A Warning Unheeded

One of the things I didn’t realize I would get when I signed up for NaNoWriMo was a pep talk from Lemony Snicket. Lemony Snicket, possibly the most ill-fated writer ever born. He took time out from his busy schedule of running away from ill-intentioned people in quest of unpleasant truths he will likely wish he’d never sought, to write a pep talk to me (and everyone else who signed up for NaNoWriMo) trying to talk us out of pursuing a path that would be difficult, painful, and ultimately leave us unfulfilled. I like all of the pep talks I get from NaNo, but Lemony Snicket’s really struck a chord with me. I especially like this portion, which seems to have been written especially for me:

“Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your novel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.”

You can read the entire pep talk here.

Unfortunately, I read this caution too late.

50,374 is my verified word count. I’m a National Novel Writing Month 2010 WINNER!

Thanksgiving NaNoWriMo Update

NaNoWriMo Day 25 Word Count: 45,564

Only 4,436 more words to go until I reach my goal!

At this point, I’m just focusing on reaching 50,000 words, not on “finishing” my novel. I don’t feel near done with it. I’ve been writing around the turning point of the story for the past week and am only now zeroing in on it. I’m just starting to get to know my characters, and I really think there’s more left to their story than 4,436 words.

But I’m kind of relieved by that. It would be a little scary, I think, to finish the story before I reached 50,000 words. Then I’d be left staring at the screen, trying to come up with something else to add on to reach 50,000 words.

I’m making an effort to avoid thinking about December, too. I don’t want to get trapped thinking about what I’ll do or not do with this story once NaNo is over. When I do think about December, I find myself spending time on Ravelry planning crochet and knit projects.

Oh, and I’m happy to report that the apple pie I made last night was totally rockin’. Double cinnamon made all of the difference, I think. That and not putting too many apples in. And putting it back in the oven at the correct temperature for another hour after I posted the “done” picture on the Imperfect Happiness Facebook Page. When I went to check and see if the pie was cool enough to put in the fridge for the night, I noticed that the crust was a little doughy around the edges despite being quite brown elsewhere. That’s what happens when the recipe says 325°F, and I cook it at 400°F. After coming back up to heat and then finishing baking, the pie was finally done around 1:30am. But at least I got my cranberry sauce made in that time and got some reading done on the novel I’m currently enjoying (Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart).

Speaking of which, I think I’ll go and eat some pie and do some more reading. There’s not much I enjoy doing more than reading a good novel. Pie’s just the icing on the cake.

Weather Report and Word Count

Snowflake. Small microscope kept outdoors. Sna...

Image via Wikipedia

NaNoWriMo Day 23 Word Count: 41,866

Weather Report: Snowy. But it’s not like the blizzards I’ve been in before. It’s still snowing, but the wind’s died down to basically nothing. Not that I’m complaining.

I’m likely to need to do some negotiating tomorrow between the daughter who hates to be cold and the son who loves to be outside (and the mommy who kind of misses the “curled up under a blanket with a book and a beer” snow days of her early 20’s). I doubt there’s much chance I can convince them to just curl up and nap with me for a couple of hours.

NaNoWriMo Day 20 Word Count


I should have written 18 more words. Then it would have been a palindrome.

A Year with Frog and Toad

Panther, a cat using toilet, photographed in S...

If my cats did this, we could have left the house on time this morning (Image via Wikipedia, Photographer: User:Reward.)

NaNoWriMo Day 19 word count: 33,208

We went to see A Year with Frog and Toad, put on by the University of Utah Youth Theater this morning. We were supposed to meet some homeschooling friends out front at 9:20, and against all odds, we were making wonderful time. I stopped to fill up some water bottles (I have a thing about having enough provisions for any outing). I heard my daughter yelling from the laundry room.

“No! Put that down! No! No!”

I set down the water pitcher and walked to the doorway of the laundry room. I saw my daughter standing about a foot away from my son as he reached into the litter box with his hands, grabbed cat poo, and then put it into the small covered garbage can we have next to the little box for that purpose.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” I yelled (or something of that nature).”Why didn’t you stop him?”

“I was putting on my jacket,” my daughter explained. Well, I guess I did only ask her to watch him, not to actually intervene if he was doing something that needed intervention.

I grabbed the baby and shook his hand to release his grip on the turd he held, then I took him in to the sink to wash his hands, saying over and over, “We’re gonna be late, we’re gonna be late.” I must have scrubbed his little hands for a good three minutes before I felt satisfied that they were clean enough.

I got our water bottles and stuffed them in the diaper bag.

“I’m thirsty!” my daughter said. I pulled out her water bottle and shoved it towards her.

“Here, take it!”

Then the baby signed “water” and I handed him his cup, which he promptly dropped on the floor.

“Please carry that water for your brother,” I directed my daughter.

“I can’t,” she said, “I need to open the door. Mommy, why are you wearing your brown shoes instead of your shiny black shoes?”

“Because we might need to park far away, and my shiny black shoes aren’t very comfortable to walk long distances in.”

“My shiny black shoes are comfortable. What does ‘walk long distances’ mean?”

I stammered trying to figure out which part of that statement she was having trouble with.

“Let’s just go to the car,” I said, propping the baby on my hip, shouldering the diaper bag, and opening the door.

“I want to be the first one out!” my daughter whined.

“Fine!” I yelled. “Just get out there! We’re going to be late!”

I locked the door to the house while my daughter stood at the car pulling on the door handle repeating over and over, “Mommy, unlock the door! Mommy, unlock the door!”

“Does that help unlock the door?” I asked her as I hit the button to unlock the car. “The yelling and whining. Does that work? Because if it does, maybe I’ll try that next time instead of using the key.”

My daughter laughed. I fastened the baby into his car seat as he grabbed a stuffed giraffe from beside him. My daughter screamed.

“Dear God, what is it now?” I asked.

“That’s my giraffe!” she said and yanked the toy from her brother’s grip. He began crying, but calmed again when I handed him his Doggies book (by Sandra Boynton).

“Fine,” I said. “Let’s just go. We’re going to be late.”

“Mommy, it’s OK if we’re…”

“No! It’s not OK if we’re late! Have you ever been to a play? Do you know if it’s OK to be late?”

I didn’t wait for an answer. I shut the baby’s door, then went around the car and got into the driver’s seat.

“Don’t go yet!” my daughter yelled. “I can’t buckle it! I can’t buckle it!”

“You have got to be kidding me!” I yelled as I got back out of the car, opened her door and fastened her buckle. She started to cry.

“Don’t talk in that voice!” she cried.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just don’t like being late.” I hugged her and gave her a kiss, then slid back into the driver’s seat.

As we backed out, my daughter asked, “Mommy, does it really take a half an hour to get there?”

We ended up getting there just after our friends arrived. We found them right away, checked in, and got seats with no trouble. The play was lovely. It was a musical, which I didn’t expect, but which kept the kids’ attention better than a straight-up, non-musical play would have, I think. The costumes were adorable, although perhaps a little subtle for the younger kids. There seemed to be kind of a 1920’s theme to the clothing and the music and the dancing. It was cute and quite enjoyable. The baby watched a good portion of it, grew restless, and then nursed to sleep. My daughter was frightened of the Terrible Frog (just like she is when we read the book), but otherwise loved the show.

After everything turned out so well, I was left wishing I could have gotten us there without the yelling that went along with our departure. Sure, it was stressful, but in retrospect, it was actually kind of funny. I’d like to be able to see the funny part better in the moment.

I’ve been anxious lately. I’ve managed to keep my inner critic fairly quiet about my novel, but that seems to have got her working overtime criticizing everything else I do. I’m just trying to sit with my imperfection and see all of the positives, but it’s a pretty big challenge. I’m fairly confident it will be worth it, though. It kind of already is.

But I’d still like to yell less.

Perfectly Exhausted

NaNoWriMo Day 18 Word Count: 31,187

Tonight, I am tired. It took a lot of mental energy to get myself to write. Yesterday was so easy. The baby napped for 1.5 hours straight and my daughter entertained herself for most of that time, and I got my writing done before my husband even arrived home, which gave me tons of time to write a long post about a real-women’s Victoria’s Secret catalog.

This morning, the baby woke up at 4:30 with his daddy. Of course, his daddy was going off to work. I suggested he take the baby with him, but he thought I was joking. My son and I finally got back to sleep around 6:30. Then my daughter woke us up at 7:30. Well, she didn’t think she was waking us up. She was hugging the baby as he slept and whispering in his ear how much she loves him, and she was rubbing my forearms gently with her cold little fingers while I tried to sleep.

And then the baby decided that all he needed was a 40-minute nap today.

So, I’m tired. And kind of cranky. But I feel somewhat better now that I have my writing done. And I’m glad I’ve been working ahead because I didn’t have to write a full 1,667 words to meet my Day-18 goal.

OK, now I’m done complaining.

Last night I found this post by Brené Brown entitled 12 Tips to Becoming Your Authentic Self. I’m generally not a huge fan of the “9 Secrets to a Slimmer Waist” and “Increase Your IQ in 3 Easy Steps” type things. They seem, for the most part, over-simplified. But I do find value in some things that are in numbered lists (this from a woman with Seven Personal Commandments), and Brené Brown’s list is one of them. Or maybe twelve of them.

Her list is all about letting go of perfectionism. I think her tips are a great starting point. They’re not the full answer, but they’re not meant to be. Just little jumping-off points to get a person thinking. Little things like, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best,” andPerfectionism is not self-improvement.”

It’s good stuff. Enjoy! And get some sleep. (That last one’s a reminder for myself, but if you’re tired, you can apply it to yourself, too.)

NaNoWriMo Day 15: The Quiet Center


Image via Wikipedia

Word Count: 26,705

The first verse of a hymn from Worship and Rejoice, the hymnal at the First Congregational Church in Salt Lake City, Utah:

“Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed: clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes, that we can see all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.”

I wasn’t a big fan of this particular hymnal, but this verse really spoke to me. In all of my decluttering last month and writing this month, I’ve had a tendency to forget to take a breath and just be.

NaNoWriMo Day 13

Word count: 23,116

For the first time, I’ve done some research for this novel beyond asking my husband questions. I got some information from one of Sandra Markle’s books in the Animal Predators series for children and looked online for other details. About rattlesnake winter denning behaviors.

And I think I’m about done with holiday shopping for the kids. I think I controlled myself fairly well this year, although I still bought more than I probably ought to have in order to remain consistent with my stated views on material consumption. But I like buying things for my kids. At least I’ve confined my purchasing to good-quality wooden and fabric items. Except for the little doll stroller I bought for my son. That’s plastic. And fabric.

I got into the habit of checking some mainstream news websites because of the trial of Elizabeth Smart’s accused kidnapper. I had a nightmare about one of the news stories I read last night. I think I’ll go back to avoiding those websites again. There’s a fine line, it seems, between informing oneself and scaring the pants off oneself.

Speaking of scaring the pants off myself, I decided to pre-read Coraline by Neil Gaiman to see if it’s something my daughter would enjoy. I’m not quite through it yet, but I don’t think I’ll read it to my daughter for at least a couple of years.

Ahh, Friday…

NaNoWriMo Day 12 word count: 20,906

I got a good hour of writing in at the library today, paid all of my overdue fines, picked up a book I had on hold (How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman), and learned that as long as there’s a lid on it, I can have a drink anywhere in the library building. So I had a decaf Americano while I wrote.

Coffee and writing just seem to go together for me. Although I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

I’ve yet to figure out why my right knee is swollen and making crunching noises when I walk down stairs, so I didn’t run today. I took a walk outside, but I would really like to run.

Tonight I found myself using one of those fun phrases that moms get to say: “Please stop licking your brother.”

I also had a pleasant conversation with a little boy who appeared to be about six years old. He and his older brother were waiting at the elevator at the same time I was while their mom was bringing their baby brother along in the stroller. The six-year-old said, “Brrr! It’s cold!”

“Yes, it is,” I said.

“It’s really cold when you’re not wearing a jacket.”

I agreed.

Then he got a huge smile on his face.

“It would be even colder if you went out in the wintertime with no clothes on at all! Then you’d be like–” and here he took one step, eyes wide, and stopped, as though he’d frozen in the act of walking out his front door.

“You’d freeze solid if you went outside during winter with no clothes on!” I said. “That’s why we wear clothes and jackets in the wintertime.”

“Yeah!” he agreed.

And then the elevator opened.

NaNoWriMo Day 11 Update

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

They seem to have forgotten "Increased dairy-free ice cream consumption." (Image via Wikipedia)

Word Count: 18,992

I skipped writing last night because I went out with a group of other moms for dinner and a dueling piano show. I worked ahead so my daily average word count wouldn’t take a hit, but I hadn’t banked on how exhausted being out until nearly midnight would leave me. I didn’t get to bed until 1am. The kids slept until almost 8, but the baby has a cold and, I think, is teething, so he spent much of the night nursing. While I’m more skilled at sleeping while nursing than I was with my first, it still doesn’t give me the quality of sleep that sleeping while not nursing does.

I almost scrapped the idea of writing tonight in favor of going to bed at 8:00. Instead, I had another dairy-free ice cream bar and soldiered on. I’m glad I did. I feel better—calmer, more satisfied, less hungry—and I’m happy that I won’t be playing catchup tomorrow.

Apparently NaNoWriMo Week Two is notoriously difficult from a psychological standpoint, and I want to make sure I show up at the computer to write every day so that pesky inner critic doesn’t get a foothold.

So far, so good. (I hope that didn’t taunt her too much.)