November 23, 2014

My Own Private NaNoWriMaho


Last year I tried to do a traditional NaNoWriMo. It was called "95 Kingdoms" (working title) and I made some serious headway, but fell far short. I didn't think writing the great American novel was the point or the likely outcome, but it still didn't feel great to know that I was behind day after day and then to ultimately give up.

As this year rolled around, I'd already been doing this 750words thing daily (more on that below) for a couple months, and I really wanted to jump right into giving NaNoWriMo another try. National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) has been so good for me the past couple years, after all.

But work was driving at a fever pitch and there were a thousand other things nibbling at my time and my mind. My extremely intelligent (and beautiful) wife said to me, "Jamie, don't be stupid. Why don't you just do NaNoWriMo in some other month." Which was brilliant. Yes, I won't be part of the website or the community. Everyone locked arms and struggling with their novels together. But I can be part of that some other year.

NaNoWriMo isn't about writing a novel, for me. It's about instilling a practice. It's about reminding yourself what it means to be a writer.

It's Monday and you are dragging. Dreading going back to work? Write.
It's Tuesday and you didn't get enough sleep? Feel sick? Write.
It's Wednesday and you are totally uninspired? Write.
It's Thursday and you are going to hit a happy hour with friends? Write.
It's Friday and you have a massive deadline? Write.
It's Saturday and it is snowing and looking gorgeous out there? Write.
It's Sunday and you need to weather-seal the windows? Write.
You're in love? Write. You're depressed? Write. You're kid got detention? Write.

When I get envious about my friend Justin, it isn't about the great books he's written. It's the practice and the dedication. He writes and writes and writes. He built a routine into his life and rarely deviates. That's work and takes serious commitment. His routine even includes exercise. Christ.

He's put out more than half a dozen books since I met him, while I struggled year after year to make writing a regular part of my life. If you are a writer, you write. If you aren't writing, you're a fraud. And that feeling seeps out into your whole life. It sucks.

I could be proud about all the great work I do at work and this great career I was building. I could make excuses about the responsibilities of being married or then the emotional drain of my marriage falling apart. I could talk about raising a wonderful child. But when I wasn't writing there was always a part of me that knew I was falling down.

Regular practice isn't about quality, it's about volume. Quality comes in fits and starts, let it take care of itself. And let editing happen when it is time to edit. Regular practice is about staying on top of words and sentences and rhythm and idiom. Keeping nimble and easy. Always pliable and charged for when inspiration pulls up a chair.

It's not about spending hours every day -- more power to you if your life affords that kind of time for consistent stretches, though -- it's about giving it a half hour here or 15 minutes there. Finding the tools that'll let that happen and instilling a massive habit.

The tools for me:

I started writing on my phone -- almost exclusively -- about 4 years ago. 99.9% of the poems on Very Most Good were written on my phone. It meant that I always had my writing implements with me wherever I was. And that change has had all kinds of amazing downstream effects for me and my poetics. Immediacy. Another go at the eternal struggle to break down the wall between the observer and real life. And so on. I only started typing with my 10 fingers again when I set out on this latest challenge to pound out 50k words in a month. I think I could've done it on my phone though (next time).

750words.com -- is a website based on the Artist's Way model of writing "Morning Pages" (go check out the Artist's Way some time... it's totally cheesy and you'll feel strange-to-outright-embarassed doing it, but getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to get out of your own head for a while -- thanks Jon). I'd been doing all this writing on my blog, but 750words gave me a private space that was always available (the mobile view is great). I can cut and paste from it over to my blog when I want, but the default is private. I needed this practice to be something that was intrinsically motivated. Not something driven by pageviews and reader comments and Tumblr likes. 750 words a day on my phone takes a half hour, and I made that a part of my morning -- getting up a half hour earlier on weekdays. That started something like 3 months ago and I'm still going strong.

Talking to my partner (and my daughter) -- you need help maintaining this little corner of selfishness that it takes to stay committed. I don't have tons of witty examples on this, but let's just all agree to the importance of communication in your relationships and this is just another part of it. And my daughter is writing more and more and 12yo-curious about this daily writing idea, which makes me feel like I won some parent award somewhere.

And that's it. Make it simple.
Make it regular.
Make it as private as you need it.
Make it easy.

And so this year for NaNoWriMo, I decided I could make time anyway -- despite that great advice from my wife -- but I did it a bit different. I wasn't going to write a novel, I was just going to hit a goal: 50,000 words in November. Free-writing, creative writing, journaling, anything. I amped up my 750words practice to pound out a private volume of words and sentences. As of today I just crushed my way past 46k and have 7 days to go. If I dialed my pace all the way back to the 750 / day I'd been maintaining, I'll get there. But I'm sure I'll keep writing more.

All month, my weekday pace has been 1,250 / day. Maybe that'll be my new normal. Maybe I'll keep doing this 10-finger-typing thing when I write. It's been a welcome change. Who knows. But whatever it is, I'm going to keep going.

November 21, 2014

In Line at Chipotle Again




Speed speed speed again

Cycle go in circles

And we think about solvents before we're asked about proteins

Keep growing, keep going

And we're off

Location:Kenyon St NW,Washington,United States

November 20, 2014

Nothing Immediately Repeated




As in repetition repaired

Fault lines and forevers and houses burned down daily

The boots you walked in on

And the numbers you brought and an armload of opinions

To hell with all kinds of airplanes and a shit-ton of failures

Fault fault fault forget

What do you know about respect and statistics and every other thing

What about the time of year

Right right right

And somewhere down the line thirty

Location:Nottingham Rd,Baltimore,United States

November 19, 2014

Those Times When Perspectival Tricks Were All the Rage




Those times when nothing was funnier than autocorrect gone mad

Troops lined in lines, but all were so so tired

Concrete walls, concrete floors, and harsh ceilings

Nothing ever happened just once

Forget it all, forget it all

Forget it in a river when the current turns icy

Forget it in a snowbank or on the roadside of a seldom travelled road

Forget it under cover of night and full of excuses

No one ever cared about commas like you cared

No one ever thought about what that switch was connected to

No one ever got those guys out of that prison camp that was legally nowhere

It's dinnertime in America if you're hungry

Location:Glen Allen Dr,Baltimore,United States

November 17, 2014

Something Awhile #Latergram




There were different first tries and different first thoughts

Flash-fried onions are a thing

Flash-frying is a thing, period

It takes half of everything

It takes laps and naps and beliefs

Constantly doubling down and forget it

You got a horn

You got a day off

Whoah upon whoah upon wow

There it is and there again

All I have are curtains

Location:Glen Allen Dr,Baltimore,United States

November 8, 2014

Every Moment More




Things that smell good and things that smell good for you

Earlier, a very big, very dead spider on the underside of a green tarp

My beard has come in again

More every moment

More with a vengeance

And then every moment vengeance

This that that which which more often where who which which that

Nucleo-something vs. the center of everything

Enter enter enter

It all comes back until it doesn't

It's all taken down at the edges

Location:W 36th St,Baltimore,United States

November 6, 2014

I'm in Line at Chipotle




Something something something

Like something noise

And activity and heat

Sorta kinda

That went faster than expected

Shoot, but good

Location:Meridian Pl NW,Washington,United States

November 3, 2014

It's Not a Sprint Just Because You're Moving




Random nosebleeds have yielded to really random nosebleeds. Awesome.

Motivation, application, force.

Formidable opponent in a statement from his own life

Trust the robots and they will lead you somewhere

Like I said, trust and confidence and the rest of the best

Mirror feet meet mirror shades

Parties part ways in the worst ways

Stone cliffs are like this

So are new rooms before you've moved in

White on white corners

Art before the dust has settled

All the photographic evidence

And everyone is on their way

Location:I-95 S,Wilmington,United States

November 1, 2014

Lay Offa All That




These patterns at my back

These fires

These napping cats

So says November

So says be careful

Stocking up stores

Short lines everywhere you look

Extra hours and regular sunsets

Location:Glen Allen Dr,Baltimore,United States

October 30, 2014

I Just Accidentally Hit My Knee With a Belt Buckle




How do you like that?

Giant eyes, wooden booths, lazy foxes

I haven't thought about imaginary numbers in a long time

All the things you don't think about vs. all the things you forget

A city in the center of a state vs. a city without a state

Sometimes a solid becomes a gas straight away no matter what the century

Somethings crawl

Somewhere is next, over here

On a street corner outside your office, on the down escalator when you're heading up, ahead of you in line at a weekend matinee

Too many drinks, too many nights, too much more

Everyone get home safely, it's a world out there

Location:Glen Allen Dr,Baltimore,United States

October 27, 2014

Rarely We Mean Things vs. We Mean Things Rarely




Two-thousand pounds

Sixty seconds

And warm

Conversely automaton Tuesday

Welcome emulsifying Friday

Never on the weekends and never in front of your parents

What you expect of wisdom

How you take a posting

The position of your binoculars

And the way the sunshine hits everything

Location:Baltimore,United States

October 25, 2014

Rarely Written Right Out Front




And then we compare stats and then we have more of this and more of that

Sidewalks have sidewalk cracks

And then twist ties and windows on buildings and buildings off highways

Daylight begets daylight

Swaths, swatches, swindle, swing

Tree branches get piled on days like this

More things come together on days like this

What is usual is numbers

What is usually said is reinforcing

What fits in this circle is immeasurable until it isn't

We all enjoy this most every day

Location:Glen Allen Dr,Baltimore,United States