Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Confessions Of A NaNoWriMo Non-Starter

description writing
By Bonnie Randall

Part of the How They Do It Series (Monthly Contributor)

I always have the best intentions. While not optimistic enough to believe I can blast out an entire novel within one (albeit boring and dreary) month, I do always think I’ll be able to attach a sizeable chunk of text to whatever work I have in progress.

But…then life happens. Projects get off-track. Sometimes lose their luster. Or maybe it’s just some sort of unconscious Oppositional Defiance Disorder that turns me mostly mute in the month of November, and I squirm with unproductive guilt as I look at friends’ Facebook posts and watch their word-count climb before my very eyes.

This month has not been a good writing month for me. If I was a paid employee I would have fired myself by now. Where’s my mojo? What’s up with my stalled project(s)? Not sure—yet because this happens annually I refuse to worry. I’ve come to believe that my Muse must find a dandy seat-sale every November, and right now she may well be in Tahiti, sunning herself and sipping Mai Tais while I freeze my tush in what is the start of our infamous winter here in western Canada.

So what to do when the Muse has taken her flip-flops and sunscreen and scrammed…yet you want to at least keep your creative muscles from atrophying altogether during much-ballyhooed NaNoWriMo (no-pressure!) November?

Well, I happened upon a mindfulness exercise yesterday that I quickly modified into a writing exercise—one that may, at the very least, pull those of us NaNo Non-Starters back to putting pen-to-paper, and at the very most, may leave us with some wonderful scenes we can then weave into our present and future works-in-progress.

This is the mindfulness part: go about your daily routine and, in the midst of one of your mundane chores, stop, take your notebook out, and write about what you’re doing in detail. So—folding laundry? Pulling weeds? Washing dishes? Stop, notebook, write it out. It is an excellent way to keep oneself centered completely in the present moment, immersing into the details of the task at hand. And you could stop there if, say, you are someone who benefits from mindfulness practices. Or…

You could do the writing exercise part:
so, still write out the mundane task, but then make it:
  •  As joyful as possible
  •  As tragic as possible
  •  As angry as possible
  •  As fearsome as possible

As in:


I wrapped fist after fist around the pigweed and creeping charley, and as I yanked and pulled, yanked and pulled, it was like watching a time-lapse clip of the garden taking shape before me. Rows emerged, straight, verdant lines of bounty. Without choking weeds, my carrots would expand beneath the soil, thick and orange and crunchy. The radishes would balloon and already my mouth watered, tasting their scarlet tang. The potatoes too, if I hilled them properly after I weeded, would fatten and grow and my cold room would, thank God, finally be full this fall—and maybe even well into winter.


Dad always did plant too many beets. Most families—even the big, farm families with their five and six kids—did well with just one row. Dad, though, planted three, and when I’d shake my head—“There’s only four of us!”—he’d just smile. “For the pickles, Bonnie.” That’s what he said. That’s what he’d said. I squatted now between his rows, grass tickling my bare ankles and the soil powdery before me. No one had been out to water since…well, since. I grabbed a handful of dirt, let it trickle between my fingers. “I’ll get the sprinklers going, Dad,” I murmured, then surveyed the beets. He’d be embarrassed at how tall the weeds had grown, be worried that they’d choke out the squat, magenta stalks of his vegetables. I remember cringing as he stooped, feeble and unsteady, to weed here earlier in the season when his precious beets were mere shoots. “Dad!” I’d cautioned, and he grinned a little, at the worry in the word. “Pickles, Bonnie,” he said, and now I heard it so clearly—wanted to hear it so clearly—that I whipped around, feet planted so I wouldn’t teeter and tumble.

But Dad wasn’t there. Dad would never plant precious beets again.


I jerked the pigweed out of the ground, kicking away the little rainfall of dirt that tried to land on my shoe. Just one chore. I strangled another weed, yanked it. Just one damn chore I’d asked the kids to do, yet here I was, weeding the garden while to my left the wash still hung on the line, stiff and dry and eager to be pulled down and folded before the damn birds came and crapped all over it. Again.


Peaceful, I told myself, though in truth the stillness out back of the farmhouse was almost unnatural; not even the fragile dandelion fluff wavered from where stems had overgrown, tall and gangly atop the spot where a vegetable garden once had to be. I wandered into the midst of it, crouching down among the weeds and broom grass to get an idea of how big it must have been before it had been abandoned. “I’ll replant it,” I murmured, grow hearty things like green beans and corn. Beautiful things like sweet peas and night stock.

A rush of wind met my musings, a shock of chill within the otherwise silent yard. I shivered, then ignored it, swiping goosebumps off my arms. I’d need a tiller to restore this garden properly, but for now…I grasped a handful of grass, began pulling. Yanked dandelions too, needing to brace a hand on the ground when they resisted. “Huh?” I started as my palm landed upon something flat,instinctive recognition stiffening my insides. Still—“No,” I whispered, and began pulling stalks and stems in earnest to prove myself…what, exactly? Right or wrong as I tossed them to the west, into a sun that seemed now, to be sinking faster than it should have. "No," I croaked again, but didn’t quite know what I was refusing as my right hand worked to clear the weeds and my left read the shape in the soil; fingertips bumping over the inimitable indents of etched numbers and letters, and measuring the unmistakable rectangle of flattened cement. “No!” I cried again, then swept the last weeds away, shaking and staring down at the grave marker in my new back yard.

And now….your turn! A mundane task written four different ways, and yes it does count as words toward NaNoWriMo, ’cause who knows—you might just put it into a story. Or that scene may very well become a story. And please share what you’ve done—and write on!


Bonnie Randall Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.

Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Divinity & The Python

Bonnie Randall Divinity and the Python
Divinity - Where deception and desire both hide in the dark...

The Cards Forecast Work

Shaynie Gavin is so much more than the sexy siren who mixes cocktails at The Python. A carpenter with a business plan, Shaynie is trying to amass enough funds to launch her own dream - Divinity, a place where up-cycled furniture from the past is sold alongside Tarot readings forecasting the future - and all in a setting that could not be more perfect: a former funeral parlor. Shaynie's belief that Divinity is attuned with the passions, the loves, and even the lies of its departed souls, allow her to feel satisfied when the cards she draws there reveal Wands, the Tarot's symbol for work. And yet...Shaynie would be so grateful if the Tarot would also, just once, illuminate a Hellnight from her past. A lost evening whose scars still slither over her skin, Hellnight haunts Shaynie. Yet when she calls the question of that chilling evening into her deck...

The Cards Forecast Love

...and love appears in the form of pro hockey star Cameron Weste. Weste is haunted by scars and superstitions of his own, and he wants Shaynie's Tarot to answer far deeper questions than she first guesses this sexy Lothario to be capable of. Who knew Weste was this intense? The Tarot, apparently. And yet...

The Cards Forecast The Devil

When Cameron Weste lands in her life, a stalker surfaces too, dropping clues to a connection between Shaynie, Cameron, and her lost, brutal Hellnight. Suddenly every card warns of deception, and nowhere feels safe. Shaynie and Cameron have to fight for their love - and their lives - as The Devil, their stalker, is determined to turn the Death Card for them both.


  1. Ohhh, I love this writing exercise! I promise to use it for our small little writing group. I'm sure it will make them think and they will complain, but I hope it will inspire some great writing. Thanks! {It won't be until February that I will present this to them but maybe I can post my response at least.)

    1. Hurrah!! So glad you found it helpful. Please tweet me or like up my Facebook page (Bonnie Randall Writer) & let me know how it was received. Ps: I am sooo jelly: I ❤❤❤ teaching writing workshops!

  2. I like this idea, Bonnie. I keep a journal in which I end up doing somewhat the same thing but I'm not letting myself loose with it the way I probably should. Your suggestions will help.

    1. Fantastic! I am glad you liked this exercise!

  3. I have avoided Nano since the day I learned about it. I don't know why exactly. Maybe it's the month long commitment. Whatever it is I have to get over it. Your suggestions will hopefully help me for next year. Fingers Crossed.