Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Lot To Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for me. In fact, they all are. But Thanksgiving is a holiday that centers around the dinner table, and as the years go by, it becomes harder and harder to ignore the empty spaces. Some spaces are empty because the person just isn't there, other spaces are empty because that family member is no longer with us. For me, it’s the empty chair at the head of the table that hurts that most.

Part of being older is handling these moments, moving on and looking forward. But it's difficult. It's too easy for me to focus on what is gone, instead of being thankful for what is still there. I find myself at the end of Thanksgiving, the end of the holidays, a little sadder, a little older. Just thankful that the season's cheer is over.

This year I found myself overly defensive when people asked my Thanksgiving plans. With the changes in family dynamics, it was going to be a smaller celebration of festivities than normal. I found myself justifying my plans to other people. “Oh just a small gathering,” I would say, “But those can be the best. More pie for me!” Plaster on a fake smile, and I would be set.

But why? What was this need that caused me to excuse my holiday plans? As if a gathering of loved ones, because it was small, was no longer enough.

It makes me think of a book I read: Hector and the Search for Happiness. The story centers on a psychiatrist who sets off on a journey to discover how to be happy. Hector comes up with a list of rules, one of my favorites being: Making comparisons can spoil your happiness. I have to admit, I’m all too guilty of this.

It is very hard to not want what other people have. From little things to big things. It is so easy to compare what I have, to what someone else has, and always want more. I can focus entirely too much on the happy Facebook posts, viral videos of wonderful moments, and beautiful Instagram photos. But social media is a filter just like another of those available on Instagram. People share pieces of their lives, as carefully and brightly packaged as any Christmas gift.

My holiday goal this year is to actually be thankful. To look around me and focus on the things that I have been blessed with. Whether it is my personal life, my writing or my job. To take a moment each day to be thankful for what I have, to recognize the gifts that have been given to me. So thank you for reading and thank you for being you. I hope you have an amazing holiday season, as special and perfect as it can be just for you.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why Can't Every Month Be November?

Okay, it’s possible a crazier statement has never been made. But just hear me out. Yes, I know November is miserable. It’s dark before you get home from work, it’s dreary, it’s cold, and if you live on the "wet" coast, you’ve officially turned into a wrinkled prune and commercials for tropical beach resorts actually make you weep just a little bit.

If you’re a writer, it’s also the craziest, most stressful, most rewarding month of the year. It’s the month where writers around the world go a little cray-cray and neglect their families, their exercise routines, and their personal hygiene just to write ONE. MORE. WORD.

It’s NaNoWriMo, ya’ll! (Um, yeah, I’m Canadian—I don’t know where that came from). National Novel Writing Month is that crazy time of year where people far and wide compete to write a novel (or fifty thousand words of one if you’re stupidly verbose, like me) in a single month.

That’s a lot of words. Trust me. It really cuts into the Facebook time.

Last year, I was struggling through the first twenty thousand words of The Faithful's sequel. I’d been researching and hemming and hawing for months and months, really just being completely unproductive. NaNoWriMo saved my lazy ass. There’s nothing like a bit of competition and accountability to get those fingers flying across the keyboard, and I somehow managed to bang out fifty-five thousand words during that month. It got me over the hump, and I completed the first draft in December. NaNoWriMo forced me to get out of my own way. To shut down my prissy little internal editor and just bloody write.

Fast-forward a year. I’ve been hemming and hawing and doing my research for a new detective novel about a family of four who goes missing, and I’ve only managed about fifteen thousand words. But fear not! November was nigh, and I knew I could bang out most of this novel during one crazy month. So I nagged and cajoled my writer friends into joining me on this no-time-to-bathe adventure, because everything is better when you’ve got friends along for the ride, right?

And here we are, twenty-four thousand words written in the first twelve days, and counting …

It leaves me with one question: Why oh why can’t I find this kind of momentum the other eleven months of the year?