#NaNoWriMo2020: Writing in the Time of Corona

November is almost upon us, and the Sword of Damocles that continues to hang over this year begs the question....

Is it safe to even try doing NaNoWriMo this year? Surely my laptop will spontaneously combust or something, won't it? (That's not a suggestion, Universe. Seriously. Stop it.) 

In all seriousness, though, trying to do even a regular NaNo write-in feels like it carries far too much risk right now. ...and yet... is there any activity more suited to social distancing? Especially now with online writing sessions and heading into an early winter (at least here in the Midwest). So, why not?

"Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything than nothing at all."

~Katherine Mansfield

It's the day before and you haven't even started prepping, you say? It doesn't matter. Any writing you do during this time is words on the page you didn't have before, right? And to help you out, I've got some good resources to get the ball rolling.

First, let's make sure everyone's up to speed.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the purpose is to write an entire 50,000+ word novel in 30 days. You read that correctly.

Why would anyone subject themselves to this?

Depending on how much prep you do (Read: how much of a masochist you are), NaNoWriMo can feel like being kicked off a cliff, forced to dive headfirst into a story you may not have fully fleshed out in your mind like a scene from Looney Tunes. 


This can be terrifying, but it can also be freeing. 


Knowing that you don’t have oodles of time means you can let go of that self-critique and that self-editor and just write. No, it isn’t likely to be a masterpiece when you’re done, but it will be done. You’ll have to edit it no matter how long it takes you to write it, but you can’t edit it if it doesn’t exist, right? Right. 


So get started. If nothing else, you can create a daily practice that will also help you get closer to your goal. Every word you write - every sentence, paragraph & page - is one you didn’t have before.

When & Where does it happen?

NaNoWriMo happens every year for the entire month of November. It is largely virtual, though there are regional groups that meet for write-ins and other NaNo-related events. [This year it is entirely virtual.]

Can I write with others?

Absolutely. Joining up with other writers to do write-ins, sprints, and Zoom sessions is a big part of the fun. 

[Please use safe health practices if you meet with others to do in-person write-ins.]

Aren’t there other events/challenges like these?

NaNoWriMo was the original event, but more events have been added over time:

  • Preptober (October): Prep month for NaNoWriMo’s main event. [See below]

  • NaNoEdMo (March): National Novel Editing Month is for the purpose of editing an entire novel in the month of March (often the same novel participants wrote in November).

  • Camp NaNoWriMo (April & July): This event is like NaNoWriMo, but you can choose your own goals (word count limit, drafting vs editing, etc.).

  • NaBloWriMo (an unofficial event; it used to happen every October, but happens sporadically now): National Blog Writing Month is for the purpose of writing one blog post every day (or every two days) of the month it’s being held.

  • There are other monthly timed artistic challenges like Inktober, Gloomtober, and so much more!

Do I have to write a novel?

It is not required that you write a novel. You can be a NaNoRebel, and work on something else. That's what I'm doing this year, as I work on website copy for a new website.


Be aware, however, that being a NaNoRebel means that you would not be able to submit your project through the official NaNoWriMo site and receive their prizes, etc. Don't take this to mean it is then not worth it. Again, words you have after NaNo are still words you didn't have before NaNo.

Do I have to sign up for anything?

You don’t have to sign up on the website, but there are benefits to officially signing up if you finish your novel, and submit it (for word count only; they don’t read it, critique it or steal it). You also get to find more like-minded individuals and toot your own horn when you reach goals, and there is a lot more!

How do I sign up?

  1. Go to https://nanowrimo.org/. You can sign up with email and password, or with your Google or Facebook account (making it even easier). 

  2. Under the “My NaNoWriMo” menu, you can set up your profile as much or as little as you like. This is also where you will set up your Projects, check your Stats, and connect to other people (“Buddies”) for general commiseration purposes.

  3. Once you’re done with your profile, check the Community menu and click Find a Region to find and set your Home Region. This will help you find others to connect to in your area. You can also find Forums, Groups, and learn more about the community and how to get more involved if you’re interested.

  4. Finally, check the “Writer’s Resources” menu for Prep, Pep Talks, and more.

How much prep do I need to have?

You don’t have to have any if you don’t want to. If you rolled out of bed, saw this post, and thought "hmm..I'd like to, but Halloween and one day to plan..." well, I've got a tip for you:


You don't have to have everything planned on Day 1.


You don't even have to have anything planned on Day 30. If you have an idea in your head and you just want to start writing, join the scores of writers known as the Pantser. If, on the other hand, you prefer to plan things out, you may be a Plantser.


Either way, you’re doing it right.


So check out https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101 for a crash course on getting started. Or follow one of these links:

Quick-plotting Resources

How can I keep focus?

Pomodoro Timers

Pomodoro Technique: A Pomodoro ('pomo' for short) is a time management technique used for accomplishing tasks and projects that require a large time investment. Work sessions are broken down into small time chunks (typically around 25 min), with short breaks in between (5 min). After completing 3 or 4 of these work sessions, you take a longer break (typically 10-15 min).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykMzzZolhdk

Focus Apps/Extensions

  • Forest app/extension: Set a productivity timer that blocks you from certain apps for that time; every productive block of time gives you points toward planting a real tree somewhere in the world

  • Stay Focused app: Use to set limits on time spent on phone apps or your phone altogether.

  • Mercury Reader extension: Simplifies articles on the web by removing ads and other minutiae to create a simplified reading experience

Groups for Writing Sessions

Social Media

If you want to connect with others, check out news, share how you’re progressing and more, here are some resources to help you get started. Remember to look for local chapters in your region through NaNoWriMo.org!

NaNoWriMo Social Media Sites

Hashtags

Find more here, or search on Google.

  • #nanowrimo 

  • #nanowrimoprep

  • #nanowrimoupdate

  • #preptober

  • #wordcount

Sanity Resources

5 Ways to Stay Sane During NaNoWriMo -
https://mseditors.com/2015/11/04/5-ways-to-stay-sane-during-nanowrimo/

Stocking Up - Snacks, Beverages & Healthy Meal-Planning

Inspiration - Writing Quotes

"I write for myself and strangers. The strangers, dear Readers, are an afterthought."

~Gertrude Stein


"Writing is nothing more than a guided dream."

~Jorge Luis Borges


"One does not only wish to be understood when one writes; one wishes just as surely not to be understood."

~Friedrich Nietzsche


"Writing always means hiding something in such a way that it then is discovered."

~Italo Calvino


"In the end, the poem is not a thing we see; it is, rather, a light by which we may see and what we see is life."

~Robert Penn Warren


"Writing is busy idleness."

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


"If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity and let my efforts be known by their results."

~Emily Brontë


“Littera scripta manet.”

(“Words fly, writings remain.”)

~Proverb


"The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate."

~François René de Chateaubriand


"Writing is the unknown."

~Marguerite Duras



However you decide to jump into this year's NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best of luck.

If you want some more of these, I've got a more in-depth resource document on my Patreon site.

What do you think?

Still exploring the galaxy?
Click on any of the following:
site - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest

Curious for more? Check out my other projects:
Ransomed Roads (RR): site - Facebook - Instagram - Pinterest
Tricky Fish Photography (TFP): siteInstagram - Facebook - Pinterest - Deviant Art

© 2020 Content property of Andromeda Ross, all rights reserved.

Don't Whitewash History: Art & Culture In This Time Of Revolution

There are actions being taken right now that have me very concerned. These actions could ruin the Black Lives Matter movement.

[This is a thought piece, so please read through to the end, before comment.]


There are fireworks explosions going off as I write this. It is July 4th, Independence Day here in the U.S. As the anniversary of this time rolls by once again, and we find ourselves in a state of turmoil and upheaval, I find myself ruminating on one of the “freedoms” this country is known for being built upon:

Freedom of speech.


Times They Are A-Changing


Statues topple in cities all over the U.S. (and the world). These statues are of Confederate generals, slavers, and other prominent figures known to be racists.  

That’s not all. After its 30-year run, Cops - one of the earliest reality shows, which followed police officers on their exploits - was canceled. Mississippi, the last state to have the Confederate battle flag as a part of its design, retired that flag and now looks for a new design. People are calling for legislation to outlaw Confederate flag and Nazi swastika images.

On the surface, these all seem like good things. I mean good riddance, right? Especially to Nazis and idols like Christopher Columbus, now synonymous with the genocide of Indigenous peoples in this country and continent (and all the more insulting when you discover he wasn’t even the first European of his era to “discover” America). And I never liked Cops, a mess of a show I didn’t even know was still running.

Despite my feelings, I felt uneasy. Something didn’t feel right.

I watched as HBO Max removed Gone with the Wind from its platform, and my dread grew. The movie was restored to the streaming platform within a couple of weeks, with a new historical context commentary, but things continued to escalate. Other platforms began removing movies and episodes from TV shows, all in the name of...what? Sensitivity? Political correctness? Justice? Did they even know why they were having a fairly obvious kneejerk reaction?

Then, swifter than I could click on a new link in my newsfeed, there was an article stating that “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” - an episode from Community (one of my favorite shows) - had disappeared from Netflix and Hulu. It took me a moment to figure out what the problem was until I read that it was due to a moment that was perceived as blackface. As far as I know, there are no plans to bring it back.

Now. I hear that there are people calling for a renaming of Captain America: Civil War, because the term “civil war” is upsetting to Black people, and I’ve had enough.


Censoring Art: A Missed Opportunity to Educate


The problem that I’m seeing with these actions is that they are denying us an opportunity to engage in dialogue. I’m going to skip over the flags and monuments for a moment and focus on the movies/TV series issue.

Art, at its best, is not about being something pretty to look at. It is here to disrupt our thinking, get us to see different points of view. It can be incendiary, even offensive at times (Mapplethorpe, anyone?), but that’s the point. It gets people talking; gets them debating. When one removes a piece of art, they kill that conversation, kill an opportunity for change, and that, my friends, is censorship.

When I saw that that Community episode had been removed, I was irritated. I love that show and have watched that particular episode at least a dozen times. Not only is that a brilliantly written episode, but the story is about bullying, mental health, and suicide. It was an important episode in the series that shows how much heart it has. The “blackface” moment was just adding another layer to what is a surprisingly complex sitcom that asks a lot of important questions. Was it played for laughs? Absolutely. Was it a teaching moment? Hell yes.

I could spend some time arguing whether that was true blackface (yes and no) and whether it was tasteless (it was), but the issue isn’t whether or not it was offensive. Its removal was unacceptable because there is now no chance to talk about it, to view it in the context of its original release, and compare it to the current landscape.

It’s a violation.

Let’s take a look at Captain America: Civil War. Forgetting that this is also the title of the comic book upon which it is based, what happens in this story is - thematically, if not literally - a civil war. The characters central to the plot are comrades-in-arms, a team, brothers of a sort, torn apart by ideology, and forcing each other into a situation that puts themselves and their fellow teammates in battle. The use of “civil war” is appropriate here, if not terribly sensitive, and trying to change this part of the title feels like the height of ethnocentrism and oblivious American entitlement. Do we think we’re the only ones in history to have had a civil war? While each civil war can be said to be unique, we did not originate the word or the pain and trauma of such wars, and it is not a term that belongs solely to us.

Yes, the term can be triggering, and that’s the point. The comic book (and movie) were making a point about the differing ideologies of this country and how that can spark unrest and destroy a group, a country, or an entire species. It’s about government oversight and its merits and pitfalls. In the movie version, a debate over policy and rights sparks into a larger conflict due to a seemingly unrelated incident. Given that the protests broke out due to a seemingly unrelated incident during a pandemic in which policy and individual rights seemed to clash, I’d say that’s pretty damn relevant. I’m referring, of course, to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a White police officer after a long train of systemic abuses followed by a disproportionate infection rate hit Black communities everywhere, while people argued over individual rights vs collective safety. 

At the very least, the title opens up an opportunity for people to have a conversation about what civil war is.

The problem that exists in this situation is one that exists all throughout Hollywood as it does in the rest of our culture: that writers’ rooms, producers’ offices, and all the major positions of Hollywood are peopled almost entirely by White people. There’s an astounding lack of diversity, and that’s being called out, and it should. In calling out this lack, we must be careful not to create a worse situation.


Whitewashing History: When the Ends Don’t Justify the Means


What’s particularly frustrating about these removals is that they do not, on the whole, appear to be prompted by Black people. The removal of many of these things was done by the White executives of these platforms, networks, and shows, not at the request of a collective of Black people and their allies. This is problematic for several reasons.

First, it is a kneejerk reaction, a preemptive strike to save face and keep from looking bad.

Second, it’s lazy. It is not truly doing the work of owning their part in perpetuating a system that oppresses, and seeking to undo the damage. In removing these items, these companies can claim they have done their due diligence when they have done very little at all.

Third, removing these images whitewashes history, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Rather than allowing these works to educate people about our past, it sterilizes artistic works to make them palatable and ignores the very real systemic racism that made it acceptable to show such images in the first place. It whitens them by seeking to erase any trace of “race” and race issues in the work, an irony, since race only exists in this country (and much of the world) because White Europeans created it to distinguish and elevate themselves from others.

The results of whitewashing history run long and deep. It’s why history textbooks teach that Reconstruction was a failure, instead of telling how it was curtailed to keep newly freed Black people from gaining wealth. It’s the reason it’s not often mentioned that Abraham Lincoln had talked about emancipation long before Gettysburg (and didn’t actually want it), but waited until there was a victory for the Union army to execute the proclamation. It is why we’re not often told that the founding fathers knew enslaving people was wrong, and wrote it into the founding of this country anyway.

Fourth, it is White people making decisions for Black people yet again. Many of the people tweeting about changing the Captain America title are white. I don’t see many Black people, if any, calling for this, and it feels more like a distraction from real issues. This is not to say that there aren’t some Black people who are genuinely triggered by it - or blackface - and that they might not want such a change. It is merely to illustrate that when Black people say that we want White people to take action, we mean educating and supporting, not erasing proof of oppression. Removal of these works of art does not save Black people from triggering moments. Those are happening in our real lives often enough. And it doesn’t bring about lasting change.

Fifth, it curtails freedom of speech, and that’s dangerous. That's a problem for Black Lives Matter.


Freedom of Speech


Whenever you bring up one of the original amendments/bill of rights, an argument is pretty much going to ensue. But one thing most Americans usually agreed on in the past was “freedom of speech”. The logic was simple: if you restrict someone’s speech, then there could come a time when they restrict yours. That ideal, however, seems to be in danger of being forgotten.

It’s come under fire in the last decade or so...a trend that’s grown from the political correctness movement of the ‘80s and ‘90s into today, but became particularly prevalent as a reaction to the election of Donald Trump to the office of President. His incendiary words and the way in which he shows blatant disregard - if not outright prejudice - towards oppressed and disadvantaged groups has left a kind of trauma in the collective psyche of the nation. There are other issues at play here, too, generational, cultural, etc., but we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think things have gotten more intense since his election. The letters TW and CW  - “trigger” and “content” warnings, respectively - have gone from rare instances to a constant in social media posts, online groups, and works of art.

Trigger warnings can be useful for temporary relief, but become pathological when we refuse to deal with our problems, opting instead for spiritual bypassing and sticking our heads in the sand. The problem with trigger warnings on a larger scale is that it’s a sign that we are losing our resiliency in political and philosophical debate, too. As we engage in dialogue, we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with asking hard questions and sticking through the difficult moments. If we shut down a particular comment or image, however, we lose that opportunity to strengthen ourselves, to build better arguments, to evolve our perspectives, and to educate others. 

"But...wouldn’t it be nice if people were, well, nicer to each other?"

No. That’s what we’ve had before. It’s why everyone was so shocked when we went from Obama, and thought we were making real progress, to Trump, and all the racists "suddenly" came out of the woodwork. There’s a difference between being polite, or nice, and being kind and compassionate. The latter is open to growth; the former sweeps ugly things under the rug to “keep the peace.” But those things are still there, left to fester. We have to face them, not ignore them and hope they’ll go away. Art helps us do that, if we open a dialogue about it, and learn from our past. When we censor that, we lose the opportunity for real change, rather than lip service. 

In addition to that is the very real likelihood that when that old pendulum of change swings back around (and it will), it will be our voices - Black people and their allies - who are silenced. Again.

Now let’s go back to the statues and the flag.


What’s the difference between TV and statues?


At this point you may be thinking that the statues shouldn’t be removed either. They are works of art, are they not, and a part of our history? Technically, yes. However, I would say that there are two distinct differences.

First, you may choose to watch or not watch a movie or TV show, to not listen to a song or visit a gallery with a painting. If an offensive moment appears in a film, you may fast forward, stop watching; this is a form of exercising your freedom to protest. However, that racist statue that sits in front of the government building you drive past every time you go downtown? You can’t really get away from that. You can’t pause it or fast forward through it. It’s always there, even in your periphery as you try to ignore it, never letting you forget what it means...

Second, we as a species are far too concerned with the worship of things: celebrities, war heroes, gods... Honoring individuals who oppressed and committed genocide spits in the face of the groups those individuals hurt. Furthermore, continuing to idolize a racist or some other kind of bigot does impede progress in the message it sends to our people and the world. If you think that those statues are only “showing history” then you are kidding yourselves. There is a reason the saying “put up on a pedestal” has meaning, and the meaning says nothing good about humans.

“So the statues should come down?”

Short answer: Yes, but...

History is written by the victors. Victors built those statues and other monuments (and if you’re wondering how Confederate statues is “winning” remember that no one from the North came and made them be taken down when they went up), and they write the textbooks and spin the stories that get passed down. Now, there would seem to be a new group of “victors” on the horizon. The question is not whether or not the statues should come down. Some of those statues have already come down, and there are talks of tearing down many more. 

The question is, what story will the new victors tell?

Perhaps the victors will erect new statues of people like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth, and tell their stories. It would be about damn time.

My concern, here, is whitewashing the history that came before these new stories. If we remove the statues and never speak of them again, only telling the stories of the newly chosen, we are at risk of not only missing an opportunity for growth but also forgetting our past once again. As I noted above, the pendulum always swings back around, and in forgetting our history, we run the risk of making the same mistakes all over again.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
~ attributed to Mark Twain


What we can learn from HBO & Warner Bros


So, what then? How do we fix this?

Well, I say we take a page from the HBO & Warner Bros book. Whether we’re talking about art or a local monument, contextualize it. 

Can you imagine if Dan Harmon, Yvette Nicole Brown and Ken Jeong came on before that episode of Community and talked about the history of blackface and the racist origins of Drow in Dungeons & Dragons? Not only would that be educational but it would be a great behind-the-scenes conversation for fans to enjoy.

How about a sit down with an American Civil War scholar, Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr. - as well as Anthony Mackie and Chadwick Boseman, please - and the creators of the original Civil War comic run, as they talk about civil wars around the world, our own civil war, and the role of comic books against the backdrop of history? I’d pay money to watch that.

As for the monuments, etc.? Sure, tear them down, but erect a statue that depicts the teardown of the statue, like that World War II Marine Memorial of the American flag being put up. Or, near a new statue, place one of those commemorative plaques depicting pictures of the original statue and its teardown, along with a description of how it came to be there and why it had to go. Redesign that flag, and put the old one in a museum with a similar description of its origins and commentary on how unconscionably long it took to retire it.

Own it, and make efforts to do better, to grow.

It’s still a form of censorship, but it’s the only compromise I’m comfortable making on that particular freedom. Owning our history and seeking to educate is the way to make amends.

It’s time to stop “rhyming” with the past, and that starts by not whitewashing it.


___

Addendum: 'Cancel' Culture or 'Callout' Culture?

I've read a few articles interchangeably using these two terms, and I hesitated to include this in the article at all, but semantics matter, and I think there really should be a distinction in meaning made between the two. As I noted above, there's a difference between simply removing something and bringing to light the problems that are inherent in its existence so that it can serve as an opportunity for growth and learning. One is about erasure while the other is accountability.

I submit for the approval of the masses:

Callout Culture - a cultural phenomenon of holding society, organizations, and individuals accountable for systemic issues, by bringing to light troublesome and offensive material in order to open up dialogue to contextualize, educate, and make lasting change.

Cancel Culture - a cultural phenomenon of the calls for and/or the act of the removal or erasure of offensive and apparently offensive material from public or semi-public access without an opportunity for examination, contextualization, and education.

___

Additional Sources:

Gone with the Wind story:



What do you think? 

© 2020 Content property of Andromeda Ross, all rights reserved.


~`~
Still exploring the galaxy? 
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2019 Yearly Review: A Year of Farewells

This year, I concentrated more on the video than on the written post. What can I say? 2019 was interesting, and as 2020 dawned, I realized things were not going to calm down anytime soon. If you haven't already seen this video up on my Patreon (you should really check out My Patreon), here is my 2019 review video, complete with timestamps and links to all my projects! Cheers!


Video Timestamps

If you just want to check out one part, you can see different sections by clicking the timestamps below:
  • 00:00 - Intro: 2019 - The End of a Decade
  • 1:50 - System Andromeda 2009-2019: The Path of a Decade (for those interested in the history of this grand venture of mine)
  • 7:39 - System Andromeda Today (whittling down my focus & moving forward )
  • 10:49 - Becoming Arcadian Nomad (why Arcadian Gypsy is no more)
  • 16:21 - Tricky Fish Photography 
  • 18:12 - Travel (Research Trip in Colorado!)
  • 20:24 - Life & Lifestyle (lifestyle freedom, farmlife, family, health, etc.)
  • 25:08 - Writing Review
  • 33:20 - 2020 & Beyond (moving forward with Acting, Writing, Tricky Fish, Ransomed Roads, Lost Title Cards, etc.)
  • 36:58 - Patreon (a little info about how this is all possible)

If you saw some things you were interested in knowing more about, I've posted links of all my projects below. Enjoy!

Main Sites

Patreon



Tricky Fish Photography



Writing

Ransomed Roads 

Ransomed Roads - Travel & Lifestyle blog

The Lost Title Cards

The Lost Title Cards - movie blog

Changeling: The Ongoing Journey of an Aspie

Changeling - blog about Autism


Arcadian Nomad

Etsy Shop for Arcadian Nomad
Instagram: Arcadian Nomad
Facebook: Arcadian Nomad


What do you think?

Still exploring the galaxy?
Click on any of the following:
site - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest

Curious for more? Check out my other projects:
Ransomed Roads (RR): site - Facebook - Instagram - Pinterest
Tricky Fish Photography (TFP): Instagram - Facebook - Pinterest - Deviant Art
TFP Shops: RedBubble - Zazzle - Society6
The Arcadian Gypsy (AG): shop - Facebook - Instagram

© Content property of Andromeda Ross, all rights reserved.