Advice from a Master

It was a Friday and I was bored.   What was I thinking?


It was a Friday at lunchtime, when I thought, what the heck.  I’d always wanted to do it.  But it’s in November.  When I work on elections.  November.  Thanksgiving when I have lots of guests every year and cook for days.  November when I already had a vacation planned.  Oh, and November, when I planned to continue along with, you know, my life.

November, when I start getting into my pre-Holiday “just get me through to February-s.”

November, when I’d already been in a writing funk since my dog Cooper died in August.  Nothing I’d written worked since then except when I was ranting (and how difficult is that?)

So naturally, with no preparation, no ideas, and precious little time, I signed on to NaNoWriMo.

What was worse was that I announced it to everybody in my office (they’re all supportive of my writing).  They were duly impressed and asked for advanced, autographed copies.

I blogged about it here:

The answer to the question posed was/is:  Yes.  A big fat Y-E-S.  I am a total idiot.

But I did learn from my experience.  I think the thing that I learned most was:

Look before you leap You Nincompoop. (Google Image)

Look before you leap
You Nincompoop.
(Google Image)


On the bright side, I have been able to write a bit again.  And that was my true goal in signing up.  I wanted to force myself to write again.   And I have been able to.  So I did meet that goal.

And as a wanna-be funny person, I learned a valuable lesson from a true funny person:

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin


Failure is unimportant. 

It takes courage

to make a fool of yourself.


Thanks, Charlie.  I think I have that down.


Filed under Books, Holidays, Huh?, Humor, Stupidity

62 responses to “Advice from a Master

  1. If it takes courage to make a fool of yourself, I must be one very courageous woman.


  2. Yes, it takes courage to make a fool of yourself. It also takes humility and not taking yourself too seriously. The worst thing you can do is take yourself too seriously. I’ve been doing that lately and it has paralyzed me. Hard not to do when feeling ill most of the time, but still–I should know better.

    Anyway. Good for you for writing. You are not a total idiot. you are just enough of an idiot to make life interesting (kind of like me)! 😉 🙂


  3. I also participated in NaNoWriMo this year. Through pneumonia, allergic reactions to new antibiotics & bad reactions to a new puffer I managed to write a little over 30,000 words. I was a bit disappointed not to reach 50,000 words but it got me writing again. This is why I didn’t get any reading of blogs done, so now I’m catching up.


  4. aFrankAngle

    Ah that’s OK … relax … after all, maybe some of the readers will keep reminding you of this. Surely not me …. no way …. after all, I just saw you compare yourself to Sarah Palin.


  5. cooper

    one – i didn’t do any better with nanowrimo – so you’re not alone. two – whatever you did write is still a start – even if it’s just in your blog – celebrate that. three – christine lavin is one of my all time favorites!

    ease up.


    • Yeah, I’m not so crushed by defeat, actually. I just figured I should mention it since I blurted it out that I was going to do it. Had I not opened my big mouth, I would have kept it quiet on my, ummmm, lack of finishing.

      And I’ve started writing a bit again, which really was the goal.

      Isn’t Christine Lavin a hoot? I love that song in particular.


  6. Clinton

    Au contraire Elyse. You have succeeded in confirming your commitment to quality in your expression. Consider Ted Cruz’s Dr. Seuss filibuster as an antithetical example.


  7. pinklightsabre

    Well, done Elyse — work through it. I’m sorry about Cooper. Have a good week!


  8. I can’t even bear to think about trying it, so huge kudos to you, Elyse!


  9. Hi again! I had a technical problem replying to your last comment that you said to me, so I wrote a new comment. Thanks for the reply! I haven’t posted on my Summer of Fun blog for a few months because summer is (sadly) over. Anyway, you can check out my other blog at Thanks for listening!


  10. I have not attempted NaNoWriMo, because I know my writing is in fits and starts … just how depressed, or how stressed I am can make a difference.

    I decided to make a goal for the year, instead of daily for a month. I wanted to work on my fiction writing, and share the stories on my blog … and, I managed to get several stories done and posted. It was easier, giving myself the flexibility … the ‘having to do ten pages per day’ thing just isn’t possible right now … especially having a 90 year old mom around .. having to constantly check, make sure she eats, gets pills, an array of doc appts, etc.

    So, it’s good that you were inspired to write more … and be proud of that! But, for next year, set a goal of x pages per month, or one story per month, or something more manageable. I found that giving myself an easy goal, that I actually wrote more than I planned.

    And, remember you’re writing for yourself … not for some nebulous NaNoWriMo committee who’s going to fine you for bragging you’re doing it, and then not … writing is tough enough, without adding more pressure to it!


    • Good points, John. I really do have to rethink how I do my writing and where. I find myself interrupted all the time, as I write in our kitchen/family room, where the TV is, and where my husband comes and chats with me just when I’m getting something down. If I look away from the keyboard to think, there is a distraction. But I will have to figure it out if I’m going to get anywhere!

      I think your writing has improved by leaps and bounds. It is clear that you have nurtured the storyteller in you to good effect!


  11. Oh gosh! I’m just not ready yet. Congratulations on the leap of faith from someone who has not leaped…or is it lept…or is it just schlepping along? I’m inspired by the stories of folks who say they wrote “it” in two or three days + editing later. When it’s right, it will rise up out of yourself and write itself out is my belief. A lot of incubating, percolating and then it will come together.


    • I think you have the right rhythm, there, Georgette. Leaped, lept, schlept! I wasn’t ready either, but I have been so stuck lately. I do hate hearing about the whole writer’s block because I think that it brings on writer’s block. So I figured that I’d just force myself out of it! I guess it worked if you don’t count the fact that I not only didn’t finish, but didn’t even get very far! Oh well.

      The ideas I have for novels are all ones that involve a lot of research, which I don’t want to do since that is what I do all day at work. Sigh. If only I knew everything already, this writing stuff would be soooooooo much easier!

      Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, Georgette!


  12. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so congrats on the single step 🙂

    I didn’t attempt NaNoWriMo–I knew between work and family obligations this month I would have no free time–but I did do the summer challenge (Camp NaNoWriMo) and man, that looming deadline sure does find a way to squeeze the words out of you.


    • Good for you. Yeah July might be a better time, but only mildly. I think I just need to figure out my own routine. And I really need to find a group of writers to work with — on line or in person — who can give me more reasonable deadlines and honest, helpful critiques.


      • Just to clarify: by “did the summer challenge Camp NaNoWriMo” I mean “failed utterly at the summer challenge Camp NaNoWriMo.” 😉 I wrote 15k words out of my 50k goal so .

        I still think the “failure” was worthwhile–I was really happy with the 15k words I did produce, and, for the first time, I began to believe I might actually finish this work that’s been percolating in my brain for the past six years. I’m still stumbling toward the finish line on that novel (currently at 55k words, probably need 30k more to finish the story).

        I’ve participated in a few writing workshops over the years. I should really blog about my experiences. I don’t think I’d recommend them.


  13. bigsheepcommunications



  14. I LOVE Christine Lavin — but haven’t listened to her in years. (I think my ex ended up with those tapes in the Great Property Division!) I’m off to hunt her up on You Tube 🙂


    • Glad to have put her back on your radar! I think of that song whenever I do something stupid. Like announce to the world that I’m going to write a book this month. Oy vey.

      My car has satelite radio and I was reintroduced to Christine Lavin on their folk station. Then they took off the folk station (on computer only, for extra $$$$). Sigh. There is always Pandora, but a little bit of Christine goes a long long way.


  15. Nice job starting a book. I’m trying to start but it’s tricky. I think I need a better way to plan my ideas. Anyway is there any chance you can give me a shout out? Or is that just an Instagram thing? Haha. Check out my blog called Popular Project. See ya soon!


    • Thanks, Summer. Starting and finishing things are very different though!
      I DID check out your Summer of Fun blog — you didn’t provide a link to the other one. SoF seems to be one that you are not posting on frequently as there haven’t been any new posts in several months.


  16. I applaud you for even thinking about doing the NaNoWriMo. It is hard to write when you don’t feel like it and the inspiration isn’t there. There is nothing I love more than working on a post but when I’ve got nothing. I’ve got nothing. Lately I have a lot of nothing. Tomorrow starts a new month a perhaps we will both be inspired to write. A girl can dream, right?


    • Isn’t that a terrible feeling, Michelle? That empty screen, silent keyboard thing? I got a lot of that when I was trying. And what I wrote was awful. Completely uninspired, poor storytelling, bad writing. Generally crap. It did not inspire me to finish. It did not inspire me to keep going. It inspired me to do anything buy write! Oh well. I never have been terribly goal driven!

      It is now December, and actually I DO have a couple of stories percolating around in my head. Hope you have some too. You have had such an interesting life — I think that your stories are great. So hop to it! (Or, since it is December, perhaps a bunny command doesn’t quite fit here. Oops)


  17. “Nothing I’d written worked since then except when I was ranting (and how difficult is that?)” Elyse, I know that’s a rhetorical question, but I can really relate, because for me, ranting is the easiest thing there is for me to do. But at the cost of difficult consequences I end up struggling with mentally and emotionally, when even I get sick to death of listening to me! I pay the price for my own ease of ranting with the hard currency of my own self inflicted unhappiness that leads into a downward spiral of despair.

    All the same, the holidays are a tough time of year for anyone who is suffering from circumstances beyond his or her control, from wounds that are not self inflicted. In your case Elyse, I know that you are doing the best you can right now, and even at less than your best, your writing is still on a level beyond most others.

    I know this seems like cold comfort right now, but this too shall pass, and you’ll soon be back with your “A” blogging game, and your inspiring sense of humor will be the grace that lifts you up again, just as you have uplifted many others, many times, myself included. Thanks for that, Elyse.


    • Yeah, I’d gladly skip from November to February every year. C’est la vie. I’m getting there. Good luck to you getting through this ho-ho-holiday season, too Chris.


  18. At least you accomplished any bit of writing– it’s more than I did for the month of November! (other than the blog but that’s not a book!)


    • No, I got a smidgen done here and there, and I was finally able to tell a little story on my blog. But I have thought of better approaches for what I have been working on (Rather, HAD been working on). But anything is better than nothing!


  19. At least you weren’t as afraid to try as I was.


    • Sometimes fear is what saves us! Seriously. It got me writing again and thinking about writing, so if was helpful. But I also realized that writing pure crap is not fun! It didn’t make me want to continue. C’est la vie.


  20. Hey, at least you went for it. Inaction gets us nowhere. You at least made the first steps.


    • It wasn’t really an honest start. I am stuck in my memoir, and the novels I’ve thought of just stick in place. But I signed on pretty sure I wouldn’t finish, which was stupid of me.

      I just need to figure out what works for me!


  21. Well, now that you’re in the habit again maybe you can write something more substantial.


  22. Luanne

    I’m glad you got some writing done. I can’t imagine writing a novel in a month. It seems like it would be crap, but that would be me writing a novel in a month ;). And I just made a fool of myself 15 minutes ago in front of five people when we got in the car at 4 to go to the zoo and it closes at 4.


    • Luanne

      Obviously by 15 I meant 45 ;). But I still feel like a fool.


      • What I DID manage to write WAS crap. But I was writing nothing, so crap was an improvement! Still, it is demoralizing to write crap. And random crap with no structure and poor, rushed writing, does not make me want to write more!

        Zoos should not close so embarrassingly early, Luanne. Who would have thought it? What do they do, take the animals back to their natural habitats?


        • Luanne

          Then we went back to go to the Zoolights and wanted to ride the carousel, but the tickets I had bought ahead of time had to be redeemed up at the membership office so we couldn’t use them at the carousel itself. Sigh.


          • It’ll go down in history as a hilarious event. Don’t worry. What embarrasses us makes the best stories! Later on, of course. Not while everybody is standing there looking at you, I’m afraid! But see, you’re laughing already.


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