Rising From the Ashes of the Phoenix


The Phoenix by Philip Pryke (Flickr Commons)

My life and writing schedule have been in a bit of a chaotic mess lately. After MEH (My Engineer Husband) lost his job, and I stopped going to the coffee shop every morning to write, I stopped writing. Well, I wrote a couple of blogs, some blog comments, a handful of tweets, maybe 500 words a week of fiction. But for four weeks I felt like I was at a standstill. I drank coffee with MEH every morning, we chatted, I helped him look for jobs to apply to, I ironed his shirts, I gardened and cleaned the yard, I looked at the fall leaves…in short I puttered. No, worse. I floundered. I foundered too. (I get those words mixed up a lot but this time I looked them up, and both are true.)

Then came November. And NaNoWriMo. On October 31st I told MEH I was going for it. Thing is, I’m about 25,000 words into the current WIP, and I just made a mental breakthrough of sorts—I finally figured out the structure the book will take. November 1st I wrote about 400 words and then the power went out. We went to a coffee shop in town, but not the one I used to go to every day. We had to charge our computers, we told ourselves, but the truth is we were both floundering. MEH had gotten bad news about a job he’d applied to, “a sure thing,” the headhunter told him. And I—well, I was foundering.

I talked to the barista; “S” is a writer, too, working on an MFA. She and I talk writing and books whenever I go to that particular coffee shop. I told her I was thinking I was going for the NaNo. “NaNo?” S asked. “OH! NaNo! She pointed over to the coffee shop bulletin board: front and center and practically the only thing on the board, in large cut out letters was an announcement about the National Novel Writing Month. She wasn’t familiar with it until she saw the board, she said.

“Yeah, I’m going for it,” I said laughing nervously and looking over my shoulder at my computer next to MEH. I went back and wrote another 400 (or so) words.

The next day was Saturday. And I wasn’t so sure. Would I write? Was my resolve flagging? After all, I hadn’t really written much anyway. November 2nd and I was behind—at least in my own mind. 800 or so words of 50,000 hardly seemed to constitute a real start. I read some blogs, wrote some comments (do those count, by the way? I’m not wondering, it’s MEH—he asked), then I came to Lisa Kramer’s blog (Woman Wielding Words) and she was writing about NaNo…that she was doing it. I left a noncommittal comment, something about using NaNo for motivation (not admitting what I’d told S and MEH, that I was doing it), and left it at that. Later that day I went back to see if Lisa responded—she had. She suggested I should go for it, for the camaraderie…I thought about writing back and saying I was. But then I thought about the 800 words… the road ahead. My chaotic life.

Fast forward to this morning, way too early. In bed. Daylight savings gets me every time, and I woke up at 4:00 a.m. for good. I did what anyone would do… checked my Bloglovin feed and started reading blogs on my iPhone. I know, it’s a bad thing, but I do it.

The first one I read was the Debutante Ball. News flashes… one of them was an announcement by Natalia Sylvester, that she was going for it, at the last minute she’d decided to do NaNo. If I wasn’t fully awake yet, that woke me. #NaNoWriMo and #WordMarathon, she said. Check in, she said. I thought about my 800 words (I didn’t write at all over the weekend), I thought about the chaos in my life, but more, I thought about writing and how much I missed it, how much I loved the thought of checking in everyday with Lisa and with Natalia and with the other 267,777 people who have signed up, and I decided it’s just what I need.

I’m in.

How about you? Are you in? Have you ever done NaNo? Have you ever floundered (or foundered)? What did you do about it? Find me on Twitter @wordsxo, checking in at #NaNoWriMo and #WordMarathon.




  1. Lisa says:

    I’m so glad you are in. Be my writing buddy. I’m in as LisaWieldsWords.

  2. Yay for the breakthrough on book structure, Julia! And yay for NaNo. I also saw, on Twitter, last week that Lydia Netzer (who wrote SHINE SHINE SHINE), is doing NaNo. And Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants got its start with NaNo. You go girl. Me … I’m still too obsessive with fixing things as I go (and, let’s not kid myself here – AFTER I’m done, too). So no NaNo for me. But I’ll join your cheering squad!

    • Thank you, Melissa… for the comment, the leads on other NaNo-ers but especially for the cheering squad. I know you say you’re no NaNo but I’m still part of your cheering squad as well. As for the obsessive fixing, writing, you mention, it all leads to amazing and beautiful writing. Let’s hear it for the writing cheer squad!

  3. Good luck – looking forward to following your progress. I’m not a good NaNo person — I take my time, mosey along, I edit while I write, etc. In other words, NaNo freaks me out.

    • Thanks, Jessica! I’ve never considered myself a NaNo person either (also have been freaked out by the thought!), so I’ll let you know how it goes… I guess I really need to shake myself up a little!

  4. Julia, you have no idea how happy I am that you’re joining us! I completely surprised myself by deciding to do it (and I still think I’m a little crazy for trying, because it’s so completely different from how I normally write a first draft) but I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? I can either decide not to do it and have zero new words at the end of the month, or do it and have 50,000 rough words (but at least some will be worth saving). And like you, I’ve felt like my writing life was stalling lately, so maybe this will be the boost we need!

    • Yes, I think this may well be the boost I need… and I’m so glad your post at Deb Ball pushed me the final step! Thank you!! I agree with you, the worst that can happen is that we’ll have 0 words at the end of the month (already not a possibility, though). Here’s to breaking the stall!

  5. I’m not ‘in’, Julia. I’ve never done a NaNo. I suppose I like to set my own targets, and have another job to work around, so for me I prefer to find slots in the week that I can dedicate to writing. Maybe it’s just the thought of having to write soooo many words in such a short space of time. BUT… I think it’s a great motivator and the social implications of joining in with other writers and the encouragement you can give each other must be amazing. I think it’s just what you need at the moment and I think if you go in to it with a sense of fun, it’ll be something you can get a lot from. LOADS and LOADS of luck and dead proud of you for having a go at it xo

  6. I’ve never technically done NaNo before, but I did do the same thing on my own one time in May. Sometimes the structured motivation of something like that is just the kick in the pants we need! I hope you get a lot out of it, Julia.

    • I’m glad to hear you’ve done other similar (non-NaNo) structured motivational writings — and that they’ve helped! Like you, I’ve structured writing times before and they really have helped kick me into action. Here’s hoping NaNo will do the same. Thanks for your support, Annie!

  7. Eliza says:

    OMG I’d never heard of this … totally just went and joined. What the hell, why not? So glad that you’re writing!

  8. Wynn Collins says:

    Congrats on taking on the NaNo challenge! I have no doubt you kill it and learn so much in the process. Please share how it goes for you–I’m considering it for next year. This time around I’m too far into my work-in-progress to change up my methods, plus I’m freaked out enough with my writing right now.
    I looked up the definitions of foundering and floundering (I love that you used them both in your post–I’m a shameless wordy!) and yes, I’m no stranger to either of them unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it.
    I really hope your husband finds a great job soon. It’s tough out there!

    • Thanks for your support and encouragement, Wynn. I’ll keep you posted. It’s great to meet another wordy and I really appreciate the visit to and comment on my blog. Nice to meet you! (Thanks too for your understanding about my husband’s plight. I really appreciate it so much.)

  9. Yay. And a hug to you. I’m not brave enough yet — but maybe November 2014? Can’t wait to hear how this goes for you.

    • Thank you for the hug, Jamie — I don’t know if I’m brave or just really determined and desperate to make sure I can get on track with this WIP! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes and maybe we can do this together in 2014!

  10. Good for you, Julia! I’m doing a modified NaNo, having been about 8,000 words into my new WP before November came. I’m trying to have a solid draft of it by Nov. 26. We shall see…

    Good luck on your work, Julia, and very sorry to hear about your husband’s job loss. Best of luck to him to find something very soon.

    • Woohoo for modified NaNo (I guess I’d have to call mine modified too since I’m already 25K in)… here’s to both of us making the progress we want to. November 26 sounds great, Karen, and I’ll be looking forward to sharing the journey together! Thank you for your kind words for MEH — I’ll pass them along.

  11. Cynthia Robertson says:

    I’ve never done NaNo. (It’s at an inconvenient time of year, for me.) But I did do my own NaNo this past August, taking off work and writing for hours everyday all month. Set your cap and go for it, Julia. 🙂

  12. Erika Marks says:

    As you know, my friend, you and MEH have been in my thoughts–and of course no matter how long I live away from Maine, the clock-switch always reminds me of that process from there and how that transition was always SO hard on/for me.

    I am so pleased that you are doing NaNo. I have often considered doing it–and now, of course, I missed my chance yet another year (and frankly this one would have been perfect ;/) so I will observe your adventure and look forward to hearing what you think of the endeavor and, of course, the wonderful community within it. Cheering you on from here, my dear!

    • You’re so kind to keep MEH and me in your thoughts… we need those good thoughts 🙂 I’m plugging away on NaNo, with 6345 words down! Thanks for your cheers in that department too! Wish you were NaNo-ing too, what fun!

  13. Shary says:

    I’ve been floundering for a while, which also includes much puttering in the garden. 🙂 Today is not going to be the day I get back to my writing routine (crazy schedule!) but maybe tomorrow will be.

    I’ve done NaNo and found it to be very helpful in moving a project forward. I have a very critical editing voice and NaNo silences her. Yay! I can’t participate this year, but perhaps I’ll try it again next year.

    Happy Writing!

    • Sorry for the floudering (but glad it inlcudes the gardening!) I agree that NaNo is very helpful in moving forward and silencing the inner critic. Wish you could participate this year — it would be so fun (for me!). Thanks for the NaNo support, Shary!

  14. Best wishes for a productive NaNo, Julia (and all the commenters here who are taking the plunge!) It seems like any significant word count–even if you don’t hit 50,000–is worth feeling good about. Cheers!
    (And good luck to MEH in his job search.)

    • I completely agree that any word count is good during NaNo! Week One behind me and it’s been incredibly helpful in gettting me going again. Thanks for your kind words for MEH — he appreciates them so much and so do I 🙂

  15. Leah says:

    Good for you, Julia! And I’m thinking great thoughts for MEH!