NaNoWriMo Winner!

nano-2015-winner-banner

I did it. I wrote 50,000 words in a month. It helps that I call my first drafts “word vomit” and pretty much just vomit all over the page, which lends for quick drafts of questionable quality. It’s how I plot as a pantser, I need to get it all out first and then tweak.

NaNoWriMo—the pledge to write 50,000 words in a month—brought this word vomit to a whole new level. I felt pressure to win, because I knew I could.

Last week I blogged about struggling with my original story idea before finally abandoning it. Under any other circumstances, I would have dropped my original story and switched to an editing project. But I had pledged and I needed to win! It turned into an obsession for me. I’d already won camp, but November was more official and I wanted that winning boast on my shelf.

So I kept going. I pushed myself as far as I could in draft one, before switching to a different draft and pushing that. All the while my personal life got a little crazy and completely distracted me from the words.

Again, under any other circumstances, I would have turned to reading and movie watching. But I needed that win! So onward I pushed.

The new draft made the goal easier to achieve. Even at the end, when I needed more research to really get the novel churning, I could still find a way to write a few more paragraphs.

What have I learned in this process?

  • I’m a bit obsessive with deadlines. That’s good and that’s bad.
  • It’s easier when you have some heart in the project. I know I’ve read others state that you have to keep going. I disagree. If it’s hard but you can still connect to the work: yes, absolutely keep going. But it’s also okay to acknowledge the project no longer meshed the way it needed to.
  • Don’t edit as you go, unless you are adding words. No reason to shoot yourself in the foot, your internal editor will catch the same silly issues the second time around. And if you fear it won’t, there is always the comment feature.
  • There is something quite satisfying about seeing the chart rising, and staying, above the goal line. For me. Others simply enjoy seeing it rise. Regardless, it’s another way to pat oneself on the back for a job well done.
  • One word or a thousand words: it’s progress. And sometimes when the pressure is on, those single words prove you are still in the game, fighting to win.
  • At the end of the month, it’s okay to put the story down and let it breathe. Under normal circumstances, I like to get to the ending before I stop. But as I mentioned above, life is a little crazy right now, and I need my time spent elsewhere.
  • And a completely random one: when downloading a motivational meme, the screensaver program will display it first every time, to ensure the guilt is pressed high:

500 words

Will I do NaNo again? Possibly. November is a challenge for me in general. If I end up with another year where I know I have the time, and I’m in-between projects, you bet I’ll be here trying to win again. And maybe now that I’ve won, I’ll let myself fall behind if life gets in the way.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m in it to win. If I sign up next year, I’m going the distance!

Walking Away From an Unfinished Novel

Sometimes, it’s okay to walk away from a novel. This has taken me some time to learn. I have a history of starting things I never finished, the most memorable is a blanket that sat in a box for over a decade.

When I first started writing, I was petrified the same thing would happen. I didn’t want my dream to end in a half finished first draft. I put my all into it. And I finished it. In fact, I finished just about everything that got a good, healthy start, with a few ten page ideas floating around. As a pantser, ten pages is essentially my idea board.

Earlier this year I attempted to plot my very first novel. I made it to the halfway point and the chemistry between my characters—and me—fizzled. I could no longer push forward. I tried, but in the end I guessed the plotting ruined the wonder of the “what will happen?”

In hindsight, I can find several different theories, so I may attempt plotting again one day.

After this fail, I was scared to try again. But I let a new story speak to me, and I made it all the way to the finish line! Yay! Relief!

For those in the know, currently we are in NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) where writers pledge to write 50,000 words in a month. Novembers are notoriously difficult for me, but this one appeared to be a little tamer than years past, and I was in-between projects, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Now, I know I can complete a novel in about 4-6 weeks, that’s my usual drafting phase. So I knew I could win NaNoWriMo. I came up with my idea and got started.

Life got in the way, as life does. I continued pushing forward, but each word was painful. I tried to tell myself it was okay not to “win.” But, dammit, I wanted to win!

I got to 30k, and things started to click into place. I got some ideas brewing for my characters. Yes! The magic was starting! I finished a scene and: brick wall. Now, I don’t mean writer’s block. I mean the story wasn’t flowing for me. I had a clear idea where the story needed to head, but no desire to get there.

What good was I doing to myself by forcing out a story I no longer wanted to write? I gave myself a break and decided to pick up another story idea.

Right from the start: magic. I fell in love with the concept, in love with the characters. I felt like I had arrived home. And suddenly my word count goal for the day wasn’t a struggle anymore.

I realized the original story I attempted was very different for me and what I usually write. It wasn’t comfortable and—at least for now—wasn’t the right focus of my attention. And that’s okay. Seriously. I have an idea half written for future me to look into again. Or maybe I’m just learning where my niche is and what will and will not work for me.

Writers are always learning, always discovering new things about themselves and their crafts. I’ve learned it’s okay to put down an unfinished draft. It’s okay to walk away from a project. I didn’t have to give up on NaNoWriMo. I just had to find the right novel to help me finish the month.

Let’s Talk About Hearing Loss

I write a lot about hearing loss on my blog, in many cases speaking from an established position. Meaning I’ve had a hearing loss all my life. I’ve connected with others with a hearing loss. I’ve taken classes and been able to shift my identity to match my ears.

Others are not this way. I didn’t start out this way.

So let’s boil it back to basics, shall we? I started off with the label “hearing impaired.” I used this label for nearly two decades. I never felt impaired. I never felt handicapped. I felt different. My hearing loss only accentuated those awkward teenage years. I didn’t have peers that were like me, but I did have some peers who accepted me.

Like and accept are two different things. Spend any time in diversity discussions and you’ll learn this quickly.

I’m told that as a young child I refused to meet with another little girl with hearing loss and hearing aids. I never hid my ears but I did get teased and picked on for them. Granted, I’m the type of person who would have gotten teased and picked on regardless, so we can call that a gray area.

As a freshman in high school, I wrote myself a letter. In this letter I asked my future self if there were any advances in hearing loss and went on about how wonderful it would be not to have a hearing loss anymore.

By the time I read this letter, I was in college, learning ASL, and had adopted the label “hard of hearing.” I didn’t recognize the words as my own. I was completely knocked off my chair. I hadn’t seen myself change, hadn’t remembered I used to feel that way. The transition into being comfortable with my ears happened quickly and naturally. Yet I am grateful for that letter and for the chance to acknowledge the change I went through.

In college I met others with hearing loss. I took an ASL class with another student who is hard of hearing. We’re still friends and I had a conversation with her before typing this. I also spent my first college party sitting in the corner talking with someone who was hard of hearing. I will never forget this experience, even if I have lost touch with this friend. It was the first time I could talk to someone who understood what it was like to have a hearing loss, to wear hearing aids. There was a connection there and will always be a connection there that others simply cannot have.

Respect and acceptance are important. But they do not come with shared experiences.

I went on to work with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (capitalized to denote cultural). My wedding party consisted of a Late Deafened and Deaf attendants. Women I would not have known without my ears and my journey.

I’m glad I’m no longer uncomfortable with my ears. Because of my journey, because of who I am, I am an open book as far as my ears are concerned. I’ll talk about anything and have done presentations on hearing loss, oftentimes removing my own hearing aids for demonstration. It’s one of the things I miss about my former job.

I write about hearing loss to educate, to share these parts of myself. I write about hearing loss to reach out to others who may not have had a chance to interact with peers. I write about hearing loss because it’s my identity.

Use the comments section below to ask questions, to interact. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so there, click on the contact tab to reach out to me. Time permitting, I’m happy to talk about hearing loss from a peer’s point of view.

First Draft Love-Hate Relationship

Most days, I love a first draft. The blank page stretched before me, waiting for words to brighten the page. Full of vast potential, and a ridiculous thrill to see which direction the story heads.

Of course, that blank page narrows down to the blinking cursor, a brick wall standing in the way of one sentence and the next. Writers spend many, many, many moments staring at that blinking brick wall.

As a pantser, someone who writes from the hip and doesn’t plan out a plot, there is nothing like the thrill of writing the unknown. As a pantser there is nothing like having no clue where the friggin story is supposed to go. I’ve found I live in both these planes at the same time.

I love being in the middle of a story and having to figure out the plot. At the same time I hate it. I want to know where it is going and hate that stall. Yet, when I finish, I always look back at that unknown phase with fondness.

It’s where the creativity flows. The story shifts in different directions and I can play with the characters in different scenarios. There’s nothing quite like that creative liberty, except when one is trying desperately figure out which path of fifty to choose!

There are times when I want to read my unfinished story, because I’ve got no clue and need my former self to have already written it. But each time I think that, I miss out on the spark of creating those words, that path, that journey.

I often switch to first drafts to cleanse the palate when editing bogs me down. In editing each sentence, heck, each word, is scrutinized. The strive for perfection exists and bears down on each page. A first draft has none of that. It’s a full on excuse to write crap. To leave notes in the manuscript (describe later), to overload adverbs and clichés. It’s all about getting the foundation on, editing is for sanding down the bumpy walls.

Nothing beats the freshness of a first draft. Free of any problematic areas or issues. It’s gold in its newborn stage. The beating comes later, as the writer has to edit out said problem areas.

So here’s to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this month, myself included. Embrace your first draft. May this month be filled more with the love of the first draft, rather than the hate.

Adjusting to New Hearing Aids: Part III

Click here for Part I and Part II

About a week after getting my new hearing aids I scheduled my first checkup. The blocked sensation in my left aid had increased, to the point where I struggled to hear a customer at work.

I made my mental list of changes, and realized I had only three: the blocked sensation, the tinny sound, and the feedback (whistling) from using the phone. When I met with my audiologist I explained all of these. My right ear remained happy, the left picky.

My audiologist hooked me back up to her computer system and we answered a series of questions to adjust the blocked sensation. We called it a muffling, which I’m still not 100% sure it was, however it fixed the problem. She adjusted a level, clicking it up three notches. Immediately I noticed a change. Sounds were crisp, but there was now a stronger background noise. I had the level dropped down one.

The tinny sound was settled by fixing the cap on how much sound my hearing aids allow.

The feedback we didn’t go into the system for. I was given a little foam cut out to place over the phone, thereby keeping my hearing aid away from the phone and reducing the feedback. I was hesitant, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

When I got to my car the blocked sensation returned. It comes and goes but is better than before. And I think I figured it out: my hearing aids are designed to communicate. My hearing aids decide whether I’m listening with my right or my left ear. It’s made to reduce unwanted sounds and help simulate a more natural listening experience. Great in theory. In reality? A device doesn’t know what my needs are.

My theory is this: I’m getting the blocked feeling when my hearing aids decide to quiet my left ear and listen with my right. I have no idea if I am right or wrong. This is a theory. And as the days go by, I’m thinking of the blocked sensation less and less. So either I’m finally getting used to my new hearing aids, or the adjustment took a little bit of time. (Or my hearing aids are reading my mind and altering accordingly.)

The feedback while on the phone? That’s not getting better. The foam device does help some, but I still have to hold the phone away from my ear. All phones. It’s not comfortable talking on any and I’m not about to get foam for every phone I need. So that’s still on my list.

I had my first battery change with my left ear, one week after I got my new hearing aids. Normal range for battery changes are one to two weeks. My old left hearing aid was running about a week, because it was old. I’m surprised this one needed to be changed so quickly. Typically, my right aid should go through more batteries, because it’s a stronger aid. That’s not the case. I’m getting about a week and half with my right. I plan to bring this up with my audiologist, just to verify it’s normal, rather than let any potential problems grow into bigger ones.

In the meanwhile, I’m continuing as I am. I’ll wait another week or so to schedule a checkup, especially as I know my audiologist is on vacation. Overall at this point I am happy with my aids.

Another person may take longer or shorter to adjust. Each experience is not the same, and should not be an exact copy of mine. I hope those reading are willing to give their hearing aids a chance. It takes time, and patience, and some back and forth. It won’t be perfect but it can help.

I’ve got at least one more trip until I get the tweaking stage settled. And if that doesn’t handle all my concerns I’ll schedule another visit. Adjusting to new hearing aids is a process. Without going through this process the maximum benefit of the aids cannot be achieved.