I Quit; Here’s Why

As of November 6th, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

I signed up because it’s tradition – as much a part of my Novembers as going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.

I signed up because I always think back to my first NaNo in 2010. The rush of the race. The camaraderie on the forums. The blessing of making my Avalon outlaws’ acquaintance.

I signed up because I said I would. I said it because I felt I had to. Felt like I needed someone’s permission not to participate, or a Valid Reason™ not to.

Well, I’m giving myself permission, and declaring my reasons’ validity.

nanowrimo_2016_quitting

I quit because this year, my heart doesn’t have the energy to throw its whole self into a project of any ambition.

I quit because over the first less-than-a-week of this year’s NaNo, I started stories that I quickly became too scared to continue, because how could I give them the tender attention they needed in the scant hours between the new day job and bedtime?

I quit because the NaNo numbers game is not playing well with my depression, and does not suit my process right now.

I quit because I’d rather let myself fall in love with a few hundred words every day – or every two days, or a few days here and there with a rest in between – than miserably churn out thousands of words I don’t have the wherewithal to care about.

I quit because, if I can’t relax into writing, then for the sake of my mental, emotional, and physical health, I really need to let myself find that rejuvenating downtime somewhere else.

I quit this arbitrary writing deadline so that instead I can read and color, play music and play with my nephew, take walks through autumn’s glory, and maybe sometimes just do nothing – all without a self-imposed burden of guilt.

I quit because, contrary to my anxiety’s belief, I don’t actually have anything to prove by forcing myself on.

I quit because I already know I have the discipline to make myself finish NaNo. Now it’s time to exercise one of my weaker strengths: The strength to say “no” and walk away.

I quit because, just as you can come out of a NaNo a winner even without hitting 50K, there are ways to lose even if you do.

So auf Wiedersehen, NaNoWriMo. Maybe next year. Peace out.

(Emphasis, I hope, on peace.)

“Ceramics” or “College Meets My Happy Place”

NaNoWriMo 2013 marked the first time I’ve written a brand new novel since… *checks records* …oh, gross, has it really been that long?? Since NaNo 2012, for pity’s sake!

Sure, there’s been no dearth of wordsmithing in the year in between. Blog posts, short stories, even the completion of a novel that, in one sense, I’ve been working on since I was a preteen. Not to mention, of course, hours spent revising Wilderhark Tales, “A Morrow More”, and “Inspired” in prep for publication. And that kind of thing’s all very well and important – even enjoyable, often enough. But for me, nothing compares to getting lost in the first-drafting of a full-length story.

Actually, that’s not true. I did come up with a comparison for it. Hence this blog piece.

Back in my college days, I took a variety of classes in the pursuit of my little degree in general arts. Some were stressful (psychology, sociology, microeconomics…). Some were tedious (English composition, mythology and fairytales, music theory…). Some were refreshingly fun-ish (oceanography, logic, quantitative literacy… Doggone it, how in the world did these left-brained courses out-fun English, mythology and fairytales, and music?? I guess once you take a thing I love and place it in the context of classroom lectures, homework, and midterms, it sucks out all the joy. My phenomenal grades notwithstanding, I’m really not cut out for academia). But the one class I looked forward to like I never did any other was my introduction to “the art or process of making articles (as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature)”.

Why did I love my ceramics class? Because it was all about getting into the creative zone. About rolling the soft clay into coils, or flattening it into sheets, or throwing it on the wheel, and fashioning it with fingers and sponges and little metal tools toward the forms I envisioned.

Within the parameters of any given assignment, I could make anything at all. Cups crafted to resemble the Chimera faced by Bellerophon, or the cherubim described in the book of Ezekiel. A sculpture meant to evoke the dark brokenness of a fallen angel. Even a vase in the shape of a book.

Seriously. It’s like I saw this NaNo analogy coming.
Seriously. It’s like I saw this NaNo analogy coming.

Apart from the teacher’s occasional instruction – the NaNo pep talks of this metaphor, if you will – there was proportionately little I needed to devote brainpower to apart from simply putting the time, the trial and error, and the heart into the work I created, every piece like a chapter in the greater story of the semester.

As in a National Novel Writing Month, there were some participants who fell short of the goal. (It’s college. Not everybody shows up to do the work.) As in NaNo, there were some days where a scene just didn’t seem to want to come out right – and by “a scene”, I mean the first several cups I tried to make on the pottery wheel, so much more challenging for me than, say, casting a plate on a mold. As in NaNo this year, there was a lot of ugly coughing – rampant clay dust the culprit, then, as opposed to my recent, inconveniently-timed chest cold. And in the end, I got to look back over all the art I’d produced, and be heck-a proud, and start missing the creative process pretty much the minute it was all over.

A shame there’s not a free NaCeramMaMo (National Ceramics Making Month) I can turn to each year. It’s been too darn long since my hands (and apron, and face, and lungs) have been covered in clay. But at least now I can say it’s not been too long since I last dove into a new novel. What say I don’t wait a whole year until the next one, okay, Self?

“Artist” or “Introducing Wilderhark’s Shapes-and-Colorsmith”

Those of you who have received Seven Swans a-Winning prizes from me (which I think is all or most of those who should have, right? I’ve seen some happy photos via Facebook and Twitter ^-^) may have noticed the gorgeous set of bookmarks that came with your goodies. Certainly, you’ve all seen the beautiful cover of “The Swan Prince (Book One of The Wilderhark Tales”, right?

Well, the same talented “one who practices an art; especially, one who creates objects of beauty” is behind all of the above. I came across her lovely gallery on DeviantArt (feast your eyes!), messaged her a pitch about creating my “Wilderhark Tales” art, crossed my fingers and mumbled prayers. Receiving her “yes” was almost as exciting as a contract offer from a publisher (which, thanks to J. Taylor Publishing, is a feeling I’ve come to know). Gazing at the work she’s done for me never fails to put a smile in my heart. And today, I am sooooo happy to present to you… an interview with Yana Naumova!

Yana ID

Me: Introduce yourself to the readers, if you please!

Yana: Hello! My name is Yana Naumova, I’m 25, and I live in the beautiful city of Samara in Russia.

Me: When did you decide you wanted to create art professionally, and how did you get started?

Yana: I was very fond of painting since childhood, and I devoted all my free time to this occupation. I’ve always had a lot of albums and notebooks completely filled with various drawings. I imagined drawing whole books with fantastic stories that consist only of pictures. My parents always encouraged my interest in creativity; they often drew and sculpted with me in the evenings. My father told me various stories about the artists and about the time he went to art school. I think it had a great influence on who I am now.

At the age of ten, my parents sent me to a children’s art school. There I learned the basics of drawing and got an idea what I would be faced with if I chose the artist’s profession. I caught a good teacher who encouraged pupils to experiment. At 16, I entered the Pedagogical University to the fine arts. Getting an art education has become for me a solid foundation in my artistic development, and prepared me to move on to independence.

Me: What is your creative process like?

Yana: My creative process from the external point of view is quite simple – I just sit and draw something, sometimes at my working place, sometimes on my bed. From inside it resembles dreams – I’m trying to grasp suitable forms and lines, to determine the color, to convey feelings and mood, as if you create or unravel the mystery of a series of characters/symbols.

Me: What are your favorite subjects to paint/draw, and why?

Yana: I love to experiment with methods and techniques of drawing, but most of all I like to paint landscapes and fairy scenes; I like to create illustrations for the stories. This process fascinates me!

Me: How would you describe your style?

Yana: This is a hard question. I can only identify the main lines of my work, which were formed under the influence of Art Nouveau and symbolism.

Doctor Villem Deere, Sula, and Sigmund, in a triptych of bookmark glory.
Doctor Villem Deere, Sula, and Sigmund, in a triptych of bookmark glory.

Me: ( It was her work’s Art Nouveau-esque qualities that first caught my eye. It’s just what I wanted for depicting Wilderhark!) What has it been like collaborating with me on the “Wilderhark Tales” project? (*sweats bullets awaiting my performance review*)

Yana: Taking part in this project was fun and easy for me. I was really inspired by the characters and story, and we’ve got comfortable and fascinating discussion of the characters. You have created the most favorable conditions for my creative work, and your comments and remarks were very appropriate.

Me: (Hooray! I’m so pleased to hear it. ^-^) Which of the “Swan Prince” characters did you most enjoy bringing to visual life?

Yana: I can’t choose, I think that I loved to draw them all 🙂 I liked to draw Doctor Deere’s face, trying to express his thoughtfulness and calmness. It was fun to work with ‘plumpness’ of characters; at first I somewhat succumbed to the stereotype that all fantasy characters should be skinny and starving 😉 It was quite refreshing to look at corrected/finished picture of Sula.

(MeSula may or may not take that as a compliment. XD But I certainly do!)

Y: One more thing – some days after I drew Sigmund, I entered your gallery and was amused that one of his pictures resembled my work a lot (his pose and appearance). I’m sure that I didn’t see this work before.

Me: (I was tickled by the similarities, too! Click here to compare for yourselfif you like, readers. It’s such a joy to have my characters’ selves shine through in the work of another artist – especially an artist with so much more skill than I’ve got!)

Thank you so much for agreeing to let my readers meet you, Yana! (Double brownie points for answering all my nosy questions in a secondary language; her mad skillz trump mine again, folks!) And while I’ve already thanked you a hundred times for your Wilderhark drawings, prepare to be thanked a hundred times more, from me and my outstandingly-rendered characters, too! After all, we’ve still got five more novellas to go… (: