The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, October 27, 2006

How to Get Through Another November Without Thinking Too Much and Still Have Something to Show for It

by Melissa Bell

I've been indulging in low-pressure activities lately - things like soup-making and knitting – things that can't be rushed, but don't take hours of preparation either. I've been watching movies – a lot of bad ones, mostly unintentionally – and "designing" scarves while dinner waits quietly for me to finish another couple of rows. It's part of my four-season world.

It's a pretty bleak time of year here in The Great White North.The city greys and turns damp. Mornings are dark as the nights lengthen. The garden dies away. We've already had our Thanksgiving, and the next holiday season is weeks away.

But when I next post to this blog, I will be at least 16,000 words into my "NaNovel". Hard to believe when I consider National Novel Writing Month officially begins at midnight on Tuesday and I still haven't the foggiest what I'm going to write about.

So I'm indulging in a late-fall inertia because I know I won't see it again for while.

This will be my fifth year as a participant. I've made it to the finish line twice (years 1 and 3). Last year started out all well and fine, but at about 35,000 words I sent my main character off to dinner with a handsome young psychiatrist named Samir, and I never got back to them. They're still sitting at "Rashid's" enjoying an appetizer of hummus and discussing the fate of Diana's ex-fiance, Sebastian. I never did figure out what to do with Sebastian's young daughter either – she's still at the sitter's.

There's a part of me, the responsible writer part of me, that says I should use the NaNo time to go back to one of those unfinished pieces – or even one of the ones where I hit the 50,000-word mark – and revisit and revise. But then that wouldn't really be what the spirit of National Novel Writing Month is all about. And it certainly wouldn't be as exciting.

NaNo can be like a month of Christmas in my head, and the self-imposed pressure to make this year "the best year ever". Then it becomes a month of Christmas on a cruise ship, and it gets more than a little tiresome around the two-and-half week mark. It's not so much about the writing at that point, but the temptation to get your normal life back for a little bit. However it is a very nice thing to discover there's never a lack of support to be found; the site's forums are filled with lots of places to regroup and refocus.

I'm not sure if I'm making this sound like a fun thing. I mean to, I really do, because it is fun. Of course it does make for some bad, bad writing – shameful, gruesome strings of words that urge one to quickly scribble away the mess or depress the backspace key and hope nobody was looking over your shoulder as you wrote such a bad smell. But during NaNo, that's not an option. It really is all about focusing on the word count. And trust that the good stuff, the stuff that's worth examining when you're not so rushed, will be in there. The trick is don't look back. Stuff is happening, will happen. It's not about work, it's about playing. And you're required to play a certain number of hours a day for an entire month. That's not really so bad is it?

So if you're sitting on the fence and thinking about whether or not to join the party, I say less thinking and more doing. You may decide it's not your cup of bourbon, and you would never want to do it again. But, whether you consider yourself a writer or a non-writer, you will certainly have no regrets.

And I will be more than delighted to try and bribe you with a cheap homemade scarf or a soup recipe.


Why look here! I just happen to have one of these on me...


This is my own version of a standard recipe, and really super-speedy.

2 scant tablespoons butter
3 leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
1 med. butternut squash, peeled and cubed (if you can buy it like this, so much the better for you)
1 med. potato, peeled and cubed
1 generous teaspoon dried thyme
Box of chicken stock (the Campbell’s handy-dandy stuff will do)
½ cup milk or cream
Salt to taste

Stick of french bread and boursin cheese to garnish

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute leeks in butter until soft. Add squash, potato, thyme and chicken stock. Bring to a low boil and let simmer until squash and potato are soft. Add milk/cream and salt.
Using hand-held immersion blender, whiz it all up to a smoothish puree.
To serve, ladle (Hey, ladle!) into ovenproof bowls. Top with a piece of french bread upon which you’ve spread some boursin cheese, and pop under the broil for a few minutes until the cheese melts. (You might want to make extra toasts - they’re good.)
Remove from oven. Careful - those bowls are hot!
Eat in front of the TV.

(Have a great weekend, everybody!)


Blogger Patricia said...

I am so in need of a soup receipe, and I love this post MelBel, it's wonderful and inspiring, I'm doing Nanowrimo as well, but not pure, I
m hoping to make huge inroads into my novel, and well, I started it there last year, I just need to commit to it, to get back into it, great post, and really, I'm serious about the soup receipe, something easy, involving a ham bone maybe, I have a great one from our Thanksgiving. My kids don't like pea post Mel, thanks xoxo

Fri Oct 27, 01:45:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I would also like you to post a soup recipe, maybe even a soup site. Esme told me that the last soup I made tasted like water. She was right.

p.s. I'll be thinking of you all on the first of November.

Fri Oct 27, 07:41:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

Okay, I added a recipe to the post.

Patricia, I'll send you an idea for that ham bone of yours. ;-)

Cheers, and bon appetit.

Fri Oct 27, 09:49:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Thank you. That's exactly what I needed.

Fri Oct 27, 09:51:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

What a delightful post! I love the image of the couple still sitting at "Rashid's" and the kid still at the sitter's. Hope you have a Christmas full of fun next month.

Fri Oct 27, 11:28:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Is boursin cheese always poivré or did I buy the wrong kind?

Fri Oct 27, 12:58:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Oh I like that....a certain number of hours to play each day. I'll keep that in my mind at the mid month mark. Soup looks good too, thanks!

Fri Oct 27, 01:29:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

I am going to make this!!! I love boursin cheese!!! i get this light stuff and take it to work with's great!! this sounds delicious, and not hard. Thanks, maybe we can have a soup receipe day!! you know, canadian receipes!! lolol

Sat Oct 28, 02:08:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

You can do it! I just realized I use way too many exclamation points in my comments. I need to fix this!



Talk about a herculean task. I wish I could do it, but I'm too much of a flake. Good luck, Mel.

Sun Oct 29, 03:48:00 pm GMT-5  

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