Who the hell am I, anyway? I’m not even a published writer! I don’t make money from my writing, and how could anyone consider me a resource about writing?
I remember the first assignment that got me hooked on writing. Mrs. Lenderman’s asked us to write a creative short story (or something along those lines). I was stumped. I loved stories, but being able to create my own? That was something else entirely. I sat on the thin, scratchy, ugly-as-sin carpet in my bedroom the afternoon before the assignment was due, and began to feel the panic rise as the clock ticked toward the deadline. Then a thought occurred to me — What if I wrote about someone like me, who had a writing assignment due, and not a clue as to what to write? The words flew from my bic pen onto the wide ruled blue lines on the page. In no time, I had a finished product, something I was rather proud of. When I received the assignment back, Mrs. Lenderman had written “Very creative!” in red pen, and a big “A” in a circle. A lifelong addiction was born.
In high school and college, I loved my language arts classes, almost as much as band. I wrote more than was asked, and was published in school literary magazines at both levels. I took a creative writing class in college that showed me I could write well-received poetry.
Then I taught middle school band for almost twenty years, and only wrote academic papers while earning a masters degree, an education specialist degree, and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management. There was no time for anything else. I also slogged through a ten-year, crappy marriage and it’s ultimate demise, experienced the birth of my beautiful son, and his autism diagnosis, and worked the hardest job on this planet, being a single mom.
I found that I had a lot to say, and writing in my journal was not expressive enough an outlet. I started a blog about being a single mom to a child on the spectrum. It gave me the outlet I needed, and put me back in regular practice of writing again, even if it wasn’t fiction. And, as cliche as it sounds, it helped me find my confidence again, and embrace the power in being a single mom. All that confidence attracted a good man into my life, and I found myself in a long-distance relationship, more inspiration for my writing.
In 2013, I became aware of National Novel Writing Month, and I dared to think I had a novel inside me that needed to be written. In it, I attempted to encapsulate my experiences in story form, a slightly fictionalized memoir that now included re-discovering love in the most unlikely of places. I pantsed the whole thing, easily writing 2000 words a day, because I was writing what I knew – my life. I finished, knew it was a pretty crappy work, but got my one free hardccover copy and put it on my bookshelf.
Soon after accomplishing that goal, I got a new job which seemed like an amazing opportunity at first, but ended up being the absolute worst working situation I have ever experienced. I was busier and more stressed than I had ever been as a teacher. While I attempted to maintain my blog, there was no time or inspiration for writing other creative projects. I didn’t even attempt NaNo. I was miserable, and my confidence was being worn away.
Then my mom floated a thought about a possible setting for a mystery novel, here where we live. It was an idea that kept coming back to me, over and over. I began to see characters everywhere I went, and revelled in the possibility of making my employers into villains in the novel – the best writer’s revenge, right? But a mystery could not be pantsed. I read enough of the genre to know that it may be the toughest organizational challenge of all writing genres. I would have to prep if I was going to attempt NaNo again with a mystery.
I bought a book with excellent planning ideas (The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery by Robert J. Ray). I quit my miserable job, and took a part-time, minimum wage job in retail that afforded me some time to write (a coincidence, but one that turned out to be fortuitous), and began to plan.
Around the same time, I became aware of Travelers Notebooks, and reconnected with my old love of papers and calligraphy pens. My inner Harriet The Spy told me I needed a TN, and I rationalized that buying one would encourage me to write in it, which was my goal. I used two full inserts to create a workbook for the writing and organizational exercises in the book, and outlined my entire novel, wrote character sketches, and developed possible subplots. The groundwork was laid. I finished NaNo with well over 50,000 words, and a quite workable rough draft. So workable, in fact, that I knew I wanted to continue the process and make it something I was proud of, something I could even publish.
During that last week of NaNo, I became aware of the Bullet Journal method of planning. I already had a TN, and had been looking for a consistent way to keep track of the details of my life since my beloved planner in college. Nothing had worked since then, and I had a blog to plan, a kid to keep track of, job search details… plenty of minutiae. I began bullet journaling on November 30.
Since that time, I have begun to incorporate my editing and revising tasks and goals into a second TN, bought as an incentive for Camp NaNoWriMo in April of 2016. I help moderate a FaceBook group for writers who use a bullet journal, and I found an accountability partner to help me get to my golden final draft. I’ve found there isn’t much out there for us, we writers who want to use analog systems in addition to or in place of technology. I thought I might be able to add to the conversation, and this blog is the result. I’ll share what I’ve done, what works for me and what doesn’t, and the ideas of others who are using similar tools for similar aims.
Feel free to beg, borrow, and steal ideas you can use. Just don’t steal my words. You may end up as a villain in one of my novels…