please assure me that i am not the only one who sets potholders on fire

I am not referring to a singular occasion wherein one might have done this. I mean regularly. I mean every pot holder that makes its way into the house.

You do this, too, right?

The smell of a burning potholder is quite familiar to me. I was recently on the phone with a friend and cooking pasta at the same time. (I am really good at multitasking.) I smelled something distinctly not food-ish and knew it immediately as the scent of burning polyester. I calmly removed the flaming potholder from the top of the saucepan where it drooped into the gas flame of my stovetop, ran tap water over the small blaze and never missed a beat of the conversation. Boo-yah! I can burn stuff and do other stuff simultaneously.

So, I have a confession—for the first time in 4 years of participating, I quit NaNoWriMo before I hit 50,000 words.


That is the amount of words I managed to write between November 1 and November 22. Yes, I did some writing on Thanksgiving, before the big dinner, in between cooking it and eating it. Then afterwards, as I sat by the fire pit in my parents’ backyard, drinking a nice glass of wine and chatting with my Dad, I looked up at the clear, cold, starry sky and said, “I am quitting NaNo this year. And I am totally okay with it.”

(The little loops, too. No part is safe.)

Usually, I push and push and push. And when I am exhausted and spent and seemingly at my limit, I push further. (Then I am usually somewhat difficult to be around. Just ask Steve. He is nice and might lie and disagree. But trust me on this one.) So rather than go down this old road, I decided instead to try to recapture the joy.

Nothing (aside from the gracefully shared, unbridled happiness of my children) gives me more joy than writing. And the joy was gone. I was pushing through it. And this is a novel I have nurtured for a long, long time. A story I really love. And the joy was gone. Replaced by a drive towards a self-imposed deadline.

NaNo is nothing like setting potholders on fire. More like putting the fire out? No, not like that, either, exactly. Actually, maybe it is like setting potholders on fire—frenzied writing for 30 days. I guess I smelled the familiar odor of burning polyester and threw that fire in the sink. That’s okay. There is always next year. And more potholders, too.

full-body YES!

I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve have repeated this avowal all year long because I knew I wanted to be working on this blog and freelance projects and editing already-written novels and my other commitments. And showering. That being said, I just signed up again. Like, moments ago. (I figure I’ll cut back on showering. And definitely shaving. I mean, what are pants for anyhow? Right? Right? Are you with me?)

So, I’m gonna do it for the 4th year in a row. Why? I am nuts.

Speaking of which, it’s Halloween this week and we have watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown about 47 times in the last few weeks. I adore Peanuts holiday shows. Probably too much. (And yet in my heart I know there is no too much when it comes to Peanuts holiday shows.)

(Our jack-o-lantern and his yucky black moldy stuff.)

Happy Halloween! Now back to the topic.

What is the topic? Finding life balance. And I am about to tell you exactly what that is: a big freakin’ joke. I’m just kidding.

(No, I’m not.)

I threw an enormous fit recently. Luckily the kids were at my parents’ house and not present to hear the litany of swears and witness the throwing of objects. Here’s what happened: the thingy on the toilet that makes water not spray all over the bathroom blew and the toilet began spraying water all over the bathroom. (It was clean water, so there’s that for a small blessings and all that crap...) To me it was more than water spraying all over the bathroom—it was another mess to clean up, another thing to fix, another thing keeping me from writing.

(This freakin’ thing. Please disregard the ugly ‘80s tile we have yet to sledgehammer.)

I have maintained a mantra over the last couple of years: “I can’t get all this done!”

And alternatively: “There is no way to get all this done.”

With the addendum: “I’m so tired.”

Well, recently I realized something: I can’t get all this done. There is no way to get all this done. Also, I’m so tired. It occurred to me that if there is no way to get all this done and that very fact has been amply confirmed, why do I keep trying? The very problem is in the statement itself.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Eistein

My sister has a friend who recently experienced the death of a close friend. And it made her reconsider her priorities. She said to my sister, “Unless it’s a full-body yes, then it’s a no.” Now that is a mantra by which to live.

I have applied some of that sentiment to my life in trying to approach balance. As it appears “there is no way to get all this done,” and there is nothing I can or am willing to cut entirely, the logical thing to do was identify and pare back each component and do some realistic goal setting. Err on the side of small, well-spaced objectives and if more gets accomplished, call it gravy. (Warning: this rarely happens.)

And I gave a lot of thought to media, which spins completely out-of-control really quickly. The inbox to my Gmail account was one of the things that felt unmanageable to me. And if that’s not a luxury problem, I don’t know what is. But first-world guilt aside, I did rein it in and I will share my tactics with you. I think it’s important to seriously regulate your information upload. Don’t subscribe to every blog (but do subscribe to this one), RSS feed, Facebook page—don’t live in fear of missing something “crucial.” Seek info when you need it. It’s called the Google. Use it. I went all brutal on my blog subscriptions and unsubscribed like crazy, using the full-body yes method. Where I could, I switched to Facebook or Twitter feeds. I am not a fan of RSS, but if you happen to be, that’s another way to go. With the info coming via these streams, you can so much more easily pick and choose. Now my email inbox is pretty much exclusively business. I l also try to designate a finite amount of time each day to view my media streams. The bottom line: if it doesn’t add value to my life, I cut it.

I try to apply this full-body yes sentiment to the little and the big things in life. It’s a no-fail in-your-bones kind of thing. It’s an approach toward balance.

So maybe I am nuts to do NaNo, but when I questioned it, it was a full-body yes. I’m gonna trust it.