo before setting off again.

I wish we had stayed longer.  Maybe Siena would have been a better base of operations than Volterra.  We spent three evenings wandering around Volterra; I think there would have been more to see here.

Of course, it could have been more expensive.  And we may not have made it to Volterra at all that way.  There will always be what ifs.  I guess we’ll just have to go back.

Any travel tips?  Lessons learned from vacations past?