It Begins Again

For weeks now I’ve muttered about the advertisements on television — you know, the ones that start promoting Christmas shopping before Halloween arrives, and the ones that display brightly decorated homes before our friends in the USA get to celebrate their Thanksgiving. But suddenly Christmas is less than a month away!


This is the weekend we’ll unpack our nativity scene and direct our thoughts to the new church year that’s just beginning. (Advent is the first season, so this Sunday it will all begin again — Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.)

It’s also the weekend when our family’s Christmas traditions begin to emerge. Besides our Nativity, a miniature ceramic village will be unpacked. It’s a nod to my childlike nostalgia… a fascination with tiny figures in an old-fashioned snowy ‘Currier & Ives’ kind of setting. An evergreen tree will be next, followed during the week by an assortment of decorations accumulated from many different sources.

A friend posted on Facebook this evening that it was snowing at her home on Vancouver Island, and I was instantly envious. I know envy is a sin, but what can I say? Nothing quite beats a bit of drifting snow when it comes to putting me in a let’s-start-getting-ready-for-Christmas mood. A half hour ago I happened to turn on the back deck light (checking for the bear, of course!) and whoa!!! there’s snow here, too — an inch, and it’s coming down steadily!

So I’m all set… ready to begin again this weekend. My NaNoWriMo efforts have run down. (I accumulated 14,000 words… a far cry from the goal of 50,000 but still more than I would have had without the month-long focus.) (UPDATE: Looks like I’m finishing up the month with 19,707 words.) I’ll continue my daily writing, but there will be other priorities during December.

After all, it’s beginning again… “the most wonderful time of the year!”

I’d love it if you would share how your Christmas preparations begin. :)


The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

[John 1:1-5, MSG]

~  ~  ~


Fall Snapshots: Wind Whispers

From the time of my childhood, wind and waves have always invigorated me. Put me on a shore somewhere and let me listen to the pounding surf and lift my face to the onshore wind and I come away totally refreshed.

At home the wind isn’t often strong enough to hear. Occasional breezes will flutter the branches in relative silence. Prior to the current cold snap, however, the weather reports included wind warnings, and we had several days of blustery, gusting wind that made our trees sing.

“At home,
I love reaching out into that absolute silence,
when you can hear the owl or the wind.”

Amanda Harlech
Most days I prefer to write in silence, but if I think a little background music will help, I have a small assortment of CDs from which I select. Many are Dan Gibson‘s Solitudes albums… gentle, relaxing music accompanied by sounds from nature — wind, waves, birds. If you need something energizing, they wouldn’t be a good choice, but when I need distracting from the bustle of everyday, they are perfect.
I’m always amazed by writers who do their writing in crowded coffee shops. I’m told the background becomes white noise, but I would just get sidetracked by it and start people-watching.
But the wind is something else. Its whisperings empty my consciousness, leaving my mind ready to be occupied by the lives of my characters. I love the wind — at least, I do until it uproots trees that tumble across hydro lines and leave my computer powerless! So far this fall we’ve been spared that inconvenience. Long may it last. I have writing to do.
I know I’ve asked the question before, but what’s your preferred accompaniment when writing? Silence, special music, perhaps scented candles or potpourri, or…? 
~  ~  ~

Fall Snapshots: Looking for the good stuff

They always seem to arrive before I expect them. When the Northern Flicker made his first autumn appearance here I didn’t have my camera handy. I made a dash for it, but I needn’t have hurried. He hopped onto the railing and waited impatiently.


He peered up at where he’d last seen the suet and bird feeders seven months ago. How does one explain to a bird that it’s too early in the season to hang his food out… that the bears are still roaming around looking for tasty treats?

His presence was a great photo opp for me, but he soon had me feeling guilty as he moved in closer to scrutinize the usual corner where the suet hook sat empty, just under the eaves.


His buddy, a male Varied Thrush, arrived on the deck at the same time and stomped around, also peeved at his missing repast. He’s a ground feeder like the Flicker, but during past winters they’d grown accustomed to an occasional domestic supplement. Now they were here looking for a handout of the good stuff once again.


I finally took pity on both of them and threw a few handfuls of seed on the deck while hubby hung a container of suet. If the bear arrives to chow down, too, I’m going to be frustrated, but there was only so long I could handle the guilt trip these two were dumping on me.

As I watched them enjoying the goodies, I was reminded that I will soon have to do some persistent searching of my own. As I bash out the words of a first draft during this NaNoWriMo writing marathon, I recognize that the underlying story is present, but it’s minus a lot of the good stuff… the rich descriptions, insights into my characters’ motivation, and sensory details, to name some. There is an abundance of weak verbs and supporting adverbs to cull, too, along with a lot of my typical mental meandering.

Once November 30th becomes history it will be time for me to start revising. I’ll have to dig in and search out nuggets to salvage among the drivel. In the meantime, I’m dumping words on the page, a few hundred at a time, and squelching the internal critic that tries to convince me my daily average isn’t half what it should be and I’m pursuing an impossible goal.

Total words to November 13th = 7,786

Are you writing? Are you counting words and making measurable progress, or does that matter to you? Are you focused on finishing a project and gleaning the good stuff later?

~  ~  ~

Fall Snapshots: Decline or Dormancy?

As the days of autumn slip and slither along a rainy path, my hope for vivid fall colours continues to wane. There is undeniable beauty in the woods and gardens but it doesn’t leap out and capture my attention as it did last year. The Vine Maples are a good example. The photo in my blog header was taken last fall. The one below is the same shrub, but photographed today.

Vine Maple 2014

We have a number of Hydrangeas around the property. One is a Climbing Hydrangea that clambers up and over the arbour that leads to our marsh trail. In the late spring and summer it sports large white ‘lacecap’ blossoms. Once the blossoms are done, it’s just a nice green cover for the trellis… until fall.


In the fall it turns a bright yellow. Today, although the leaves are dropping, it’s still a vivid gold that, even in the rain, adds a sunny glow amid the evergreens in that corner of the yard.


We have other Hydrangeas in the gardens, too… the bush type with ‘mophead’ blooms. Most are pink, but as the season transitions, so does their colour. The individual petals are curling and they’ll be brown by winter, I’ll leave them in place. The birds seem to enjoy them.



Fall Blossoms

Just as I mentioned on Monday, it would be easy to moan about what was instead of celebrating what is. In the garden, however, the steady deterioration has a purpose. It’s part of the cycle of life — going to seed, resting, waiting for the new season of re-energizing and production.

Today’s blog post was delayed because I spent time at a NaNoWriMo write-in. Some of the other participants were comparing their word counts and feeling embarrassed that they were so low. But everyone admitted to having written something, and I was able to remind them that those words were more than they’d had when they arrived. Those words were motivation for what could come next. Tomorrow will be a fresh start… a time to move on and begin building again on what was achieved in the past.

Sometimes we celebrate the present achievement; sometimes it’s necessary to resign ourselves to some dormancy. Use the time to look ahead and maybe plan the next landscape. There are NaNo-ing days when I wonder why I’m bothering to participate in this literary marathon if my output isn’t going to be more significant. Then I remember that these waning times, even dormant times, are often necessary for future creativity. There is a cyclic nature to all of life… even to our writing. Tomorrow will be a better day!

How’s your writing going this week… or whatever other project you might have ‘on the go’? 

~  ~  ~

Fall Snapshots: Changes

The meteorologist revealed the delightful news yesterday that our October had twenty-two days of rain. Not steady rain, of course, but days that received a measurable amount, along with warmer than average temperatures. Maybe that’s why the usual autumn colour hasn’t materialized around here. Usually by now the garden has shots of scarlet, orange and gold, but this year the changes are more subtle. It would be easy to overlook the beauty.

Fall Travel

(Consider clicking on the photos if you’d like a closer look.)

Fall leaves

My two day NaNoWriMo word total is 2,852… a couple pages short of the desired daily average. Some years I start out gung ho the first few days and rack up great numbers. Not so this year. I’m like the tortoise, slow and plodding. It would be easy to overlook the accomplishment and bemoan those 2,852 words instead of celebrate them.

It’s time to jump up and down, wave my arms and shout, “Yay!!! 2,852 great new words!” Then again, I don’t know how great they are. NaNoWriMo words tend to need a lot of later revision, but at least they’re new words. I’m smiling.

What accomplishment, large or small, makes you smile today?

~  ~  ~

The countdown has started

When there is only one day left, one last opportunity to finalize details and get myself ready for a major event, I usually panic! I can be heard muttering, “I don’t want to do this! Why did I ever say I would?”



I think there’s a quotation somewhere about a character riding off in several directions at once. It’s impossible, you say? Well, let me tell you about fragmenting. When enough pressure builds up, you can expect the container to explode, forcing its fragments to be flung in multiple directions. That is SO what I feel like.

This is NaNoWriMo Eve! Ackkk!

I mentioned NaNoWriMo in last Friday’s post. I presented my lecture at the library that evening and made mention of how this final week should be used for preparations. Did I follow my own advice? Of course not! And now, when Halloween shenanigans wind down at midnight tonight and NaNoWriMo gets underway, I’ll be scrambling. ::sigh:: This is my eighth year; how is it that I end up doing this every time?

Remind me next October that panic attacks aren’t pleasant and I should try to avoid them at all costs.

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you prepared and ready to dive in? (If the second answer is ‘yes’, I don’t want to hear it!)

(I’m NaNoWriMo’s Wildwood Gal,
the one with the glazed expression.

~  ~  ~

It’s (almost) that time of year again: NaNoWriMo

If you listen carefully you may be able to hear the distant chant starting: “NaNoWriMo! NaNoWriMo! NANOWRIMO!!!” Yes, word-loving folks are beginning to get fired up about the annual month-long, international writing marathon that is known as National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November, and it arrives on the heels of Halloween … eek! …  just one week from tonight.

The idea is to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th.

I know, I know, it’s insane. The quality of the writing is secondary to the quantity, and that very concept turns off people who consider giving anything but their best is a waste of time. Why write garbage? Why not slow down and make the effort count for something? Truth is, those who want to write a novel but over-think the details, often bog down before they ever get to ‘The End’.

A well-known line in writing circles is, “You can always revise a first draft, but you can’t revise a blank page.” I suggest adopting Nike’s motto: “Just do it!” Devoting November to NaNoWriMo gives us an opportunity to toss ideas out onto a page, and chase them along in front of us until a story is fully formed. Some multi-published authors use NaNoWriMo for this purpose, so who am I to suggest it’s not a valid novel-writing process?

FVRL PosterIn the spirit of encouraging those who have often thought they might like to write a novel but thought they didn’t have a lot of time to devote to the project, I’m presenting a lecture tonight, sponsored by the Maple Ridge Public Library. It’s called “How to Write a Novel in a Month”, and it’s an introduction to NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I’m an introvert and everyone knows I hate public speaking. Yes, I’m already having palpitations and wondering why I agreed to do this. It’s also going to help me kick start my own writing. Very public commitments have a way of motivating me forward — a little like getting a boot in the backside.

If you’re interested in joining me (either at the Library tonight, or in doing NaNoWriMo yourself), or if you have any questions that could use some answers, give me a shout in the comments below.

Oh, and on the NaNoWriMo website you’ll find me writing as Wildwood Gal. Come look me up and offer some sympathy.