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November is over, and so is National Novel Writing Month. I had set out to try myself in this project and, well.. I tried. I thought I would be ashamed to admit publicly that I had stepped out of the running in the middle of November. But I am not.

When I was working in the corporate world I once watched a retiring Chairman of the Board give a speech. He talked how he had achieved such great success in his career. And the message that I took away was to “quit early”, before you invest too many resources into a project that is not going to succeed. Because then you can invest those resources into another project that may have better chances.

It did not come to me easily to apply this corporate wisdom to my NaNo. Every night I went to bed planning out my next day – what chores needed to be done, when and where I would write. And every day the same story repeated itself – I did my chores, then stared at the screen for a while, did more chores, stared at the screen, moped around the house, stared at the screen, wrote a paragraph and got stuck. I felt guilty, depressed, and just miserable.

After two weeks of misery I broke down and cried on my husband’s shoulder about my “epic failure”. To which he calmly suggested I give it a rest. “You have tried,” he said. “Just focus on your music”.

Piano

My piano – covered in stickers for the little students – brings me so much joy.

And at that very moment, I felt a wave of relief. Yes, I tried. It did not work. Better quit early.
Not sure why exactly NaNo did not work for me – too much pressure or not enough planning, or something else altogether. But it just wasn’t meant to be, at least not this year.

Within the next few days serendipity brought me new piano students and a new performance gig. My piano teacher came back from Europe, and we re-focused on my studying for a certification. Life just became beautiful again. I don’t need to preplan my day to include practicing piano. It just happens, naturally. I find myself at the instrument in the morning and when I get up I am starving because I had played through lunch. I am investing my resources elsewhere.

If that novel is meant to be it will happen anyway, in its own timeline.

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Thank you all for the follows since my last blog post! I did not expect it and it was such a pleasant surprise.

Winging it is not the greatest idea for writing a novel. Also partying on the first day of NaNo is not conducive to high word counts.

coffee

And I am still a rock star procrastinator.

I knew I would not get much writing done on the first day but I was hopeful. I did bring the iPad to the hair appointment a

nd stared at it dutifully while my highlights were setting in. I did not write anything.

My volunteer gig at school ended up being very short, so I could have a whole hour to write. However, I was starving and obviously writing could not be done on an empty stomach.  Lunch somehow took longer than expected and it was time for my next appointment.

My third opportunity was when I brought my youngest, Sasha  to gymnastics. I could have solid 45 minutes at Starbucks to write. I felt badly about crashing at Starbucks without buying something.  So I stood in line and spent 7 dollars on a decaf latte and  a spinach square.

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I am going to write a novel next month. Yes, just like that. A sci-fi novel that I have been procrastinating about for a while. I am going to let Siberian Daughter get some rest and work on something completely different.

First I thought maybe I should say “I am going to TRY to write a novel” or “I am going to START writing a novel”. Then I thought what the heck. If I start my public announcement so timidly it will take away from my own motivation.

There is this worldwide initiative called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. It provides crazy people like me with an online platform and a social network of encouragement to bang out  50,000 words in the month of November. They even have local meetings!

50,000 words is the length of an average novel. I have an idea, loads of motivation, and the month of November. Every day I keep wavering between keeping this experiment quiet or letting the world know. If I keep it quiet to myself, and I fail, no harm no foul, right? But then I miss out on a potential support from all my friends, and the benefit of not having to explain my temporary insanity come November.

But then if I fail I will have to admit it publicly.

So what’s considered a failure  when you set out to write a novel in a month? A failure is that you DO NOT write a novel. Well, I am not that gullible to believe that banging out 50K words would constitute a novel. It would be a pretty decent size first draft though.  And according to my favorite quote of Ernest Hemingway “The first draft of anything is shit”. I am not under pressure to deliver a masterpiece.

So is a failure then not writing 50K words? Even if I write half of that I would be pretty happy with myself. I will have overcome procrastination, will have learned something about my writing process, and will still have a draft to work with.

So what if I discover that I hate the idea of being a writer? The solitude of it, the constant internal monologue, the boring research.  Will that be a failure? No! That will just mean that I can stop moaning and groaning about wanting to be a writer, and channel my energy elsewhere with clear conscious. I tried.

So there is really no way to fail. Either way you look at it. I have been writing 750 words every day for a month, as part of a writing exercise. I will just need to double that.

So here it is then. I am going to write a novel in November.

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I recently gave an interview to Andrea Hessmo on writing a novel in English as a second language, on being an immigrant in the US, what I miss about Russia and what I don’t miss about it at all.

Now I think Russian only adds a specific color to my writing that I otherwise would not have had. It’s an asset rather than a disadvantage…

…My identity has gone through quite a transformation. First I came to the US as a wide-eyed young woman, eager to fit into the new culture and eager to build my life here. I did not know much about the American way of life but I dove right in. …

…The recent events in Russia upset me: blocking American adoptions, anti-gay laws, human rights abuses when people go to jail without fair trial, and many other things I am following online. I am sad that it is now becoming ever so fashionable to bash Russia, to identify it with Mr. Putin…

Read the full interview here.

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Portrait of Alexander Pushkin

Portrait of Alexander Pushkin by Orest Kiprensky, exhibited at Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Link to the source.

Even though I could teach my kids Russian myself, in theory anyways, they do have a professional tutor. To be honest I stink at teaching children, especially my own. I usually have very little patience for their antics and they don’t take me as seriously as a tutor. A bit of an explosive combination. But I digress.

We have this wonderful new teacher who comes to our house every week for an hour long lesson with all three kids. He not only seems to have an ocean of patience but is also contagiously passionate about the language and about Russian history.

Recently, he told me he was going to read a poem by Pushkin, a famous 19th century Russian poet, to the children. Honestly, I was very skeptical.

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I first wrote this post for Art of Storytelling blog where it was posted on July 24, 2012

English-Russian DictionaryRead Part I of the post

I have developed my own approach to writing in English over many years. Even though I just started writing fiction in English, I had to write in English before.  My blog was one of the examples. I have also had to write a lot of business documentation in the last 15 years. I have always been known for poignant complaint letters.

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I first wrote this post for Art of Storytelling blog where it was posted on July 24, 2012

Lolita

I nursed the idea of writing fiction for many years.  Just like for most budding writers the idea seemed both fascinating and daunting. One of the most intimidating factors for me was writing in English. English is my second language. (more…)

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