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A NanoWriMo Winner! December 6, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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Ok—I’m going to take a moment to brag. I DID IT! I am what the WriMos call a winner. That means that I achieved 50,000 words before November 30th, 2009 at midnight. Actually I made it to 56,000 by November 30th—mannnnn….

I actually couldn’t believe that I had written that many words. I was a bit paranoid about the word count thing. Kept thinking that I had miscounted somewhere and I was going to enter my document into the Nano word counter and come up majorly short. But no…by all counts I have actually written that many words. I have been basking all week. (I also notice I have picked up the rather distracting habit of avoiding contractions—to enhance word count—weird)

And three of my dearest writing buddies also won the challenge. We had a joyful hoot or two on our weekly phone call last Tuesday (December 1st.)

Making a goal is great—and it is a discipline to be able to sit back and really bask in the achievement. Mostly people just finish something, check it off the list, and rush on to the next item. This is fine if your life purpose is to get things done. However, I think our souls come up with loftier goals for us than to-do list management. Just sayin’… So I have made an art of basking and bragging at least for this week. However, I noticed this morning the tiniest niggling little worry creeping into my head. And that worry sounds like, “ OK, you did it, now what?” Damn it, that always happens.

I did have a conversation with my writing coach concerning what’s three or four steps down the road from where I am right now. That would be how to go about getting the book published. We got back to that old build-a-platform conversation. It makes me tired because it demands so much darn work. After that I wanted to go eat chocolate. It gave me an appreciation for how my coaching clients must feel after having a conversation with me. Oh, well.

So even though I have written the requisite words—in fact exceeded the requisite words, (still bragging) the book is not finished. It is about 90% complete—the first draft, that is. Since I know myself pretty well, I have maintained the wonderful routine I kept during November. If I give myself any slack I get lazy and the first thing you know, I am reading books, going shopping or scrubbing the kitchen floor instead of writing. My plan is to write at least two more chapters that will be part of the draft.

Then comes editing. Then comes giving it to some people I trust to read it. And then—and then—you get the picture. However, I am determined and I’ve invested a lot in getting this book out of my head and onto the page. Too much to stop now.

OK, before I started this sentence I was at 487 words and I try to keep my blog posts to around 500. This new obsession with word count is really getting annoying.

So, that’s it for today. Stay tuned for lessons learned from NanoWriMo— or whatever else strikes my fancy. I can only be so disciplined.


P.S. Did you notice the snow falling in the banner of my blog page? WordPress does that every December–I think it’s just the coolest…




NanoWriMo Observations November 22, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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Ok—it’s now day 22 of NanoWriMo and I am still hanging in there. Some days are easier than others but no matter. I write around 2000 words every day whether I feel like it or not. The power of a deadline is not to be underestimated—at least for me. Today’s word count stands at 43,441.

While it’s not yet time to do the final recap—that will be after November 30th at which time I plan to gloat. But that’s a whole 8 days away. Right now, though, I’d like to point to some things that I have noticed through the process.

  • I spend a lot more time in my pj’s than I used to. What works best for me is to get up, go downstairs and, after morning meditation, start writing. My goal is to have my 2000 words done by 10 am each day.
  • I’m staying at home a lot more than I did before. One reason for this is that the universe seems to have conspired to keep me in my writing chair by having most of my consulting work evaporate this month. Not sure if I am 100% behind that, however I have faith that it is the right thing and that the financial impact will be minimal. Heck, if I stay at home in my PJ’s I won’t need that much money, will I ?
  • An unforeseen benefit of this new disciplined way of approaching writing is that I have become more disciplined in other areas of my life. Bedtime is not the middle of the night, my environment is better organized and I have been able to finish a sewing project or two. Now if I could just get exercise consistently into the mix, I would know that true miracles are occurring. I have also noted that I get more done—even though I have a committed two-hour chunk every day. I’ve been able to spend some nice amounts of time with my grandchildren and have managed to get together with friends. I’ve even watched a couple of NCIC marathons while I was quilting. (a guilty pleasure—the TV, not the quilting.)
  • All word counters are not the same. Since I live and die by my daily word count, I am pretty vigilant about ensuring that my word count is accurate. The reason for that is that the Nano web site has a word counter into which you upload your entire book after you complete it. Their word count is what determines if you are a ‘NanoWriMo winner.’ And being a little competitive at times, I want to hit the 50,000 word goal. As a trial run, I downloaded my book into their system and found that it registered significantly lower than my word count from Open Office, the word processing program I am using to write the book. Yikes! That got my attention. I now realize that I may have to write more than 50,000 words to meet the goal.Because of this, I have adopted a software program designed exclusively for book writing. It’s called Liquid Mind Binder and oddly enough, the people who sell it were running a special on it for the month of November. The cost was $22.95—a deal. Learning a new piece of software was not something I wanted to do while trying to write my book so I have been using it judiciously. I cut and paste my daily writing into it because I noticed that its word counter was also showing lower than mine. I believe in heading disappointment off at the pass. For my next book (she says optimistically) I will use Liquid Mind Binder for the entire thing.
  • I no longer use very many contractions in my writing. Nano’s goal is word count, not lovely, elegant writing. So every little bit helps. I also find that going for word count has me thinking a bit deeper about my topic. What I would have left alone as adequate in the past, I now develop. Only the editing in December will tell if I have gone overboard with that. For the moment I am all about word count. I just checked it for this post and it is a bit too long for a blog post. So one more point…
  • 1000 words no longer daunt me. It’s all in the attitude. I used to think 500 words a sizable amount. Now I sneer at that paltry amount. I can do 1000 in an hour or less. No problem. Amazing how your perception can change.

I have to stop writing now. There is only so much time I can keep my butt in this chair without starting to feel sorry for myself and wonder if life is indeed passing me by while I type, type, type.  (word count = 778)





Ok–You Can Say It a Little Louder Now November 11, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations, Uncategorized.
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I am now in Day 11 of NanoWriMo, National Book Writing Month…that’s right..day 11 of my quest to write a 50,000 word book—which by the way is not that long a book. It’s the length of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, a slim volume. However, I’m no longer whispering that I am doing NanoWriMo—and I’m not exactly shouting it from the rooftops of my neighborhood either. But so far, so good. As of today I am at 22,506 words—closing in on the halfway mark

I adopted the word count strategy of my friend Anne who is a 2008 Nano winner. She advised doing 2000 words per day which is a bit higher than the goal of 1667 which Nano advocates. That way, she pointed out, if the roof falls in and you can’t write (which would be the only reason not to write) you are not too far behind.

So each morning I get up at six and go into my study. First I meditate and ask for mucho help from any good spirit out there who is so inclined. Then I start. My declaration is to have my writing complete for the day by 10 am. And so far, I have managed that every day except this past weekend when I attended a quilting retreat.

The experience has been a bit different than I thought it would be. For one thing, I am more disciplined and committed to it than I anticipated. Secondly, I have let go of the need to make my writing perfect before going on. The Nano folks advise you not to edit your work or even go back and read what you have written. So, OK, I am not reading the tripe that I have written. It’s not about quality at this point; it’s about quantity. The idea is that if you get something on the page you can go back to it in December and edit it. But you can’t edit a blank page. I have found this to be true before. If I just get something down on the page—good or not—I have made a start and then I can mold it into a decent piece of writing by editing the heck out of it.

Unlike my other Nano buddies, I am writing a non-fiction book with the working title of Intention in the Workplace. It’s based on work that I have been doing for a long time and I am enjoying noticing how my understanding and interpretation of it has changed and in some cases deepened over time. So, while I can’t yet say I am having fun—I am getting satisfaction from this process. Was even feeling pretty good about my word count until I talked with a WriMo at Borders on Sunday. She plans to reach her word count by today. She will then go on to write a second novel by the end of the month. Take a deep breath… “To compare is to despair.”

Me? I am happy to settle for 50,000 good or not-so-good words.

Shhhh, you didn’t hear this here October 31, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It.
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I really hate to mention this here because it’s evidence but I am starting NaNoWriMo tomorrow. Read this in a whisper…Why? Because I have absolutely no evidence that I can do it—none. Intrigued?

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month—described on the website (www.nanowrimo.org) as “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” Those who are crazy enough to sign up for it start on November 1 and finish a 50,000 word novel by the 30th. I have been toying with this idea for about four years now but have always thought it was too big a commitment to make. This year, however, I have a book that I laid out in August and not one word of it has been written since that outline was completed. So, unlike many of my fellow wrimos, I will be writing a non-fiction book during November. But please don’t tell anyone…

So, what does this commitment mean in practical terms? Well, for starters it means that each and every day of November I need to write at least 1600 words. And yes, they could be gobbledygook—but what’s the purpose of that? I need to write 1600 somewhat coherent and meaningful words in sentences that make sense. Yikes!

This also means that my life is going to take on a new pattern during the month. I have to cut out some things to be able to find the time to write 2000 words a day (my personal goal suggested by one of my writing buds who did this successfully last year).

I thought about cutting out eating—that would further my weight loss goals as well. Hmm, maybe not. However, I have decided to cut down the amount of time I spend on the Internet indulging in bad habits like checking email. I also will watch less TV but I am not cutting out Dancing With the Stars… Also not out of the picture is dancing and quilt making—at least at this juncture.

What about my blog, you ask…I intend to post when I can but this may be the month I cultivate my as yet undeveloped pithy, terse writing style. Move over Mr Hemingway.

So, wish me luck but don’t tell anyone I’m doing this—that is until I successfully complete the challenge. Then you can tell everyone…


Perched on the Horns of a Dilemma August 23, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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creative commons by wikihowl

The title of this post is one of my favorite metaphors. When it came into my mind I felt compelled to use it. And it even fits with the topic of this post.

Having finished the ‘shitty first draft’ of my novel, I am now mulling over how best to go to the next phase—editing.

Many writers intensely dislike the editing process because they don’t like the tediousness of going back and fixing all the stuff that is not worthy of being read by anyone. Fortunately for me, I happen to love editing. I can go over and over a piece that I have written, adding a word, deleting a sentence, re-thinking dialogue. However, a novel is a bit intimidating. Being intimate with 50,000+ words can be daunting even in the abstract (the abstract being that I have done nothing thus far to edit my novel).

But there’s hope! Everything I have read about how to edit a novel suggests letting it sit for a while—a while being anywhere from one month to eight. As a confirmed procrastinator I love this suggestion. Leave it sitting for a while? No problem. I embrace it!

That leaves me with the quandary of what to work on next. Now that I have fully integrated writing into my day-to-day life, I need a project. I have also fully integrated quilting, reading, spiritual development, and dancing into my life. But finding time for all of those activities is yet another story, not for exploration now.

You may have noticed that I have NOT mentioned fully integrating yard work, house cleaning or de-cluttering into my life. For me those tasks always seem to come as a surprise. Oh, I probably should clean the bathroom, or perhaps it’s time to cut the ankle-high grass in my front yard. I believe I need a wife..I digress.

Back to what to do next… I have in fact identified my next project—one which I have mentioned in previous posts. It’s a non-fiction book on how successful relationships can make the workplace (and life) more rewarding and productive. So now I am noodling around with how to dive into that project. Starting is always a challenge.

One of my writing friends is trying to convince me to save it for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which happens every November. I pointed out that I am not writing a novel and she assured me that it’s ok to write non-fiction during that time.(Drat) I’m still not convinced, however. There is something in me that is afraid if I let it wait until November, I’ll lose my momentum and enthusiasm for the project. I’d also like to have the NaNoWriMo opportunity for writing another novel that’s been on my mind. (I love possibilities. They are so much sexier than realities.)

So I am left with the alternative of just starting and seeing where I get. My challenge in pursuing that path is that once again I have to carve out consistent writing time each week, along with exercise, meditation, family time, oh, and then there’s work. But enough whining. It can be done; I have done it.

I got my novel draft done by staying determined. Even when I felt that I was getting nowhere with the novel, I stayed firm in my declaration to write a novel. And I have come to understand in a deeper way than before that being determined has amazing power. It also helps if I tell someone, preferably a lot of someones, what I am determined to accomplish. Then when I find myself wavering on a declaration that I hold near and dear, I mentally stamp my foot to the universe and say, “I said I was going to do this.” And somehow I find the wherewithal to continue.

I’d love to hear how declarations have made a difference in your life….


Re-Entry…Not for Sissies August 16, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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Amara Ann Bertorelli by Ann Bertorelli

Going off to a writer’s retreat is a certain type of wonderland. As Jennifer Louden (www. jenniferlouden.com) puts it, a retreat is a ‘container’ that briefly places the rest of the world at bay. You then get to be in this lovely space and write, wrestle with your inner demons,connect with others who have your creativity obsession, or just simply ‘be.’

All is wonderful until life puts the brakes on. Re-entry into the real world—eek! It’s not for the faint of heart.

This past week has been my re-entry week. We talked a bit about this at the end of the retreat. How does one go from paradise to not-paradise? However, when we talked about it, it was a largely academic discussion for me—I had another week of fun, after all.

So getting home felt a little creaky. My experience of this past week has been that everything seems slightly out of kilter—as if someone took the picture frame and tilted it slightly.

I did two days of consulting this week and, while there were no disasters—it seemed flat. And in one case there was a dramatic eruption on the part of one of the participants. To put it bluntly, it was hardly the rewarding experience that I have come to expect from my work.

Not being one who enjoys feeling dissatisfied, I have made a conscious effort to ease back into my life, doing what I can to lose the blues.

  • I’ve made sure to sleep well and have gone to bed earlier than I normally would. Part of the problem seems to be related to readjusting to the time difference.

  • I spent time with my three grandchildren. Because they are happy children, I take joy in their innocence and playfulness and appreciation of the gifts I brought them from New Mexico.

  • I took myself to a quilt store day before yesterday. It’s not about the actual shopping as much as it is about doing something that gives me joy. The store is located on a beautiful Pennsylvania farm and the drive there is relaxing and lovely. And seeing and touching all those wonderful fabrics is bliss…

  • I’ve stayed in touch with my writing friends some of whom were at the retreat, and some who weren’t. This maintains the connection to my creative process.

  • I have simply surrendered to feeling yukky (technical term). I know that this too will pass. It has before and it will again.


The Writers Have Retreated August 5, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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2009 Writer's Retreat Group 953 by Annelle Hollingsworth

So the writers’ retreat is over for another year . And I have the extreme good fortune to be spending a whole week in Santa Fe at a lovely secluded spot to re-group, rest, and do whatever the heck I want. Lucky, lucky me.

Here’s my preliminary list of what I got from the retreat experience: (knowing full well that I won’t really know what I got for a couple of months or more)

  • A good chunk of writing got done. The new book is crystallizing in my head and I have blocked out the major chapters. It’s something I am looking forward to jumping into.

  • Celebration about the completion of my novel’s first draft with others who know what it takes to complete such an undertaking.

  • A sense of community with other women with whom I have much in common.

  • Intellectual stimulation. I met women who have different ‘backgrounds of obviousness’ than I do. Sometimes this can be challenging but it always enables me to broaden my horizons—something which I love.

  • An appreciation of what talents and sensibilities I bring and how they can be of service to others. I always find it instructive to see what others reflect to me about myself.

  • Connections which help me stay committed to my desire to incorporate writing as a way of life.

  • An opportunity to question my own values and way of being and come out on the other end with some new declarations for the future as well as some sense of what I need to keep doing

  • A chance to spend time in New Mexico—one of my magical spaces. The mountains seem to do it for me—even when I am huffing and puffing because of the altitude.

Yes, there were some challenging times throughout the week. But hey, growth is messy. If it were easy, everyone would be the Buddha…


Writers! Retreat! #4 July 31, 2009

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Milagros by amara ann bertorelli

God is good; life is good. Something finally broke today. It’s day 6 of the 7-day retreat and all I can say is that it’s about damn time.

I thought that I was coming to the Writer’s Retreat to write…but no. I was coming to the Writer’s Retreat to retreat and deal with a lot of the stuff that gets pushed aside while I’m organizing and galloping through my life. And I blame it all on Dance of Shiva. Dance of Shiva is a beautiful spiritual practice that is not what it appears on the outside. On the surface it looks like a beautiful, peaceful dance practice– and it is that. It’s also a gentle (sort of) but firm master of Change—notice the capital C. (Find out more about it on http://www.fluentself.com/get-stuff/)

Today we were going through another session (they don’t last long but each one feels like 10 years) in which I was totally getting it wrong and having no idea whatsoever what was coming next. (Yes, I know that’s a really long sentence but what the heck. I’m having a growth spurt.) And in the midst of that, it hit me. If I can surrender to getting it totally wrong and not really knowing or caring what’s next during the dance, then I can probably do that in my life as well. Down with perfectionism! Down with uber-planning! Up with whatever!

This week has been a challenging journey—not just for me but for others in the retreat group. I didn’t experience the strong self-doubt and self-criticism last time as I have this week. But I guess it’s one of those issues I just had to wrestle to the ground (and it’s not our first encounter). Well, the critter’s down for the count at the moment and we’re sizing each other up to see what’s next…Guess that’s a good thing.


Writers! Retreat! #3 July 30, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It, Uncategorized.
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taos mountains by amara ann bertorelli

Here’s my third entry for the writer’s retreat that I am attending. There is always a point in any retreat (at least for me, and I have reason to believe for many others) when the shit hits the fan, so to speak. That is when everyone around me is getting on my last nerve and I am forced to confront the reality that it’s my stuff not theirs. Well, boys and girls, that’s just where I am at this point.

We hit the halfway mark of the retreat yesterday. The good news is that my friend Rachel and I decided to break off from the group for a few hours and go white water rafting. That was an excellent idea (Rachel’s, not mine) and it was very therapeutic. There’s nothing like being a little scared, a lot exhilarated, and totally surrounded by nature to clear out what ails you.

One of the main issues that many of us in the group are working on is that of “internal sovereignty,” as Havi Brooks so wonderfully puts it. Briefly put, we are the queens (I do enjoy being a queen) of our own internal landscape. Because of that we give no one but ourselves the permission to determine our assessments of our own worth and validity. This goes for praise as well as for criticism. This is a compelling project for me—and seems to be for others as well.

Dance of Shiva (led by Havi) also remains an interesting if frustrating activity. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it seeks to have us leave behind the patterns of our life that are not serving us, using physical movement. I recommend it for anyone who wants their creativity to break out. That said, I do believe it brings forth some of that other gunk that was residing unexamined below the surface of things. Sort of like the pus in a sore—yuk! Suffice it to say that I am not all sweetness and light at the moment…However, I do hold as a possibility that this could change by the end of the retreat on Saturday.

Onward and upward (I hope)


Writers! Retreat! #2 July 28, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It, Personal Observations.
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flower cart at mabel, taos nm

Today marks the first full day of the writer’s retreat that I am attending in Taos, New Mexico. It’s been the first day without a thunderstorm since I arrived here. As is usually the case here, the weather is glorious—clear, dry and of course sunny. And the smells here are wonderful—juniper, sage, pine and many other lovely natural scents

Today was the awkward first day which I find common in most retreats and workshops I have attended–people just getting to know one another’s names and stories.

I started the day with free form dancing for a half hour. I always enjoy this because I am a ballroom dancer and like to move my body.

Our topic for the morning session was Waking Up Your Brain and Settling In. Jennifer Louden engaged us in a free writing exercise or two. Then it was time to work on breaking out of our old patterns with Havi Brooks. Havi does something called the Dance of Shiva whose purpose it is to re-groove your brain through movement. She challenged us to “do it wrong” and I certainly obliged her. The technique is a series of movements done with the arms. These movements are shuffled and sped up as the session goes on. Wow—I was perplexed by it, so I guess I was really doing it right.

This session was followed by our writing time—it is a writer’s retreat after all. I made some progress with the help of Jennifer’s coaching. I am venturing into a new project—a non-fiction book on how it’s possible to make the workplace a more satisfying and joyful place. So far—so good!

This afternoon we had a session which enabled us to confront our inner critic in a constructive way. Last year I absolutely hated this particular session and the temptation was to skip it. However, good sense prevailed and I attended. Surprisingly, I found that I was able to move through it with a lot less tension. I believe that the process of surfacing this critical voice that is part of me was an important piece of being able to incorporate it into my writing process in a more productive way.

So, the first day is almost over. Tonight will be another evening council.

There is the usual assortment of reasons that women have come here—some of them even have to do with writing. I have noticed that many women come because there is healing for them to do and this is a safe and supportive place to do it. And I guess we are all healing on some level all the time anyway.

Stay tuned.