Tomorrow is my brother and sister-in-law's birthdays, which means in a month I will be celebrating my birthday, and then Christmas will shortly follow. I must admit that I love this time of year. I haven't started listening to Christmas Carols (even though one of the radio stations began playing them on November 1st), but now that the weather has turned chilly, I am in the mood to think about this festive time of year.
I treated myself to a trip to Archivers earlier this week. I rationalized that it was for "research" for my book, but in reality I wanted to get some ideas for Christmas projects. I love daydreaming about all the scrapbook pages that I can make to turn our family memories into keepsake gifts, and I imagine crafting Christmas cards and matching tags to decorate thoughtful presents under the tree. But for some reason I seem to enjoy daydreaming about the projects rather than creating them. I never make the time to complete them once I get home. Why is that, I wonder?
Anyway, I did find a few Christmas papers and embellishments to add to my collection, as well as some supplies to use in Mandy's Open House album. Most notably, there was an entire section of Harry Potter merchandise which was difficult to ignore. Mandy has already purchased her ticket to the midnight showing of the newest HP movie release, and now I told her she must take pictures so that I can use these supplies. For those of you who scrapbook, do you find that you buy the decorative elements first and then stage a picture in order to use them? I think that this is perhaps the sign of an unhealthy addiction (*smile*)
It was an uneventful, although somewhat frustrating week in the teaching world. The computer lab did not have internet all week, which makes Computer Apps a difficult class to teach. Grandparents Day was so popular that the 4th hour class, which was scheduled to take a test over Fahrenheit 451, was cancelled because not everyone could get through the lunch line in time. Missing this class as well as last Friday's class has put my syllabus in a bind. And then of course students, as well as teachers, are anticipating the Thanksgiving break and therefore find it more and more difficult to concentrate on academics. I am grateful that we only have one more full week of school and then we can take a holiday for a few days.
On a positive note, I took advantage of Barnes and Noble sale last weekend that offered one game free if two were purchased. I managed to find a couple of Christmas gifts, and the free game I chose was a small, compact dice game called Rory's Story Cubes. I had never heard of it before, but it turned out to be a better "purchase" than I ever anticipated. The game comes with nine dice, and each side has a different picture/icon. The object of the game is to roll the dice and quickly develop a story using as many of the pictures as possible. I tried this first with my creative writing class and they LOVED it! They developed competitions to see who could use all the pieces in the shortest amount of time. And of course, their stories were inventive and quite entertaining. Sometimes spontaneous purchases can be the best!
This is the time of year when the new reading challenges for 2011 are being formed and advertised at one of my most favorite blogs, A Novel Challenge. Some people are so creative and have taken reading to a level that I never imagined before starting this blog. I fail miserably at challenges: My imagination is always bigger than my reality and I constantly seem to run out of time, or at times lose interest in that particular genre. But will that stop me from signing up for a few more next year? Of course not!
I would love to participate in the Thankfully Reading Weekend challenge 2010, which takes place over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but I know that my time is already being pulled in too many different directions during those few short days. Between holiday baking, Black Friday shopping, NaNoWriMo wind down, and essay grading, I doubt I will read more than a few pages each day. I did participate last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I have already decided to sign up for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge hosted by Michelle at the True Book Addict and takes place from November 26, 2010 - January 6, 2011. I know .... I hear you ... Are you kidding, Molly? You haven't written a book review in months, why on earth would you sign up for another challenge? Well, the answer is simple. I decided last year that I wanted to begin a collection of holiday books that I would read each year. I may not read all of the books every year, but I would re-read a few each year to help put me in the holiday mood and remember the hope and love that it represents. I don't think any of these books are dense literary masterpieces, but rather they are light, sentimental stories that are sure to bring a warm smile to my face. I have about a dozen of these books on my holiday shelf and I think reading a bit each night will be the perfect way to prepare my mind and heart for this special season.
I plan to sign up for the Mistletoe level (that is, read 2-4 books), although I secretly hope that I can achieve the Christmas Tree level (reading 5-6 books in the required time frame). Do you have any favorite holiday books that you might recommend?
This has been a great week of writing for me. As you know, I am a goal oriented, put your head to the grindstone, singularly focused kind of gal. I know that several of my November nights will be spent preparing holiday dinners or grading research papers, and so I have tried to focus all my free time this week to adding to my word count for this work-in-progress. As of Saturday night, I have a total of 39,197 words with the goal of having a total of 40,000 words by the end of the weekend. I must admit that I never thought that I had that many words in me (and I am only about half way through the story), and I do feel a sense of accomplishment.
I have learned so much about me and about life in participating in NaNoWriMo - and very little of it has to do with writing a novel. I have learned that writing from an outline is incredibly useful for me! I will finish a chapter and have no idea what to write next; but when I look at my timeline (which I have developed as scene cards in Scrivener and absolutely love it) - I am right back on task again. I always thought true writers would experience "stories just writing themselves" - but I am glad that I did not rely on that method.
I have also learned that I have more free time during the week than I ever thought. I manage to find two hours or more each night to devote to writing, which has opened my eyes to what I can accomplish once NaNoWriMo is over! What if I focused on my holiday crafts with this kind of determination? What if I devoted two hours a night to reading? What if I took an hour each day and practiced photography skills? I am not sure how I have been wasting my time --- but now that I have found the time, I do not want to "lose" it again.
Lastly, I have learned that the experts are right (duh!) Writing every day is liberating and it hones my craft. Even if what I am writing is a crappy first draft (paraphrase of Anne Lamott) - I am able to practice pacing, detailing, showing vs telling, natural dialog, dealing with real life feelings and emotions in a fictional setting and receiving clarity of the situation. I do not think this story will be of much interest to anyone but me, but that is ok. I am still enjoying it, and I still look forward to writing the next chapter.
I am a terrific at starting long-term projects, but somehow never finishing them. I either grow bored and lose motivation, or the project seems so insurmountable that I create distractions that prevent me from completing the task. I am committed to completing NaNoWriMo this year, and it feels good. I hope it is a step over that fear of completion hurdle and I can begin to tackle other long-term projects with the same sense of adventure.