Final Day of NaNoWriMo: Did I Win? 

Expected word count: 50,000

Final word count: 21,375

Percentage complete: 43% 

I lost. But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. One of my two Life Quotes – this one courtesy of my Uncle Tom – goes like this: Trying is the first step to failure. (In case you’re curious, my second Life Quote is: Life’s a bitch and then you marry one.) 

Although trying led to failure, I plan to write my book to its completion. 

What I have learned: 

I write best in the mornings. The earlier, the better. My best session began at 5 am and ended at 630 am. 

As much as I love having my daughter around, she is not conducive to a successful writing session, lol. 

Staring out the window is a helpful way to pass the time. 

I never struggled with writer’s block during the 21,375 amount of words I wrote so far. Hopefully that won’t be an issue coming up. 

The more I wrote, I noticed more ideas came, characters revealed themselves more, and the plot literally thickened. (That’s when I made that outline, ha.) 

I like seeing how other people write: especially their use of spreadsheets. However, there is no way I’lll ever do that. It’s not me. 

Not only do I have to concentrate on small things like scene-to-scene details and dialogue, I also have to make sure it matches up and make sense – aka continuity. I also have to think of overarching plot, what drives character’s motivations, backstories, themes, and much more. I’ve also drafted reading guide questions! (Yep, that’s the teacher in me :))

The big takeaway: without NaNoWriMo looming over me this whole month, I would not have written this much otherwise!

To wrap: I tried my absolute best, and for the 12 days in November I DID get a chance to write, 21,375 is NOT a bad number, I think! Look at it this way: 25,000 is half way, and I’m almost there. Lol. 

Just because NaNoWriMo is over, does not mean writing my book is over. I don’t think it will take longer than a month; maybe two. I might even have some time over Christmas break to write, who knows? 

Now, it’s time to look to the future too. I have written some articles for magazines, and am hoping to be able to share them with you soon! I’ll include any links as they come. 

How did you fare in NaNoWriMo? What was your final word count? Comment below if you’d like. Have a great day everyone 🙂 

Introducing: The “Joy of…” Series! 

Hi, everyone!

I am excited to announce an ongoing project that will be launched soon: the “Joy of…” series. As I wrote about here, my life has been defined by being disabled, and as such, I spend more time at home now, enjoying quiet activities. This is far from the life I lived during ages 19-29, which saw me spend most of my nights drinking. Since becoming sober in March 2016, I enjoy life so much more. 

What do I mean by “quiet activities”? It’s usually a single task, done alone (or quietly with others); anything slow and mindful; repetitive, but meditative. Here’s an example of some of the things I plan to cover:

-puzzles

-colouring 

-painting 

-collaging 

-learning something new 

-a morning routine 

-writing

and more… 

We live in such a busy world. I never used to have any time to myself – I would drive to work, over an hour away, every day, work for 8-12 hours, then drive the hour back home, and usually drink myself stupid to the point where I had to call in sick the next day, then do it all again. (Since then, my leg has worsened to the point where I cannot drive any longer than 5-10 minutes.) And this was all before I had a child. (She arrived in 2018.) Now, I REALLY don’t have any time to myself, but when I do, I use it wiser. 

After I left my job, I took up colouring, a hobby I had not engaged in since I was a child. My mom told me that I used to love colouring when I was a kid, and I wanted to know why I picked it up again so easily as an adult. So, I did some research. 

According to Bustle.com: 

“Those were the times you were wild and free, and you didn’t do something unless you really, really loved it. Chances are, you still have a lot of those same core interests.” 

This makes sense to me today as an adult. Because I’m hyper aware my time is stretched so thin (and it seems to be accelerating), how I choose to spend my free time is more meaningful. 

Colouring, for me, puts me into what is called a “flow state,” a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: one is so engaged in their task at hand that they lose track of time – but in a positive way; time well spent. 

This is very similar to mindfulness. According to Headspace.com: 

“Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” 

In other words, simply enjoying the time you’re spending with yourself. If negative or bad thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and gently release them. Ultimately, practicing a mindful hobby can be beneficial to one’s mental health. I know that engaging in these various activities has helped me relax and I will literally forget about anything bothering me. Once I remember what I forgot, it seems so trivial. Or, you can think of it this way: a mindful activity is such that it makes you forget to look at your phone. I’m excited to share these various mindful activities with you all: maybe you can find one that will suit you. 

Before the series launches though, I want to give a disclaimer: if you can achieve a flow state without buying things (colouring books, pencils, puzzles, and other things I recommend), but by reusing or borrowing instead, I encourage that. If you need or want to purchase something, please do! I view these items as tools to achieve a mindful state, not as Stuff or Things. 

Do you engage in anything that puts you in a flow state? Comment below 🙂 

Sources: 

https://www.bustle.com/wellness/how-to-find-hobby-adult

https://www.headspace.com/mindfulness/mindfulness-101

One Month Blogiversary: Reflections 

I launched this blog October 19, 2021 with the goal of sharing bits of my life as a physically disabled single mama and how my world goes around. I also want to be able to be here for anyone who is like me – different, with a vascular malformation or not. I’m also here for anyone who wants to talk about alcoholism: I was a severe alcoholic for ten years, I’ve been sober for over five, and I am here to chat with anyone who wants to, whether they’re personally affected or not. It’s part of my past, has influenced my future, and I own my mistakes because I have since recovered and am a much better and happier person now. Service is one takeaway from AA I’ll always keep close to my heart. 

Reflections: 

Blogging takes up much more time than I thought it was going to. However, I enjoy this time, so it’s a win-win for me. The only issue now is how to divide my time up even more to include blogging. 

Waking up every morning knowing I can write – either my novel or my blog – has greatly improved my mental health and feelings of success. So, here’s the BIG TAKEAWAY: without NaNoWriMo or this blog, I would not be writing either my novel or this much in general. Writing has been my passion since I was a child; it was the one thing I recognized that I could do, being physically disabled as I am. I was a Writing Major in high school; then took Creative Writing: Personal Nonfiction for 4 years at my first university and then another 4 in English and English Literature at another university. It’s cathartic to blog about my personal experiences being disabled, and I can control how personal I’ll get, since I’m not really one for posting selfies – I’d rather write instead. Indeed, writing about my personal experiences here with a vascular malformation, trichotillomania, and being an ex-drunk has helped me blossom personally. 

The area I can improve on is definitely social media. First, I am shy online! It’s funny because in ‘real life’ I can strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere and often do. But for years I rejected social media and the internet in general, so I’m still catching up. Second, with the blog market already saturated, how can I get my little niche blog out there? It’s difficult, if not nearly impossible. That being said, I’ve already taken the small steps needed to get started and if growth is slow, it is what it is. Everyone stared somewhere, right? 

Where I’d like to go with this blog:

Honestly, I’d love to make blogging and writing my full-time job. It’s already my part-time job, because I consider it as such, but it is not bringing in an income (yet). I mentioned above I have about a million years of university experience in writing; it hasn’t been until now in my life that my career path is finally aligning with my degrees. 

I have an upcoming series of articles I have written about living the quiet life (see above) and I will announcing it in the next few days. I’m very excited about this. 

I also have some more reflections on my personal life, such as dealing with trichotillomania, alcoholism and AA that I have in the works and will post as soon as they are ready. 

So I will continue to update sporadically about my life as a disabled single mama trying to write on the side and attempting to land a book deal… sound good with you all? I’m sure it will be a fun and wild ride. If nothing else, I can provide a unique perspective on life, dealing with a physical disability and trying to navigate this crazy world. I also love writing about writing, so expect posts about that. One day I’ll post my podcast. I have begun, but there’s too much on my plate right now. Anything you’d like to know about me that I haven’t said yet? 

Have a great day! 

Day 17,326 of NaNoWriMo: I Finally Made an Outline 

Day 17,326 of NaNoWriMo? No, sorry, that’s just my word count. It’s actually day 22. 

NaNo expected word count: 36,674 

My word count: 17,326 

Difference of 19,348 words

Behind by 11.6 days 

I have conceded that I will likely not finish my novel in the allotted time frame: November 30 at 50,000 words. 

HOWEVER, I will continue to write it until it is complete, (I’m optimistically aiming for December 31), and I will continue to blog about my journey to its completion. How WILL I complete this? No idea. I have noticed that the best way for me to write is to have no strict schedule. If I’m too hard on myself (see: forcing 1,667 words a day for NaNo, lol) I feel too overwhelmed and will not get any writing done at all. A smaller goal, and a range, say 700-1500 words a day, is much more manageable and ACHIEVABLE for me, personally. 

Update: after giving myself the freedom to write a range for my novel, I got out 1,000 words this morning. 

The big news: I finally made an outline for my novel, six chapters in. See how I’m eating my words from before? Yum yum. 

It’s a basic chapter-by-chapter outline, with only a few key words of the action and any new characters listed in all caps. I include any flashback scenes. And that’s it. Two billion dollars spent on my university education for an outline a fourth grader could do. That’s right. 

November, despite the anticipation of days spent at home writing away, has been an actual challenge. With a very sick child (no covid; she was tested), holidays, schools closed due to flooding, and the local emergency – and thus not only having an unexpected toddler at home but ALSO simultaneously worrying about the milk, eggs and bread I didn’t panic buy, it has been, suffice to say, impossible to write. And I wish I was making excuses, I do. Being a single mom, especially with a physical disability that makes getting around very difficult, I cannot stretch my time, while my child is around, to indulge myself too; I simply do not have the time. 

Once again, want to make clear that I love spending time with her and I know I’m blessed that I get to hang out with her so much. She’s only going to be 3.5 once and I’m soaking up as much of it as I can. But, as a normal human, I need some time alone to recharge so I can be the best parent I can be. 

Reflections on NaNo/ what I have learned: (TIP: this is how we teachers learn and what we teach to our students – or should be – now. Reflection can actually be the strongest pathway to remembering new information.) 

I can write a LOT in a couple hours.

I do not write like other people and I do not expect others to write like me. For example: I know I do my best and most productive writing first thing in the morning, mostly because I am exhausted by the early afternoon due to taking care of my toddler or, if not that, because I have been dragging around my bad leg all day and I’m in pain (it’s constant.) Other writers like to give advice like: “write always and often!” Sorry, that does not work for me. However, this is not to say I can’t or won’t write in the afternoon or evening; I have – but I’ve been a morning person since I was born and there’s no changing me now. The other example: some people wrote out detailed outlines before they began, and I did not. At all. As we know. 

I truly can’t write with distractions. 

I am confident I can finish this! 

After my novel is done, I will be editing it and then taking the next steps to publication (hopefully). I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that too and you’re all welcome to follow along on the journey of being on the receiving end of rejection letters. 

NaNoWriMo Update: 18 Days In

NaNo expected word count: 30,006

My word count: 17,293

Words behind: 12,713 

Days behind: 7.6 

Here’s the thing: I have been getting a few good writing sessions in, all things considering. Also, I have to stop and say to myself, you’ve written almost 20,000 words so far? That’s close to 25,000, which is half way to 50,000! 

My daughter was sick and out of preschool for the first 4 days of November. Then a holiday. Then, where I live flooded (Fraser Valley, BC, Canada) and schools closed. All this to say: out of all the time I was *expecting* to write turned into 1.5 days. (Note: my house itself was not flooded!) 

I’ve been able to sneak in a few sessions, and I write furiously. I seem to be lucky, in a way, that this has been surprisingly easy to write. I think it might be because the plot seems to come alive the more I do, and the future of the novel takes firmer shape the more I write. I am finding different patterns and repetitions. One thought of a character’s action can turn into a whole scene: the characters surprise me, sometimes, with how they seem to be writing their own story. The novel is becoming more complex, and it’s simultaneously easy and SO, SO hard. 

I am pretty sure the only reason I’m finding any semi-success with writing so much with very little outline is because I studied Creative Writing and English Literature at university. In fact, I got that degree in order to become a high school English teacher. Suffice to say: I’ve read, dissected, and regurgitated thousands of books. (Yes, I keep track!) 

Just because I’m spewing out words without a clear idea of how I wanted the book to go doesn’t mean it’s the right way for everyone. In fact, I wish I had more of an outline to work off of, but for some reason, this way is working just fine. For now. We will see. 

I am hoping I’ll find the time to complete this in November. If not, I’ll finish it in December. With being a single mama with very, very little time alone (and trust me, writing with a 3.5 year old running around is not feasible), I’ve discovered that I simply cannot write 1,667 words a day, every day, as much as I would absolutely love to. 

How are you doing in NaNo? Anyone keeping par? Anyone AHEAD? 

Halfway Through NaNoWriMo! 

If there was an award for the number of things that could go wrong in a month and prevent someone from writing, that award would go to me. Yay, I won something! 

Seriously, though: of the seven days my daughter was to be in preschool this month (so far), she has been to one. One. That one day I finally had to work, because she was gone, was spent doing errands instead… as when does a single disabled mother get another chance? Never! 

I was supposed to have time yesterday and today, but those plans fell through; she was supposed to have preschool today, but the centre is closed due to flooding. Which I only found out once I already drove there. 

Cue frustration. 

She is supposed to have school three days still this week; unsure if that will happen. 

So. Here is where my issue lies: giving myself a self-imposed deadline (follow NaNo, write 1,667 words a day, complete) and then not following through with it just causes undue stress. I knew this before, but I realize it much more now: time is a precious commodity. 

The only way I am writing this now, with my 3.5 year old daughter in tow, is because I’m sitting on my kitchen floor in a self-imposed exile. The range fan is on to drown out Paw Patrol. Any cats that enter my workspace are swiftly kicked out. 

The amount of words that I’ve added to my novel since November 10 (the last blog post, posted today, lol) is 0. Zero! 

NaNoWriMo expected word count, November 15: 25,005 

Erica’s word count: 13,602 

The likelihood of me completing NaNo, at this rate, is slim. As mentioned in my last post, I’m just going to try my best, write as much as I can, and if I continue writing my novel after NaNo, so what? At least I’ll get it written – and that’s the point. 

I also want to make this clear, if you’re not a parent (especially a single parent): it’s impossible to ignore your child. I try but feel guilty. There’s only so much time they will be 3, 4, 5, whatever age, and if that time is spent pushing them away, especially when they want you, the guilt never ends. If my daughter is home from school, work simply does not get done. It’s impossible.

NaNoWriMo Nov 10/ posted Nov 15

NaNoWriMo Update 10 November 2021 

Hello, everyone 🙂 

As promised, here is my ongoing blog to accompany my absolute and utter failure that is my participation in NaNoWriMo. 

As mentioned last week, my daughter was sick, which meant she had to stay home from preschool, and me being a single mom, had to take care of her, which means very little writing has been done. 

I’ve tried getting up early – 5 am early – but guess who just wakes up with me? 

I’ve tried staying up late to write, but that does not work for me and my style. 

I’ve even written some while Paw Patrol blasts in the background – I wonder if my novel will have subtle Paw Patrol Easter eggs strewn throughout? 

Because  I can only write in snatches here and there, I have not been keeping track of my word count. At all. Or writing the desired amount a day. At all.

But then I sat back and thought to myself, the point of NaNoWriMo is to write your novel. Not to write 1,667 words a day, every day, if you can’t. And here is the thing, I can’t. It’s impossible, being a single mom of a (sick) toddler, to get any writing-related work done. 

So, here we are, 10 days in, and the “goal” is to be at 16,670 words.

I am at 13,602 as of this post. Under by 3,068 words and no chance to write again until Tuesday… (!!) (Technically, that’s under 2 days behind…) 

Still, I think I have this in the bag. The plot seems to be writing itself at points, and every time I jump into writing again, the characters are there, ready and waiting where we left off. 

Bottom line: I have NOT written as much as I wanted to/ is expected but I am getting it done. I feel like that is the true meaning of what NaNoWriMo is… just don’t ask me what the true meaning of Christmas is. 

Update on NaNoWriMo 2021: Day 3 

As many of you know, NaNoWriMo began on November 1. 

Guess who got sick November 1? My 3.5-year old daughter. 

Being a single mom means she stays home from preschool with me. 

I didn’t get my word count in on Monday.

Or Tuesday.

Or today.

Luckily, I pre-wrote enough to sustain me these three days; however, my cushion is almost depleted. 

Three days in and this might be a bust… but I have the whole month to try to catch up. 

Wish me luck? 

Note: she was tested for covid and it came back negative. She has an upper respiratory infection, likely from some other kid at preschool whose parents sent them in sick. 

All I really care about is that she’s healthy. Writing can wait.

While she’s on the up-and-up, my word count is on the down-and-down. Not sure if that’s a phrase, but it seems applicable here.

Anyone else struggling right off the bat? Or just me? 

Hoping everyone else’s NaNo is going better than mine! Best of luck to you all. 

NaNoWriMo Research and Preparation

Hi, everyone! 

As promised, I said I’d blog abut NaNoWriMo… so I’m here to update you on how things are going before even beginning. 

Really, though: I’m writing a novel set in the 19th century, and as I’m not a historian, I actually have quite a bit of research to do. Besides getting up-to-date on everything out-of-date, researching has so far proven invaluable for my inspiration. 

There’s a few things I’m doing now in order to be prepared to write away in November. Mainly:

-Character research. My main character is loosely based off a French painter from the late 1800s. We share some common traits, making him – hopefully – a rounded and relatable character, as I will be able to write from experience. 

-Character development. I have a general idea of who my characters are, but I don’t have any concrete “this is my fully rounded and developed character” points. Just general points. I have a spotty character list. I feel like they’ll let me know who they are as I write. 

-More research. I have instances of medical malpractice throughout the story, and, as I am not a physician nor was I alive in 1882, this takes even more research. 

-Plot outline. This is probably the most difficult for me to achieve. I have numerous general outlines in my word document… and I feel like they’re just that: general. I’m not saying the story will write itself, BUT I do believe that writing leads to more plot discoveries. 

-Setting development. I mean, research! Truly – I had to look up “types of lighting in 1800s” because I honestly did not know. But guess what – I learned something new today! Ha.

-A pictures folder. Anything that I come across that inspires or assists me, visually, I drag into a folder. That way, if I’m stuck as I write, I can open it and peruse, rather than going down the rabbit hole that is Google. 

Researching one things leads to another, and to another: hopefully, by filling my brain with everything 19th-century, there won’t be any noticeable gaps as I set off to write. Researching, getting various sources, writing things down and organizing it all has taken a good chunk of time so far, and I wouldn’t say I’m close to being done. With NaNoWriMo beginning in five days, I feel more prepared and ready to write, rather than spending (wasting) time looking up aspects of my story I’m unsure about.

Are you participating? Do you have any good preparation tips? Is anyone else like me, and leaves most of the plot/ characters (somewhat) untouched until starting to write? Leave me a comment below. 

On Disability

Hi, everyone! 

I began this website, as mentioned, as a place to write about my experience living with a disability (vascular malformation – right leg) and how I navigate through it all, especially being a single mama. 

This is probably the most personal thing I’ll have up here; it’s also essential that it’s written early, as the rest of what I write on my blog from here on out will make sense after this. 

We all have different ways of framing our existences, whether we know it or not. A lot of our framework is created when we are children: how we grow up has a lasting influence on our future selves. 

I was born with what is called a vascular malformation in my right leg. It extends from my bum all the way down to my pinky toe. My whole leg is a tangle of overgrown veins. They grew into places they weren’t supposed to, causing damage and pain. 

When I was really young, before six years old, I did’t know the extent that this would affect me for the rest of my life. I was naive. So much so that one day, during P.E. in Grade 1, I was wearing shorts, sitting cross-legged, and looked at my right leg – my veins were gone! I remember grabbing my leg, in pure joy and happiness, and then realizing – the veins were on the other side of my leg. Once I uncrossed my legs and looked at the underside, there they all were: blue, big, bulging and painful. That memory is seared into my mind so distinctly, I refer to it as the defining moment of my disability. It was the day I realized I was trapped in my own body, a slave to its constraints. 

Fast forward to Grade 6, when I was eleven years old. I had major surgery that caused me to miss weeks and weeks of school. I had muscle removed, veins removed, and woke up to a robotic machine specially made for me to manipulate my leg back and forth, back and forth, bending it even as I slept. 

I had no idea I would come to like that, and it’s difficult to write to this day. It was traumatic, but there’s nothing that can be done about it now; I drank 10 years of my life away, trying to forget. 

So here, at 11 years old, in a hospital bed, so sick from surgery I could barely eat, my leg being forced to move, is where the framework begins. It is here, in the hospital bed, with this sore, weak leg, that I realize, finally, I am not like others, nor will I ever be. The doctors make it clear: this is not a cure, but something just to give a better quality of life. For a bit. If that. 

It is here, in this hospital bed, that other kids scream in terror when they see me, asking their moms, “What’s that?!” while pointing to my leg. 

It is here, in this hospital, that I learn how to use a wheelchair for the first time. 

It is here that I give up so many dreams kids shouldn’t be asked to give up. I can’t be a firefighter. I can’t be a cop. There’s no way I’ll ever be a ballerina or pro snowboarder. 

But, it was here, in this hospital, that I knew I could be a writer. 

For the rest of my life, the things I picked to do were framed by my disability. If it involved sports, you could count me out. I tried to dance, and was even a dance major at my school for Grades 9 and 10, but only because I so desperately wanted to prove that I could be normal. I didn’t belong there. I was no good, and the other girls let me know that. 

After the surgery, at 11 years old, I was forced to wear a cast on my whole leg, stick-straight, for many weeks after. 

It was here, lying in the couch, in the throes of boredom, that I developed trichotillomania. (I will be writing about this in an upcoming post.) 

It was here, lying in my bed, that I discovered that after my surgery my foot was so sensitive I couldn’t even have a sheet covering it, or else the pain was too intense to sleep. 

It was here that I learned how to be alone. 

But, it was here that I also learned how to love being alone. 

Life progressed after my life-altering surgery, not always for the better. Despite physical therapy, I never regained full use of my leg, and to this day I cannot fully bend it. This prevents me from doing basic things like kneeling, squatting, or sitting cross-legged… things I used to be able to do, back when I was six. 

Because of the lack of motion and function in my leg, I have developed severe arthritis, preventing any meaningful interaction with the world. I can go for short walks; that’s pretty much it. I can barely drive, I use a cane, and so free days are now spent quietly at home. 

There are times that day-to-day life is tough, partly because I experience ongoing pain and inability to use my leg properly. But, being a single mama and having to show up for my child every day has helped me, in many instances, push past the pain and experience the world, however that looks. 

So – my disability has framed my whole life thus far, and will continue to in the years to come. While it’s a defining factor in my life, it isn’t the only thing that defines me. It is the lens through which I view my world, and every choice made is weighed against whether or not me and my leg can handle it. 

Most of the time, we can.