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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 22

Current word count: 45,970/50,000 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: ABC Classic FM radio

(…and the sound of one of the neighbours’ dogs howling… ugh… people, please: if you can’t give a dog the attention he or she needs to be psychologically healthy, maybe you ought to not have a dog. Keeping a highly sociable pet – evolved from a species that forms close bonds with its pack – locked up on its own for several hours every day is not good for them, and a nightly 15 minute walk isn’t going to do much to alleviate its stress.)

Anyway, animal welfare rant aside (though if you want more on that sort of thing, here’s an article I read today that I liked), I am on the home stretch and I don’t want to give into the temptation to procrastinate writing by getting caught up blogging. I can picture a hare/tortoise scenario in which I am the overconfident hare that stops to take a quick nap – only to find I lose the race.

Here’s a screenshot showing my current progress, before I begin working on my writing for Day 22. My NaNo experience this year has been, by far, my most successful. I have followed a number of different techniques and ideas while writing in comparison to previous years. After November I will (hopefully) write a retrospective piece on why NaNoWriMo 2016 was my best year so far.

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NaNoWriMo 2016 progress screenshot, at the beginning of Day 22. [Source]

Books: Laudato Si’

At some previous point I already noted that I read Pope Francis’s 2015 Laudato Si’: On care for our common home. It is available for download at the Vatican website (see HERE for the text, PDF and other language versions).

I haven’t really got the words to fully do it justice. It is an appeal to all people – not just Catholics – to reflect on our relationship with the Earth, nature and cosmos. To consider how our actions of consumption, greed, control, and for many Christians, a theology of Dominion, deplete and damage the world of which we are a part. And that it is the poorest of the poor who experience the worst effects of environmental degradation. This Papal encyclical is a God-send for me, as a person of faith with a university degree in Environmental Sociology, and who tries to live a minimalist lifestyle (somewhat unsuccessfully) and who makes an ethical and ecologically-conscious choice to live on a plant-based, wholefoods diet (“diet” in the sense of a lifestyle of healthy eating, as opposed to a temporary fad to effect extreme weight loss), and who is deeply concerned with the sociological impact of theological perspectives on ecological conditions.

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NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 17

Friday, 27 November 2015

It’s time to panic! I’m learning to associate my US-based friends’ social media posts about Thanksgiving (both for and against the occasion) with end-of-nano panic. We don’t have a Thanksgiving. I guess our similar holiday is Australia Day in January, which usually marks the end of the summer holidays, and sparks debate about the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous Australians by English invaders, versus calls to just shut up and enjoy walking around in Southern Cross-emblazoned paraphernalia. Though there were attempts by Christian political lobby groups in Australia to start a day of national thanksgiving and prayer. I’m not sure if that ever really gained much traction outside of evangelical circles.

I entered my story text so far into the word count validator and lost 578 words from my story. There’s a huge discrepancy between the word count statistics in Microsoft Word on my lap top, Scrivener on my PC, and NaNoWriMo’s official counter. As my winning or losing is determined by the Nano website’s official counter, I have to re-calibrate my Scrivener aims according to my best guess of Nano’s difference. (Nano usually seems to subtract roughly 70 words from my scrivener account.)

I have today and Monday left available to me to write. Saturday and Sunday this weekend are going to be so busy that I will likely not have any time. People keep saying, “Surely you’ll find time on the weekend, if you’re motivated enough.” Those people clearly aren’t stay-at-home mothers morphing into hair and makeup artists for their daughter’s two ballet concerts over two days and a separate full dress rehearsal in a suburb about half an hour away. At literally exactly the same time my son has a bunch of commitments – namely a birthday party and a church end-of-year celebration for the department in which he volunteers – so that I have the interesting dilemma of needing to be in two physically disparate locations at exactly the same time. If I were the main character in my NaNoWriMo story I may have that ability. But for now my real life is looking a lot like that logic puzzle where the boatman has to carry a wolf, a goat and a cabbage across a river without leaving them alone in a predator/prey situation.

It’s hard to focus on my story. I’ve had so many social interactions over the last two weeks that my introvert levels of exhaustion are very high. I love catching up with friends. I had no time to write yesterday, either, as I was out for a coffee (which was positive, so don’t get me wrong there, I appreciate friends who drag me out once in a while to talk about the deep stuff of life). At the same time I realise that because so many of us are asking really hard questions about life, faith, our collective dissatisfaction with controlling religious leaders in our lives, and fears of some that if they don’t get out soon they might one day find that they’d given their life, money and allegiance to a cult. Who knows? These are important questions and I think everyone needs to face them at some point in their faith journeys, but my impulse now is to start dialoguing on spiritual abuse forums to learn the warning signs from those who’ve already been there, when what I really, really need to do is to write almost 10,000 words within the next eight hours, get Nano done, so I can recover, and maybe even have some time to start confronting that most Wonderful Stressful Time of the Year, Christmas.

I have come down with yet another severe cold, which includes a really painful headache. My head is pounding as I type and my sinuses are beyond blocked. If I keep clenching my teeth I’m going to have to put in my mouthguard. The coffee grinder broke so I’m now reduced to using a mechanical hand grinder that makes me feel like I’m playing hurdy gurdy (which is okay, I guess, because I just imagine that I am like Anna Murphy the singer and hurdy gurdist in this song… Why yes, she is singing in Ancient Gaulish).

My story is at that disjointed stage where I’m just throwing in any scenes I can imagine. I’m not even bothering to connect them. I can do that later if I need to pad out the story. I look forward to getting this first draft completed so I can excise all its crumminess and get to the good stuff. A lot of people have requested to read my story and I massively appreciate the enthusiasm, but the reality is that I’m writing this first draft for me and my eyes alone. I don’t have the cognitive freedom to write it as creatively as I need if I’m spending the whole time worried that someone else might read it and see how terrible it is – it is in no way representative of the best of my writing. However, on a second draft edit it might manage to make the grade where I’ll look at possibly providing copies to my in-real-life friends (the ones that are sympathetic enough to understand that I’m really just developing my writing craft and that I don’t have the luxury of editors).

I’m looking forward to finishing Nano, and getting back into painting and drawing. December is always a hectic time of year. I can’t believe it’s almost upon us, and that my kids are finishing their first year at new schools (last Nano season I wrote a bit about why we left their previous school and home schooled during 2014, see here). Changing them to nonreligious schools has proven a fantastic choice for them and I’m just so glad that it’s mostly gone well for them. There were lots of hiccups along the way and new social dynamics to negotiate, but I can say with a lot of relief that neither of them has been bullied or beaten-up. Nor have the warnings of their previous school’s principal proven correct in any sense when he said, when we left, that non-Christian, government-based schooling was a factory of atheism that would force our children to give up on their faith. On the contrary, my kids have grown more confident in the knowledge that they choose to self-identify as Christians, while learning that their classmates come from myriad religious belief systems to which they are devoted at varying degrees of intensity (my kids now count Muslims, Sikh, Mormons, Catholics, Agnostics and Atheists from a huge range of ethnic backgrounds among their schoolmates). I realise just how more reflective it is of real social life in Australia. It’s so multicultural here in Melbourne that you either learn how to navigate the varied landscape of religious and philosophical worldviews – or put up the blinkers and pretend that everyone who isn’t exactly like yourself is “bad.” I love that just by changing schools the kids have been able to learn that “others” are more like us than they are different, and that differences aren’t bad, they’re what makes life interesting.

Anyway, enough progressive proselytising, it’s time to go back to my story… which, like my previous paragraph, seems to be morphing into a bit of a commentary on how we marginalise people because of external differences. In my story the bird-people were historically being jerks to the lizard-people but now the bird-people are starting to confront their deeply-embedded prejudices and realise that all the peoples must unite if there’s ever to be a restored pathway to travel between the inhabitable planets in their solar system… how my story went in that direction I’m really not sure. It’s going way off the original plot plans, that’s for sure.

Current word count: 41,144 / 50,000 words

Today’s writing soundtrack: a compilation of Native American shamanic music. I’m not sure I even like it. I’m also not sure how it ended up on my youtube suggestions, but there it is. I might switch to Gregorian chants soon. The birds singing out in the garden blend seamlessly into the music.

What I’ve Been Reading Online

Taking a mental break from NaNoWriMo

AUSTRALIAN CULTURE

  • These women had every right to be safe.’ – Short obituaries to some of the many Australian women murdered by their partners in 2015. Destroy The Joint keeps a tally on the violent deaths of women in Australia. It’s horrendously sad and, as an Aussie woman, bloody terrifying. If it were a virus killing off Australians at a rate of 1 or 2 every week there’d surely be money spent on research to combat it.

SCIENCE AND FAITH

  • A seminary student visits the Creation Museum. – I found this interesting for a variety of reasons. I am grateful for people who take the time to question the opinions of young earth creationism (YEC), not because they’re picking a fight (I hate conflict…) but because they’re raising really important questions. After I got married to a former-YEC true believer I was strongly discouraged from following my personal interests in science – particularly my fascination with astronomy and the evolution of dinosaurs – because it conflicted with his and his family’s views on Genesis. Fifteen years later I find myself trying to re-learn science, and deconstruct the worldview that so heavily influenced my understanding of science for a decade. This Petto and Godfrey book was a great overview of the issues involved and I found it really helpful.

RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN

POSITIVE BITS ON RELIGION (Trying to balance it out because I don’t want this to always be a negative, angsty blog.)

  • The World Community for Christian Meditation – How grateful I am for encountering contemplative Christianity. What a lifesaver for my faith that has become.
  • I love this quote from Pope Francis: “The disease of a lugubrious face. Those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious
    we have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others – especially those we consider our inferiors – with rigour, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. An apostle must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A heart filled with God is a happy heart which radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident!” – I have brought these words to mind several times since I read them. I must meditate on them more deeply.

ART

NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 12

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The next three days are going to be busy. It’s 10.30 am now, and ideally by 3 pm this afternoon I will have 36,666 words, at least, to compensate for the busyness of the upcoming weekend. It’s not particularly realistic for me to aim for 6,100+ words in a single day, though, and so I will just have to do what I can. I’ve strapped up my wrist because it’s starting to hurt from typing and I really don’t want to injure myself.

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19 November 2015 – bandaging my wrists, to give them greater support while typing for long amounts of time, is easier said than done in a household run by cats.

I had a stressful start to the day. After moments like that it’s exceedingly difficult to rein in my anxiety and calm down enough to get through the day. It’s even harder to then sit down and look at my Scrivener session target knowing that I need another 6,000 words in the next few hours!

My story is, thankfully, proving relatively “easy” to write. Oh yes, in true mid-NaNoWriMo form I’m looking at it like it’s possibly the worst book ever written (then I recall the time I read Moon People, which takes pride of place on my bookshelf, and I can say with confidence it’s at least on a par with that book, and that book is mighty popular), but the story and its characters are many times more interesting than my Nano 2014 story. That’s positive. I see a lot of potential in this story and I think it deserves a second draft attempt once Nano is finished.

Meanwhile, I’m finding new and creative ways to procrastinate writing, and I don’t just mean my obvious increase in WordPress usage of late.. Last night I amused myself making diptych portraits of my Anglo-Ukrainian husband with images of historically notable Eastern Slavic people who had the same hairline and similar facial hair to him. I’m not sure he found it that funny but the important thing is that it made me laugh.

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This guy is Fyodor Pirotsky, Ukrainian electrical engineer and inventor of the electric tram. Those of you who know my husband will note not just the freakish physical resemblance but the fact that The Husband is also an electrical engineer of Ukrainian heritage who works in the tram and train industry. Image source: Wikipedia.

Current word count: 30,916 / 50,000 words

Today’s writing soundtrack: Nothing… Just the birds singing outside and the cats snoozing by the window. I found this list of Australian suburban birds and their songs quite interesting. We get a lot the birds listed around here: wagtails, wattle birds, cockatoos, galahs, blackbirds, doves, magpie-larks, corellas, magpies, ravens, wrens and more. I love how their songs subtly change throughout the seasons. Right now there’s a huge flock of rainbow lorikeets screeching outside my window.