The Wrimos Journey

This post was originally an email Pep Talk sent out to the Philadelphia region of the NaNoWriMo website, as part of our regions weekly Pep Talk initiative. As you may or may not know, I’m one of the Municipal Liaisons for Philadelphia, and part of that job involves encouraging Wrimos. This is how I did it today.

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Happy Day Five, Wrimos! ML Elayna here with your weekly Pep Talk!

By now you’ve likely begun your journey into the wild world of NaNoLand, and hopefully, things are going well! But the truth of NaNoWriMo is that they may not be yet, and I’m here to tell you, that’s okay.

What I’ve learned more so than anything in my 11 years as a Wrimo (Yes, I’ve been at it for that long!) is that every year is an entirely new experience, with so many factors beyond just the story that can end up defining how your November will play out. You may live in a new house, or be working at a new job. You might be starting a new degree in school that takes up all your time, or maybe you’ve graduated and now find yourself with more free time than before! Perhaps your story is something you’ve been plotting for years, or is something you just settled on before reading this email.

Life changes and rotates around us, but there are certain things about NaNoWriMo that always remain the same, and I for one take comfort in that.

There is always a rush that comes with finishing a scene you’ve struggled through. There’s always someone ready in the forums to give you a virtual high five for reaching your goals! Though the best is probably when you tell a friend you’re writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days and they look at you like:

These things are constants. But the most important one of all of these is one that applies whether you find yourselves at the 50K finish line or not on the 30th.

You wrote something.

If I had a dollar for every person I’ve met in life who says, I’m gonna write a book one day!  I could probably completely fund NaNo for a few years. People always say they’re going to write a book. But by being here, reading this email and participating in any capacity, you are being the doer. You are writing a book.

Let this fact be your guide. Know that whether you are a first time WriMo or a NaNoLifer like myself, you’re doing the thing you set out to do, and that makes you the hero of your story. The challenges you may face as you go through this month – work, school, family obligations, general disinterest, new episodes of Doctor Who you want to watch – are not something that any amount of pep talking can make go away. But you, brave WriMo, can fight it. You can sit down each day, write a single sentence, and you will have done what others say is impossible.

You have the power within you to postpone that Netflix binge for just one more hour so you hit 1,667 for the day. You can finish that homework that feels so tedious and exhausting, and then come online for a supportive word war or sprint. You can get together the courage to conquer anxiety and make it to a Write In, because everyone there is supportive and understands you are all here because you’ve got a story to tell. Tl;dr – you can do the thing!

Keep this in mind as you venture through the remainder of this magical month, and I challenge you to think of yourselves as your novel’s main character. Think about what they would do, how they would overcome their struggles, rise to the call to adventure, and at the end of the story, find themselves a stronger person than when they began.

You can do this, mighty WriMo. Let this be you as you continue your noveling journey…

Love, hugs, and many words,

ML Elayna

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Camp NaNo: Day 11

NEW WORDS WRITTEN: 1654

NEW TOTAL WORD COUNT: 8235

CURRENT MENTAL STATE

Morpheus
#YAS

After finally seeing my word count climb I honestly just feel like busting out a rendition of “At Last” by Etta James cause GOSH DARN IT DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO SEE THAT NUMBER GO UP.

For anyone who’s been following, you know I’ve been having a rough time of things this week two. Honestly it’s been difficult trying to find the right inspiration, even despite my efforts to go to new places and seek out new horizons. New spaces are amazing and help so much, but what I’m coming to realize is that sometimes going to the physical spaces isn’t quite enough. Sometimes it’s ones own head space that can be the hardest to escape.

Today was rather uneventful to be honest, because it mostly consisted of me waking up, going to work for four hours and then booking it down town to find my new space for the day. I ended up turning down an office party actually to go get writing done, which some people found surprising. For me, it was an easy decision – not because I don’t love my coworkers and could have used a night to relax, but because in a month with so little time and so much to be done, sometimes the work has to come first, and it makes the decision a much easier one to make when the work is enjoyable as heck.

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Me about writing #AllDay #EveryDay

My place I ended up trekking to was new for me. It was a cafe called Cake and the Beanstalk, which I had been to before to grab a coffee, but had never had a chance to sit down in and get any work done. As fate would have it, this day I walked in, worried I’d not find a seat, only to find NO ONE else was there. I had free reign to pick whichever adorably cute hand painted table I wanted. (I actually ended up switching tables before the night was out, cause why not?) This little place was perfect with super yummy iced coffee and this gluten free, flourless cake thing that was 10 kinds of delicious. The sitting room also happens to have enormous windows which show the beautiful garden right next door, so the ambiance of being outside in a secret garden while getting to stay inside with outlets and away from bugs was great too. Safe to say, I adored this place. 10/10 would recommend to others for a good place to get some writing done.

But as for the story, I guess I just hope I can keep up the momentum so I can finally pull ahead in my word count. It’s been so hard trying to keep on top of everything, which I suppose comes with the territory of being a writer with an unrelated day job to pay the bills. Here’s to hoping though that all this stress, long nights, and relentless missions to find new places to write pays off one day with a book I can publish, so maybe, just maybe, I can make a living doing the thing I like doing as much as breathing.

PROJECT WRITE SPACE

TODAY’S TIME & SPACE
5:45pm, Cake and the Beanstalk Cafe

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Camp NaNo: Day 10

NEW WORDS WRITTEN: 107

NEW TOTAL WORD COUNT: 6581

CURRENT MENTAL STATE

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I THINK I GOT IT

Some days, you can spend hours and hours and way too many cups of coffee just to come up with notta. No new ideas, no character development, no resolution for your #plotprobs – NOTHING. These days tend to leave one feeling like curling up in a ball would be a much better game plan than writting 50K in four weeks.

Then there are days where one little statement sparks in you something you never tried, and before you know it, you’ve cured your writers block.

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BRILLIANT!

Lemme back track, as I’m sure some of you are doubting the epicness of this idea given I only got about 100 new words for this day.

I decided my Write Space for the day would be a Starbucks I know that’s open late downtown, but upon arriving to said cafe, I realized I’d left something crucial behind – my computer charger. For those who don’t know, my computer is a precious old lady computer that I got the month before college and poor baby can’t function for more than 40 minutes without being plugged in. Given that I was a few miles from home and would have wasted almost an hour trying to get home, get it, and return, I resigned myself to notebook brainstorming.

The words just weren’t coming though. I kept reworking the same paragraph as the day before, unsatisfied with everything about it and worried that it didn’t send the chapter on the right trajectory. In my frustration, I messaged a friend of mine who’s been hella supportive of my writing endeavors and expressed how horrendously depleted of ideas I was feeling.

Scott understands me.
Scott understands me.

That was when said friend sent a text that changed the course of my night and the chapter…

When I lose all momentum or motivation playing piano, I practice backwards. Start with the last measure and work my way back. Any way that can translate into writing terms?

As soon as I read this, an idea popped right into my head as to how exactly the chapter could end, and then as if by magic, I had a vauge outline for the entire chapter (and the one to follow) within ten minutes.

I. Was. Floored.

I think that’s the outrageously exciting thing about writing. You can do it for most of your life, think you’ve got it all figured out, and then someone can say something as simple as “work backwards” and before you know it you’re realizing there’s a lot that you don’t know. Like I said in my post the other day, sometimes you need to stand on the desk to see things in a new way, but sometimes it takes going a step further. Crawl under the desk. Look out the window. Leave the freaking room, for goodness’ sake. There’s an infinite number of ways to approach writing – like most things in life – and honestly the sooner I just embrace that, the better off I’ll be.

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How the universe probs feels when talking to me…

As I was completing my outline, the place I was writing in was closing for the night and so I began making my way back to catch the bus home. This was when randomly, out of the blue, a friend of mine called and invited me to go out to dinner, and I figured, why the heck not. But as I ended up waiting for him to come pick me up from where I was at on South Broad Street, I decided to whip the notebook back out and do something that probably looked weird.

I began writing and videoing myself writing right there on the street. I got some odd stares, but it felt strangely liberating to pick a piece of street I’ve been on countless times before and try to look at it with new eyes, to look at it through the eyes of my characters and think things like how would they be inspired by this space? So I guess I really got two new write spaces for the day, which is pretty awesome. (Which was followed by a freakin delicious late dinner and drinks with my friend at Applebees, which was pretty awesome too)

Moral of the day: listen to your friends, and think outside the box. It helps. It really helps.

PROJECT WRITE SPACE

TODAY’S TIME & SPACE
10:06pm, 16th & Chestnut Starbucks

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11:35pm, Broad & Sansom Streets

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Camp NaNo: Day 9

NEW WORDS WRITTEN: 213

NEW TOTAL WORD COUNT: 6474

CURRENT MENTAL STATE

Gosh dang darn it
Gosh dang darn it

It would seem despite my efforts I’m still stuck. Frustrated Elayna is frustrated. I managed to get out about a paragraph and a half of my fourth chapter, but for whatever reason I keep hitting a wall there and committing the cardinal sin of NaNoWriMo – editing as I write.

To give some context to those less familiar with the month long writing challenge I’m partaking in, the goal is really just to make the words happen. Get something onto a page or your word processor, and worry about the rest later. Reckless abandon writing would probably be the best way to describe it, but instead I kept writing something and erasing. Writing it again, and erasing it again. This is an extreme NaNo-NoNo as there’s always time to edit and refine later. NaNo is about getting something to work with. One of the best ways it’s ever been put to me was actually by a TV/film writer – who’s written for Doctor Who & Torchwood among other things – that I met at last year’s GeekyCon. His words are what I have to remind myself ever time I find myself staring at that God forsaken blinking line on Microsoft Word, I remember:

You can’t fix a blank page.
– James Moran

It’s the truest thing I’ve ever heard where writing is concerned. There’s nothing you can fix about nothing, but there’s always something to be fixed about something. My problem at the moment is just throwing caution to the wind and letting the ideas flow, something that seems to happen a lot less in the second week of NaNo, at least for me anyways. Week one usually be like…

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I’m writing words! DO THE SUCCESS DANCE.

And then week two rolls around and that writer life be like…

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WHY DID I CHOSE DIS LIFE?!?!

The NaNo struggle is real, but here’s to hoping tomorrow brings with it a new idea to get past the week two blues.

As for today’s WRITE SPACE, plans to go somewhere else were thwarted by a massive thunderstorm that rolled through, so my space ended up being my blanket fort (which my instagram followers are pretty familiar with already). It made for an interesting atmosphere, the likes of which I would have previously only existed on some dream-like Pinterest board: cozied up in a comforter with lights in my fortress of blankets, the sound of rain and thunder rumbling outside my window. I wish more words had come of it, but honestly, I’m not too worried about it. If there’s on thing I know, it’s that in a story, rain always represents that a change about to happen.

PROJECT WRITE SPACE

TODAY’S TIME & SPACE
10:30pm, Fort Kimmy Targaryean (My apartment)

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Camp NaNo: Day 7

NEW WORDS WRITTEN: 0

NEW TOTAL WORD COUNT: 6261

CURRENT MENTAL STATE

No words makes a sad Layna
No words makes a sad Layna

This post is coming a day later than it should, but there’s just something about a day where not a single word happened that can feel discouraging.

Now to be fair, I got quite a bit of brainstorming done, and also completed a layout for how I want the next several chapters to go, but I also found that as I was sitting in the cafe thinking of these ideas, I was getting more worried about what kind of video I would make when I got home than I was about writing what I’d been planning, which is not good.  Part of this month’s writing experience, and my journey as a writer/blogger as a whole, requires that I be honest with myself, and if I’m being honest in this moment, I was so determined to do a vlog about my writing every day, that I wasn’t writing as much as I could or should have, and given the words are what this whole month is supposed to be about, this made me feel like I was heading in a bad direction.

10/10 Not A Pleasant Experience
10/10 Not A Pleasant Experience

SO! That being said, as I head into week two of this writing/blog&vlog extravaganza, I’m going to try something a little different, based on an idea I had while in the cafe on the night of the 7th.

The thing is, I LOVE finding new places to write. It physically gets me out of my normal head space, which is extraordinarily helpful for me trying to come up with new things and look at things from a new perspective.

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
-John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society

I honestly think about this phrase whenever I’m feeling trapped in a rutt. In addition, as a photographer and journalist of my own life, I love capturing moments in time, via both images and words, which frankly is why you’re sitting here reading this. So as I sat in that cafe the other day, I decided the new direction I’m going to go in for the videos.

WRITE SPACE is going to be a new photography/writing project I start this week in which every day, I must go somewhere new, that isn’t my apartment, and write. What else will I do? I will bring along my camera and take a photo from my perspective of where I’m sitting, so as to capture not just the moment of writing what I’m writing, but the space in which that work was written in. How does this become a vlog you ask? Each of these days, in addition to a photo, I will capture little bits of footage of those spaces and on July 14th, I will release a video featuring each of the spaces I spent my week writing in (from the 7th to the 13th) and perhaps talk about the experience of it at the end of said video. As I go through this experience, I will still post a new blog each day, and that blog post will include my progress of what I wrote about in those spaces. So while I won’t be having a video released each day as I planned, I will be writing, which is what matters.

If being a writer has taught me anything, its that sometimes things change along the road of your story. Plot twists change your path, obstacles and roadblocks get in your way, and characters decide to change their minds and do what they want. So before you know it, you’ve gone from a miserable 11 year old on Privet Drive to a legendary hero who’s sending your children off to Hogwarts when all is well. I can’t predict where this story – or the journey of writing it – will take me any more than Harry could have predicted his, but you know what? I think that’s fucking beautiful.

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#BrbSobbing

JULY 7th WRITE SPACE

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Space: Chapterhouse Cafe & Gallery in South Philadelphia. Time: 8:45pm, July 7th, 2015

 

Well, I’m Back

As the great Samwise Gamgee said at the end of the adventure that was the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Well, I’m back.

Back from London and from Edinburgh and what was honestly two of the greatest weeks of my existence on this earth, and that friends is no exaggeration.

I arrived home Wednesday afternoon (which felt like Wednesday night, thanks to the time difference) and needed a few days to catch up on sleep, to remember once again which side of the road vehicles belong on, and get reacclimatized to my favorite skyline – which includes a very different clock tower than the one I’d been getting used to. There were so many days and so many adventures to recount that one blog post just really isn’t going to cut it, so over the next two weeks, you’ll be getting a nice lil bundle of blog posts that will document my journey from the moment of my last post (getting ready for lift off!) to the return home this past Wednesday.

So many amazing, beautiful and down right miraculous things happened that I now can add to my pensieve of memories to cherish. (No really, I mean miraculous. I spent over a week in London AND NOT A DROP OF RAIN!) I’ll also be putting together a number of exciting video blogs about my journey, which will be uploaded to my YouTube channel, and shared here as well with some commentary. I can’t wait to get it all down and have the chance to recount my amazing adventures to all you out there in the interweb. I came home feeling happier, more refreshed, and more ready to live my life than ever.

I guess that’s the most surprising thing of all, really: I thought coming home would be sad, heartbreaking and make me hate everything about home that isn’t like the wonderful things I experienced abroad. But I’m not sad – I just feel incredibly blessed and can’t wait for the next adventure.

Back to that #BlanketFort life.
Back to that #BlanketFort life.

Just Believe

This may be my shortest blog ever since we all know how long winded I can be, especially about things that are exciting to me, but just wanted to post an update before take off.

Sitting in Philadelphia International Airport and feeling more grateful than I can ever remember feeling. The people who helped make this trip happen can never fully know how much their support has meant. I’m feeling so overwhelmed as I sit here getting ready to board, getting ready to go on the trip of a lifetime with some of the people who matter most in my life for an event I cannot believe I am blessed enough to be a part of.

The point of this post is plain and simple, and here’s a hint – it’s not about me gushing any more about how wonderful I feel, cause I’ve done that enough in the above text and in real life. This post is about me reminding every person reading: people told me this trip was going to be impossible, but I believed, I held on to hope, and I refused to give up faith – and it’s happening. No matter how insurmountable the odds may seem, you must try with every fiber of your being to stay positive and to believe, and then friends, magical things will happen.

Best wishes and all the love,
Elayna

See you snitches on the other side of the pond. xo

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25×25

The fact that I will be 25 years old recently dawned on me, and the thought of being a quarter of a century old kind of makes one feel reflective. Sometimes I still feel like I was a teenager last week, but then I have to step back and remember that its been ten years since I started high school, and now over a year since I graduated college. It’s cheesy and everyone says it, but it really is true . . . time sure does fly.

elaysBut as I’ve been evaluating my past, I end up catching myself and realizing that by thinking so, so, so much about where I’ve been, I miss out on the moments right in front of me, and I forget to live in the now. So as I think about not thinking about the past and thinking about the present which makes me think of where I’ll be in the future (timey-wimey I know) I’ve decided to create a list for my year. Not a set of vague and lofty resolutions that I won’t follow through on, but a set of 25 perfectly achievable things that I would like to do before I turn 25, which I believe will help me also make 2015 an incredibly memorable year.

There’s a little less than nine months to cross off all the items on this list, so this should be fun. The hope is that for every item I get to check off this list (which will be presented in no particular order) I’ll blog about the experience – treating each item as a prompt challenge to be fulfilled in a later post. Things on the list will vary between quirky, fun things I’ve always wanted to do, and more meaningful big items that I feel can really make this a rewarding year for not just me, but others in my life. Wish me luck!

1) Marathon all 8 Harry Potter films.
Almost 20 hours of magical movie goodness? Always.

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2) Marathon all 6 LOTR/Hobbit films.
Another 20+ hours of marathoning? #DoItForFrodo

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3) Spend a weekend kicking back in a blanket fort.
Because nothing says turning 25 like acting like you’re 5.

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4) Host a fancy picnic with friends.
Never had a legitimate picnic, so this Spring I’ma make it a thing.

garden party

5) Spend an entire weekend without internet.
Let’s be real, we all need to power down once in a while.

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6) Visit at least 2 other countries.
I’ve never left the USA and this is not acceptable. Now all I need’s a passport . . .

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7) Pull an all nighter at a beach.
Because stargazing and the ocean. Is there any other reason needed?

ariel

8) Read at least 25 new books.
Because 2015 is the year I get back in touch with something I love most. Books.

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9) Send a random positive message to all my tumblr followers.
Currently there’s 1850 of them, and if there’s more I’ll add them too. #WorthIt

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10) See the sunrise from the Art Museum steps.
I’ve always said I wanted to do this with someone, but screw it. I’m not going to let others keep me from doing what I want this year.

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11) Create my own dish that can become a family recipe.
Hint: The secret ingredient will probably be love.

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12) Stargaze somewhere so clear I can see the Milky Way.
Cause nothing puts things in perspective like being able to see your galaxy with your own eyes.

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13) Visit London.
Hopefully for MuggleNet Live: Expo Patronum, which is going to be the awesomest thing ever.

awesome totally

14) Go to Geeky Con 2015 and revisit Hogwarts.
Because nowhere in the world have I ever felt so at home than I did with my nerdy family.

hogwarts

15) Sing at an open mic night.
I haven’t sang like I used to in years. It’s high time I changed that.

scarlet sings

16) Write a letter to my 50 year old self.
Where will I be in the next 25 years? Who knows. 50 year old me, that’s who.

too old

17) Bury a time capsule somewhere special to me.
And won’t it be grand if one day someone finds it while I’m still alive?

doctor

18) Become a published author.
Whether its some poetry in a literary magazine or a book you can buy from amazon, I want to be able to say I’m published before 25.

good writing

19) Go camping for at least a night.
Me and the outdoors don’t tend to be very one with each other. Perhaps this will change that.

outdoors

20) Get my second tattoo.
Been wanting the next ever since the first. The time has come.

tattoos

21) Cut my hair really short.
Like, really short. Like, shorter than ever short.

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22) Successfully complete a photography project.
I have a few in mind, but I need to stop procrastinating and make them happen!

sherlock camera

23) Perform spoken word poetry.
I’ve written several pieces, but always get too scared to share them. Not anymore.

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24) Make a new short film.
I miss filmmaking more than anything, so its high time I made a new narrative short.

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25) Send a letter to all the important people in my life.

The people I love deserve to hear that, and nothing to me says I love you like a handwritten letter.

love you

Thanks for reading loves. Here’s to the rest of 24, and to making things happen.