Cheerleader for a month

Back in December, I decided to help out an online writing community by volunteering to be the January hashtag leader. Let me back up. Sometime last year I discovered the monthly writing challenge on Twitter; each day you try to write at least 500 words or edit for an hour, then enter your stats on a shared spreadsheet. The next day, whoever is the monthly hashtag leader will shout out the handles of anyone who completed the challenge. The recognition is highly motivating, and it’s a pretty awesome feeling if you make it through the whole month. I’ve only done it once. But I pop in now and then, post my word count on the hashtag, and chat with other writers. It is a wonderful, supportive community.

So when I saw an open space for January’s leader, I jumped at the chance to give back. Every morning for 31 days I checked the spreadsheet and did a shout out on Twitter. It was fun looking for new and interesting GIFs, and read/see other’s responses. And my phone ping-pinged ALL DAY, which made me feel incredibly popular. I interacted with other writers on the hashtag by liking their post and/or giving them words of encouragement (often in the form of a GIF – I used to hate those things but have grown to love them). I made a bunch of new virtual friends. On the last day we began comparing the weather in our respective corners of the world and brainstormed how we could get together for a celebration.

It’s the third day of February, and my phone is freakishly silent. The challenge continues every month, but there is another writer at the helm, doing daily shout outs and offering kindness. But I want to keep the feeling going. I want to be the person who makes others feel good. That’s never really been my M.O. I’m more of a pessimist than a cheerleader, but that life tends to be awfully lonely. Most days I’m okay with that. Leave me alone to my book/laptop/cup of tea/snuggly cat, and I’m perfectly content. Writing is a solitary thing, and my mind needs that space to work creatively. But we also need each other. We need people to cheer us on, to talk us off a ledge when we freak out about querying or edits, to keep us moving forward when we feel like our wheels are stuck in the mud.

I saw a post the other day about how difficult it is to “jump into” the various writing groups online. One of the responses compared it to looking for a place to sit in the cafeteria and being afraid to approach a table full of strangers. I get that. When I first got on Twitter I didn’t quite get it; it felt like I was peering over someone’s shoulder at their string of text messages. Eventually I stumbled upon the write club hashtag, and started to build my online community. We sprinted every Friday and it was during one of those sprints that I finished my first book. There are a ton of great writing hashtags to follow, and there really is no secret to belonging. You jump in, either with your own stuff or an encouraging phrase or GIF directed at someone else, and go from there.

It’s a heck of a lot easier than talking to strangers at a party. In my opinion anyway.

My Time at Camp

The night before my early July road trip, a bunch of writer friends were texting and tweeting about Camp NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November and the idea is to write a novel (50k words) in a month. Camp NaNoWriMo takes place in April and July and is more laid back and flexible. You set your own word count or project goal and “win” if you reach it. Writers can opt to join a virtual cabin, full of people who make witty camp related puns and encourage one another throughout the month.

Sounds great, right? And I didn’t want to be left behind. So as I was busy trying to finish packing for my trip, and more and more of my friends were jumping on the camp bus (see, the puns are endless!), I decided to sign up. I need serious motivation to finish my current round of revisions and figured it would help to have a little online encouragement. When it came time to set my goal, I thought that sixty hours over the course of the month (roughly two hours a day) would work. Totally doable.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

As hubs kindly pointed out: I forgot about life. There were a few days where I buckled down and did two to three hours in one sitting, heck I even had an awesome stretch of four hours, thanks to sprints with my cabin mates and the family being otherwise occupied. But on a daily basis, between work, soccer, and general mom/homeowner/adult duties, it is extremely difficult to carve out two hours a day. And yes, I realize that anything I say in the next few sentences will sound like an excuse, but unfortunately writing often takes a back seat to everything else in my life. Especially when I’m trying to revise something that I have read and re-read so many times it makes me dizzy.

My office floor contains multi-colored post-its lined up in rows, surrounded by an edited copy of my manuscript and piles of notes. Several days this month I walked into the room, plopped down on the ground, and simply stared at everything. At one point I asked the cat (who likes to nap on the post-its because of course she does) if she had any suggestions. She didn’t. Revision is not easy, and I may have been foolish to think an online camp would be enough motivation to face the difficult task ahead.

Don’t get me wrong. Camp was great. I had fun exchanging cute gifs on twitter and loved our “craft tent”. When I can carve the time to do it, writing sprints are one of my favorite online tools (write/revise for thirty minutes, then break for ten and report your progress) and a few of my cabin mates joined in, which made me very happy. But it wasn’t enough.


Sad, right? It’s the last day of camp and I’m barely at 25%. On the positive side, I revised for 14 hours this month. One of my cabin mates hit her goal of 50k. A few others are close to reaching their goals. August is a bit less busy – no soccer, but two real world camping trips – and I’m hoping to start querying this project in September. In fact, I’m declaring that as my new goal: Query ready by labor day. And I’d like to have the outline of my next project ready for NaNoWriMo in November. Because we all need to keep stretching and challenging ourselves in order to grow.

Good luck to anyone pushing to the finish line today, and have a safe trip back home, campers. See you next year!

Life’s little detours

writingHello old friends and new followers. Welcome to Caravan of Composition!

For nine years I chronicled stories about my boys, their birthday cakes, and the transition from teacher to counselor/writer. My oldest son is on the verge of puberty, and despite the fact that he told me last night he was perfectly okay with me telling the Internet all about his life, I decided it would be best to switch gears. Focus on the writing journey. Where I’ve been, where I’d like to go, and how I plan to get there. Help others on the path. Writing is a solitary activity, which is part of why I love it. I’m an introvert with social anxiety who occasionally makes a fool of herself in public. But there is an amazing community of writers out there, and I’ve learned a thing or two about networking in the past few years. It is possible.

The new blog, for example? It exists because of people I’ve met along the way.

Life never seems to go exactly as planned. It shuts down roads and forces you to find a new route. The children I love more than cilantro-jalapeno hummus came into my life in a completely different manner than I had expected. (Check out my old blog, The Family Van, if you want to know more.) My teaching career suffered multiple derailments which, while devastating at the time, ultimately allowed me to write more and worry less. And now I’m here. With grand plans of overcoming chronic procrastination and sharing my wit and wisdom with anyone who cares to join me on the next leg of the journey.