NaNoWriMo and Zen

I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo. I want to see if I have it in me to make a dedicated effort to write. I love dabbling in little bits and pieces. I really think I have a nice way with words. I’ve completed some small works that I really love. Been published a few times. And I have an idea for a longer piece.
I also have recently become a fan of Zen Habits, a blog written by Leo Babauta. It is there he shares his wisdom of finding his way to a peaceful and successful lifestyle. He came from an overabundant life, over-abundantly filled with the wrong things. He was in debt, working a job he didn’t like, overweight, depressed and not able to move forward. He and I are much alike with a few exceptions – thankfully I’m not in debt and my job, this year, has brought me an immense about of joy.
Reading his blog has inspired me to change the way I live my life by following his path. I’ve heard this for years – change just one little thing at a time. I’ve tried, but then I get caught up in the momentum of success and start changing too much and then comes the fall. I get depressed, stop doing it, and am back to being motionless because I feel like a failure. 
My job has brought me a newly found joy this year. I feel as though I have some breathing room. I enjoy going to work in the morning. I adore working with all the kids and feel as though I am being “allowed” to share my gifts without the crazy, misguided scrutiny the other classroom teachers are under. I am teaching by using my strongest gifts. Funny. It is expected that teachers must differentiate for the myriad of learners in their classrooms. But it is not allowed, even frowned upon, when teachers want to teach the way they know is best for them, using their strongest skills. Thankfully, the education cookie cutter doesn’t apply to the children. Unfortunately, it is what is used to define a good teacher. But I digress and am getting tense on this soapbox. Nevertheless, I am reveling in the job I have this year. Hopefully, I will have it next year and the following few years that will see me into retirement. I count the blessed minutes I can do this job and am thankful for every second.
Back to the breathing room. I now have a bit of time to focus on myself and my personal life. My journey started the first day of October. Leroy, my husband, and I began the month by giving away or throwing away one item each day that clutters our lives. It can be big or small, anything that is taking space with no longer a purpose in our lives.
It is liberating. At first it seemed silly that one water bottle or an old candle or a paper bag of twigs being saved for an art project that has never been started and is highly unlikely that it will ever be started, could add up to having an impact. How could getting rid of one pen or a book make a dent in clearing away the extra stuff I have gathered in my fifty-five years of living? And when I start thinking about it too much, a huge wave overwhelms me and it seems like it will never make a difference. But I keep telling myself to stay the course and be dedicated. It is so simple that it hardly takes any time or thought at all. I grab one item every morning and put it in a box in the garage, or simply throw it away. Then the bi-monthly call comes from the Goodwill or ARC, they arrive to pick up the box, and it is gone and out of my life for good.
It is making a difference.
I see small empty spaces starting to appear. Where objects once weighed me down with “Where should I put this?” or “I really need to start that project,” now I see space. I can begin to take a little bit deeper of a breath without guilt or worry.
Since this is so easy, we’ve added one more piece to it. Whenever we buy something or bring something new into the house, something else goes into the box. One-for-one. We don’t want to fill up those spaces we’ve just opened up.
It feels wonderful.
After six weeks, I will add one more, small step to making my life better. It may be walking for 10 minutes a day. That would be good since I’m not exercising at all. Or it could be any number of things. I will know when I get there. There is no need to worry or fret. It will happen, as it needs to happen.
This brings me back to NaNoWriMo. It goes completely against the Zen Habit ideal. This is a project where I have promised to write a novel of 50,000 words in the month of November. I need to write approximately 1700 words a day. What am I thinking? Am I going to overwhelm myself and quit and get depressed because I can’t do it? Will it bring home the fact that I can never be a writer? It has all the makings for failure.
But this will be different. I need to remember why I am embarking on this project. No, let me approach this differently. I need to figure out why I am taking on this project.
I want to see if I have the chops to be a writer. I know I can write. I know I love to write. But I want to be serious about my work. What does that mean? Does it mean I want to be a famous writer making tons of money with movie options and book tours?
Or does it mean I want to write stories to share with people to make them smile or shiver or cry? Do I want to explore the different sides of myself and see the dark as well as the jubilant? Do I really have an urge deep inside my gut to do any of this? An urge deeper than any I’ve ever had? Will I succeed? Will I even recognize it if I succeed?
Yes, of course, to all.
Well, as for the famous and rich part, let’s get that out of the way right now. I know so many amazing and talented writers in just my teeny, tiny circle of life who are neither rich nor famous, it’s just not something with which to be concerned. And since I’m not currently a rich and famous writer, it proves to me that this is not where the joy of writing is for me. I love writing right now, and I’m not rich or famous. Writing makes me feel good. So this rich and famous stuff is nothing to worry about.
Leo Babauta, I guess he’s my current hero and guru and saint, says to share your work. Don’t worry about copyright. Put it out on your blog. Let the world see it. Let go. Ah, there it is. Let go. Do what you love and let go. Just do it.
So I will write.
I will do NaNoWriMor because I want the challenge to prove to myself that I can write. If I never try, I will never know what I am capable of accomplishing. I will only plan so far as the day I am writing.
Leo would probably warn me not put myself through the stress of this project, but I think he would understand that I must give it a try. I need to learn how this writing thing works for me.
What is important is how I approach this month of 1700 words a day. I am not going in with expectations other than I am going to write my heart out. I am going to get up early and write, and write when I come home from work if I haven’t reached my 1700 words for the day. This is the only expectation I have for myself. I am not going to worry about whether or not I’m failing, not going to go down that road. I have a story to tell. I want to see what it takes to get that story on the page.
This past week I watched a talk by Neil Gaimen from one of his old book tours on the Internet. He was taking questions from the audience. I was showing this to my students because I was reading his “Wolves In the Walls” to my third, fourth and fifth graders for the Halloween season, even though we are not “allowed” to “do” Halloween in our classes. (It’s just an incredibly scary picture book, definitely not for the younger children. And the older you are, the deeper the meaning. It’s wonderful and I highly recommend it.) The question was asked of Gaimen if he ever gave up. He proceeded to tell the story of the inception of his award-winning novel “The Graveyard Book.” It seems that when he was working as a professional journalist at the age of 23, he wrote a one-page idea about a little boy who is raised by the dead in a graveyard. He read the page, knew it was terrific and put it away. He told himself that it was a great idea. He just wasn’t good enough, yet, to write it. Twenty years later, he wrote the book and it won The Newberry, Carnegie and Hugo awards. Twenty some years ago he was a professionally paid writer – he had to be good, but he knew he had more to learn as a writer.
This story is now engrained in my heart. I need to write. Don’t worry about the end. Know that I will get better and be able to accomplish what I want when I have the skills. It will happen. As long as I am doing what I have a passion to do, I will succeed.
The measure of success?
Do what you love. Yep, I know. I’ve it heard a thousand, million times before, too. I never had a real “passion.” I’ve been good at a number of things and I think teaching surprised me. I went kicking and screaming into teaching creative dramatic workshops about twenty-five years ago. This year, twenty-five years later, I am teaching with a passion, for many reasons. And teaching brought me to writing.
Writing is my passion. It doesn’t matter if I’m good or stink. I am going to share my words on my blog. You can read it, or not. I will continue to share my love of writing with everyone – my students, my writing groups, Facebook, my blogs, anyone who will listen. Everyone should have joy in something and share it with abandon.
Thank you, Leo. Ha! I just realized my dad’s name is Leo, too! And Leroy’s and my last name, Leo…nard.  Oh, and the hero in my NaNoWri Mo piece is named Leo, too. The lion.  Hmm….off to a roaring start!
(Ah, 1860. My word count for the day! Yay! I can’t wait for November 1st.)

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