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That’s The Power Of A Story…

Friday night.  Doesn’t everyone love Friday night?  The end of the business week and the beginning of a short period of relaxation and do-whatever-you-want-ing.  As you know, this was a rough week for me.  I am glad that it’s over, and I am looking forward to a fun and peaceful weekend.  My daughter has a soccer game tomorrow.  We’re celebrating my father-in-law’s birthday on Sunday.  Monday is Columbus Day, adding another day to the weekend.  I’m just looking forward to some “down time” with the people I love.

I called the Assault Squad at the Kansas City Police Department again this morning.  The detective I spoke to said, “No one has been assigned your case, so I just assigned it to myself.”  We talked, and he was great.  What he said was a little different than what Officer Hamlett told me yesterday.  My detective told me that once he received the information report from the Overland Park Police Department, he would issue a summons and send it to her home.  A court date would be set “about a month out” (his words), and I could expect to see my summons in one to two months (!!!).  I wish I’d asked him about the differences in what he said and what Officer Hamlett said.  So much for my grandiose vision of her being arrested (and embarrassed!) at work in front of all her coworkers.  (I was actually hoping for a little dose of humility and shame, and hoped that maybe that would knock her down a few pegs.  Ah well.)  My detective told me that if she didn’t show up, they’d issue a bench warrant for her arrest.  He told me to call him back Monday because he was scheduled to be in court all day today and wouldn’t have a chance to get to my case.  To my surprise, he called me a few hours later and told me that he had received the report from Overland Park, and that he had issued her the summons (in the mail, I guess?)  My boss and husband and I were trying to figure out why she’d get her summons so quickly and I’d have to wait one to two months (so much for this being a quick process!) for mine.  We’re guessing (purely guessing…please correct us if we’re wrong) that she gets more time because she needs to hire an attorney and make the decision if she wants to go before the judge in the courtroom or plead it out.  So now, we wait.  I was scared senseless that I was going to bump in to her tonight at the bus stop.  Boss #1 is confident that she’ll keep her word and take the later buses.  Maybe having been held and questioned by the police (and, presumably, told that I was considering pressing charges) scared her enough to keep away.  I hope so, but really, that’s not good enough.  I want her behavior to change.  Oh well, one step at a time, I guess.  Again, many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you for being on Team Jen…for listening (er, reading) and cheering me on.  For saying that you’re proud of me.  (THAT feels so good.  Not even kidding.)  Bullies only thrive in a climate of shame and fear.  I wish I was truly as brave as you wonderful people give me credit for being.  But I will tell you this, your support makes it a lot easier to stand tall.  Thank you.

OK…so I am behind on sharing with you my love of Kevin S. Kaiser’s amazing e-book, “@Wrimo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers.”  I owe you two musings tonight about this inspirational little guide to keeping NaNoWriMo participants moving through the month of November.  Here’s the first:

“If you choose silence, no one will speak up for you because no one can.”

Wow.  Pretty prophetic in light of everything that happened this week, eh?  What I absolutely love about this little (but very meaningful) phrase is that it reaches inside my heart and pushes me forward whenever my worries about participating in NaNoWriMo seem heavy.  I can allow my doubts to keep me from trying something I desperately want to experience, or I can take that leap of faith and give it my all.  If I don’t, no one will do it for me.  No one can do it for me.  The story inside me is mine and mine alone.  The only way to make it our story is for me to share it with you.  And I can’t do that if I let fear hold me back and keep me from giving this the very best of me.

The second amazing piece of inspiration I wanted to share from Kevin’s book with you tonight is just absolutely beautiful.  It’s an absolute truth about life that, I imagine, people don’t stop and think about very often:

“We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

Think about it for a second.  Don’t we grow exponentially as people by interacting with others?  If we leave our hearts open to the experience, every interaction with another human being can make us in some shape or form smarter or stronger than we were before.  How sad it is to me that some people don’t see the world this way.  They hide their eyes from the sun and fail to see the richness we all have, and in so doing, prevent themselves from ever expanding in their thoughts or their ideas or their spirits.  Keep your eyes and your heart open, and the stories of others can illuminate and give new direction to your life.  They can help you to learn something.  To feel something.  To find something new.  To grow in a relationship.  To take a leap of faith.  That’s the power of a story.  My life takes a different…a better and a stronger shape because of your story.  What a beautiful gift we give one another.

More tomorrow.  Love to all of you.  Thank you again for sharing in my story.

X + Your Heart = My Heart

Hi everyone.  As I mentioned last night, I’m devoting one blog post each day of this week to sharing with you some of the inspirational and motivational ideas I’ve taken away from “@Wrimo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers.”  Although it’s designed to help participants in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November, this book is an amazing tool for any and all writers…new, new-ish, or seasoned.  There’s a little bitta something for everyone here.  If writing is a part of your heart, I can’t encourage you enough to invest $4 in your passion and to download this amazing e-book.

So, for tonight’s amazing piece of motivational inspiration…

“The shortest distance between human hearts is a story.”

What a beautiful, beautiful sentiment.  I’m beginning to understand this whole “heart of a writer” notion.  My story has been alive inside me since early last summer.  Different variations of the story at different times have been in my spirit, but nonetheless, they took root inside me.  I’ve wanted to share my story with as many people as possible.  To get it out.  To give it life.  When something illuminates you from within, it’s impossible NOT to want to share it with others.  I would imagine that writers, really good writers, give of their hearts and their spirits when they create and share characters and stories with us.  Their inspiration and hard work become a part of those who consume the fruits of their labor.  Think about it.  Don’t you have a book or a song or a movie…a story…that changed you?  Made a significant impact on your life?  Gave color to a situation you were experiencing or aligned with your life in a way that made you feel close to the writer?  That’s the distance between two human hearts.

NaNoWriMo asks that its participants write fictional novels.  I am cheating somewhat (shhhhh!) and writing a historical fiction work.  My story involves someone who was once alive.  Someone who took her own life many, many years ago.  I didn’t ever meet her, but when I first learned about her, I felt a…connection to her.  I can’t explain it.  It’s almost odd.  I feel a strong desire to give light to her life and to remind the world that she was once here.  Her story is a part of my heart now, and by sharing it with you, not only do I keep her alive, but I connect your heart to mine.  My story + your heart = my heart.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more inspirational awesomeness…

It’s Launch Day!

Today is the big day!  As I mentioned the other night, I volunteered for and was chosen to be on the launch team for an amazing new e-book called, “@Wrimo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers” by Kevin S. Kaiser.  This wonderful (and I do mean wonderful!) short book contains thirty inspirational snippets and motivational musings to keep writers moving throughout National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  NaNoWriMo is new to me this year, and I have so many concerns and worries about participating (see here if you need a refresher).  Those doubts are pervasive.  Loud.  Disheartening.  They have led me to say (on multiple occasions!) over these last several months that “I just can’t do it” or that “I’d do better to put this off until next year.”  I can say with absolute certainty that this book was a gift to me in so many ways.  It validated my love for writing and my desire to embark on this crazy quest.  It reminded me that I had the power inside me to actually pull this thing off.  More importantly than anything, however, it reminded me that the story inside me can only be told through my words.  My hard work.  My writing.  I owe it to myself to give my story a voice and to believe in myself as I embark upon this challenge.  And I owe it to the world (be it only one person or many!) to share this story in the hopes of entertaining and uplifting and educating others.  Thank you, Kevin, for trusting me with your book and for giving me this unique opportunity to share it with the rest of the world.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing quotes and parts of the book that are meaningful to me.  I hope that you’ll come back each day and share in these wonderful words of inspiration with me.  I also strongly, strongly encourage any of you who are considering NaNoWriMo to please order this book.  Trust me when I say that you will not be sorry.  Each of us comes to NaNoWriMo with different concerns.  This book addresses them all.  It’s available for only $4.00 for all e-reading devices, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors NaNoWriMo and other programs to inspire a love of writing in others.

NaNoWriMo? NoNoWriMo?

So, I’ve got this crazy idea…

For the last several weeks months, I’ve been talking about and giving serious thought to participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  NaNoWriMo is one of several programs sponsored by the Office of Letters and Light (OLL), a nonprofit organization whose entire aim is to inspire a love of writing in children and adults.  NaNoWriMo participants, called Wrimos, make a pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  Wrimos are encouraged to write chapter outlines and character profiles and to prepare early, but the actual rules of the game don’t allow for any actual novel writing until November.  I first learned about NaNoWriMo last year and I desperately wanted to do it, but I found out about it right before it started, and with no advanced prep or direction whatsoever, I let November slip by without participating.  This year, I am prepared.  I mean, I am prepared.  I have six (!!!) pages of chapter outlines, and countless other pages of random notes about my characters and the goings-on of their lives.  I’ve still got more prep work to do, but I am in really good shape to launch on November 1st.  I know I am a good writer, and I know I’ve got the support of the people around me (to include the spousal unit and kiddo, family, friends, and even my boss).  But yet, I am filled with doubts.  I worry about NaNoWriMo all the time, and I am afraid that I will let these worries hold me back from participating.  Here’s a taste of what’s going on in my mind…

“There is no possible way I can do this!”

There are 30 days in November.  Divide 50,000 words by 30 days and you get 1667, give or take.  That’s almost 1700 words per day that I’d need to write in order to make sure I remain on track to make my goal.  That’s a LOT of writing to do in one day!  I have a demanding job (more on that below), a two-hour daily commute, a marriage I don’t want to neglect for a month, and a tweenaged daughter whose school and extracurricular activities keep us constantly on the go-go-go.  Oh, and don’t forget that there’s a major holiday in November, too.  Someone’s gotta make that turkey, although I might be able to convince my mother-in-law to do that if I promise Christmas and all the trimmings at our house.  Even though I have the support of my amazing family, I don’t want to miss out on their lives during the month of November.  I simply just don’t know if I have the time to devote to this project sufficient to be a success.

“I won’t have the energy!”

I mentioned having a demanding job.  My official title is a Management Analyst, and I work for a subagency of the U.S. Department of Labor.  My real job is to handle anything and everything related to human resources for our 115 or so staff spread across four states.  I spend the entire month of October dedicated to performance appraisals for our entire staff.  First, I write and re-write and re-write the appraisal for our Regional Administrator (which is neither easy nor fun…nor is the review process from management), and then I spend the rest of the month reviewing and correcting and rejecting staff appraisals.  It sounds easy and it really is, but it’s a high stress time and there never seems to be enough time to get everything finalized, approved, and sent on to Chicago.  October 31st is always the big due date, and I worry each year that I won’t get everything done and that I’ll subsequently miss Halloween and its shenanigans with my family.  That has never happened, thank goodness, and with each year, I get better and better at this, so the likelihood is good that I’ll be better than fine this year.  This year, I even built in an extra day for a buffer, giving management an October 30th deadline and buying myself one extra day for all the last-second “Oops, please fix that for us Jen” problems that always arise.  I am always exhausted on November 1st, and I don’t know if I’ll have the zip to launch right in to a huge writing project with a lofty word goal and a quickly-approaching deadline.

“Perfectionism will be my downfall.”

The folks over at OLL are pretty clear.  They don’t want Wrimos to focus on perfection.  Rather, they want the focus to be on the journey of self-discovery NaNoWriMo participants go on when they embark on and undergo this challenge.  OLL will tell you not to worry about everything being perfect.  Just get the story out.  Um, yeah, no, that’s not me.  I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing.  I read and re-read and edit and fix and re-think and re-do.  Over and over.  And don’t get me started on format and page numbering and margins and nitpicky pieces of perfection.  It has to be “just so.”  I am afraid that I will focus more on making it all perfect and lose the inspiration for the project because I can’t be the perfect storyteller.  What if I can’t tell a perfectly rounded story?  What if I leave some critical detail out, or my characters look undeveloped and not-well-thought-out?  I said earlier this month that Aaron Sorkin, the amazing television writer, is the reason I can’t ever be a professional writer.  No one can write characters like that!  See what I mean?  I can’t be content to just be some fledgling writer finding her way and growing herself as an author!  I have to compare myself to one of television’s best screenwriters ever!

“The mojo!  What if I lose it?!”

As I stated above, I spent many hours this summer writing chapter outlines and plotting out the lives of the characters in my story.  In moments of pure inspiration and genius, the ideas flew out of me like crazy.  They came and came and the inspiration grew and grew and I was a journaling fool, making sure every awesome thought was recorded and excitedly linking ideas and paths for my characters to take.  What happens of all that mojo dries up come November?  What if the ideas stop coming?  I have this nightmarish vision of being halfway through and be-bopping along just fine and then WHAMMO, no ideas!  The well runneth dry!  No more awesome character arcs and exciting plots!  THEN what would I do?!?

“I don’t want to get sued!”

So this story I want to tell?  It’s not exactly a novel.  NaNoWriMo defines a novel as a “work of fiction,” but they do give a little wiggle room and allow Wrimos to write works of historical fiction.  That’s what my piece would (will?) be about.  Someone died many years ago.  When I was two years old.  In a state hundreds of miles away from where I lived.  There would never have ever been any opportunity for her and I to have known each other, and yet her story resonates inside me and I am dying to learn more about her and to research her life.  She is a huge, huge part of my story.  Given the fact that she died before I was born and I never had the opportunity to meet her, the facts in my story are highly fictionalized.  Everything I plan to write paints this woman in the highest of light and with the brightest of color, but I worry that her family may not take kindly to my fictionalizing her life and their lives and that they may sue me.  If I bill it as historical fiction, I can probably get away with it.  But….what if?  Please don’t ask me her name just yet.  You’ll know when (if?) I write the book, I promise.

“I don’t want to hurt her…or her family.”

This one’s the biggie.  This woman I want to write about?  She took her own life.  I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve spent agonizing over this.  Am I hurting her by doing this?  She took her own life.  She wanted to be at peace.  In writing anything about her, am I hurting her spirit?  Interrupting her peace?  Forcing her back in to a world she so desperately wanted to leave?  And what about her family?  Would doing this hurt them, too?  Even if I paint them in the most respectful of lights, which, please believe me, is my plan, would my words cause them pain by bringing up painful memories from so many years ago?  I would never, ever want to do anything to hurt these people…or the soul of this woman who so fascinates me and whose life ended so many years ago.  Sometimes, the enormity of it all gets to me and I think to myself, “I just cannot do this.”

So, doubts in mind and outlines in hand, I look up NaNoWriMo quite often online and scramble to find websites and writings of other authors, either experienced Wrimos or newbies like myself.  Last Friday, I stumbled upon something completely awesome.  Kevin Kaiser has written an e-book called, “@WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers.”  This book is billed as a support for Wrimos to keep them moving in the right direction, and to prevent burnout and throwing in the towel.  Apparently, only 14% of last year’s Wrimos actually made it to the finish line.  If I embark on this journey, I want to go all the way and see it all the way through to the end.  Which makes me the perfect person to read this book, eh?  So Kevin’s looking for 100 people to be on his “launch team” for this book…to read it stem-to-stern and to help him promote it.  Who better to be on this launch team than me?  Someone chock full of NaNoWriMo doubts and unclear if she’ll make it all the way?  I sent Kevin an EMAIL and volunteered to be on the launch team, and I hope he picks me!  Please keep your fingers crossed for me!

So that’s about it….I want to write but have doubts.  If you have ever done NaNoWriMo, I would love to talk to you.  If you know and love me and want to help me sort out my insanity and help me quell the (very loud!) voices of these doubts, I welcome your insight!  Thanks for reading, everyone!  Oh, and bug me as we get closer and closer to November.  “You ARE doing NaNoWriMo.  RIGHT, Jen?!?!?”  :)