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Embrace Constraints | NaNoWriMo Tips

Sometimes the best thing that can happen to you is for something to go wrong. That happened to me two days before NaNoWriMo began and involved a call to 911. Stick around to hear the whole story.

NaNoWriMo started Sunday, November first. Two days before that on Friday morning I was in my office reading Orson Scott Card’s book Characters And Viewpoint getting ready for nano to start.

Then I heard a scream from the other end of my house. More than one in fact. I got up and walked calmly to the bedroom just as I was taught in paramedic school. Paramedic never run to anything.

What I found when I got to my bedroom was my wife laying on her side on the floor moaning. I checked for blood and saw none, encouraged the dog away from her and out the door to the back yard. Then I asked what hurt.

She had a death grip on her thigh, but said the pain was in her leg. She had been getting ready to get in the shower. She’d taken off her underwear, picked it up with her toes and tried to throw it into the dirty clothes. She’d missed, hit the hamper with her foot and twisted her hip. Then she had fallen and, we now know, broke her hip.

I was able to get her to finally let go of her leg. We did a little assessment and hoped it was something minor that would pass. After a few minutes of no ability to move with out excruciating pain, I called 911.

The rest of the day was filled with ambulances, COVID constrained emergency rooms, and a lot of waiting. By the end of the day Friday we knew she was going to need surgery to fix the break in her femoral neck. On Saturday she had three long wood screws drilled into her and was a patient in the hospital.

Sunday morning I started writing my novel, The Adventures of Space Girl Red.

This was not the best thing that ever happen to me. Nor even the best thing for my novel. But it did give me a new distinctions for life.

Embrace constraints.

Sometimes having a lot of time doesn’t help you get things done. Suddenly having to balance hospital time, Distinctions For Life work, and writing gave me a new set of constraints. I couldn’t put off anything. There simply wasn’t time to waste.

I remember years ago in college hearing someone say, “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” Seems a strange thing to say, but even then I saw I was true. Busy people have constraints. They don’t have time to waste. If they take on a task they will make it happen. They probably have a system for leading their time. They don’t wait to feel like doing it. They just get it done.

I was listening to an audiobook called Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner to prepare myself for NaNoWriMo. I frankly hadn’t been getting much out of it, until I reached the chapter titled “Embracing Constraints.”

I thought he was going to talk about the limits of your medium as a writer. But he instead talked about the limits on your time. Accept them and make your writing a priority.

This reminded me of something I heard Cory Doctorow say on a panel one year at Fenton in Dallas. If you don’t know who Cory is, he writes science fiction, he’s a co-editor of the very popular blog Boing Boing, works with the EFF and the Open Rights Group, and….well you can see he’s a very busy guy.

On that panel, he told the story of how one day he realized if he wanted to be a writer of fiction, he was going to have to fit it in. Anytime he was waiting for a panel to start, or sitting around during a recess in court and had a few minutes, he could pull out his laptop and work on a book.

It was important and that meant he had to make it work. He couldn’t wait to be in the mood. Couldn’t have the perfect habit to get going. He just had to use the time he had, and write.

All of this came back to me as I sat by my wife’s hospital bed waiting for test results or someone from radiology to maybe show up. That was when I learned to embrace constraints, pull out my laptop, and write.

Question of the Day: What constraints do you need to embrace?

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