What I learned from “Groundhog Day”

Sometimes I think about the meaning of life. Really. It occupies a lot of my time.

Friday – undoubtedly because yesterday was Groundhog Day – I started thinking about the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I had to view it more than once before I realized what it meant. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the movie you will be learning some key plot points when you read this.)

Every day can seem exactly like the day before: wake up, get ready for work, sleepwalk through your tasks, deal with annoying people who want something, be disappointed by someone’s response to you. Have dinner. Go to bed. Start over.

And our cynical hero – the weather reporter played by Bill Murray – is (literally) repeating his least favorite workday:  the traditional February 2 spring forecast with Punxsutawney Phil, where he is upstaged by a woodchuck. The day begins with Sonny and Cher on the radio and ends with him trapped by a blizzard he didn’t predict. And as his day repeats, we watch dozens of different scenarios. How many times does the day repeat? Maybe hundreds. He commits crimes. Seduces women by lying to them. Tries to kill himself. And then gradually starts to realize the opportunity to do something better.

With the final repetition, before he wins the girl, Bill gives us a beautiful list for living a fuller life:

Be kind (listen to your friend’s sales pitch)

Be helpful (catch a kid falling from a tree)

Do more (change the flat tire for new friends)

Learn something new (Bill takes piano lessons; learns how to create ice sculptures)

Be creative (see: learn something new)

Be enthusiastic (Bill goes from cynic to participant in the town’s activities for the day)

Keep trying

Which brings me back to the meaning of life: We really don’t know what’s coming. Too often, it’s sad news. Friends and family with illnesses or in accidents. But we have the power to balance out negativity. We can add to the positive forces in the universe and keep growing.

We can try to make the best of the time we have by planning to do all of the things that Bill Murray did. Remember Theodore Roosevelt’s quote: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Learn something new: try something you’ve always wanted to do. Watch a video or sign up for a class at a local community center. Check out the library for free sessions.

Be creative: take time for walking and thinking. Great ideas come to those who listen.

Be enthusiastic: keep an open mind and avoid negative sarcasm.

Be kind and helpful: the people you support might have a better day because of you.

Keep trying. Just keep trying. And so will I.

Planning for NaNoWriMo

The “National Novel Writing Month” is a speed-writing tactic to write a novel in 30 days. It has a fun 20 year history and has inspired thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of people to complete a first draft of a novel. The NaNoWriMo website describes “best practices in preparation.” There are dozens of conflicting suggestions: outlining, not outlining, researching, avoiding research until the editing phase, creating detailed character descriptions, and diving in with no preparation at all. It also says, “choose what is best for you.”

I am a “failed NaNoWriMo.” You have to commit to writing about an hour every day for one month. Some days longer. You need to average writing 1,667 words per day for 30 days to reach the 50,000 word goal.

Why would anyone want to put themselves through this? I can think of two good reasons! First and most important, this exercise requires writing every day – the best way to become a better writer. And because of the speed required to make the word count, there is no time to edit while you write; so it’s a great way to focus on the creativity of telling your story. Daphne Gray-Grant, The Publication Coach, offers a succinct list of pros and cons on her website. https://www.publicationcoach.com/nanowrimo/

I am planning now for 2018 November, the month generally promoted as the time to undertake NaNoWriMo – with 100,000 of your closest friends. If support groups help you achieve more, it’s a great opportunity to commiserate with other people who are attempting to do it too.

NaNoWriMo Preparation, Step 1: Daily writing

For more than 40 years – since I was a kid – I’ve been reading books, taking workshops and classes, attending seminars and conferences, all to learn how to be a better writer. From each instructor I have learned insights, suggestions, traps to avoid, but they all say the same thing: to be a writer you have to write every day.

Writing every day is difficult, but it’s all about muscle memory. Just like music practice – if you want to learn how to play an instrument, you should play every day. All that repetition makes you a musician.

So my first step in preparing for NaNoWriMo is to carve out daily time now – even 15 minutes a day, every day – to exercise creative writing muscles.







How was your week?

#YourTurnChallenge Day 5

How was your week?

I am so proud to be on day 5 of the blog challenge! (And the prompt question about getting unstuck was perfect. Sometimes, the best way for me to start writing is to report exactly where I am and what I’ve been doing!)

It’s 11:48 on Friday, we just watched a movie – a nearly traditional Friday night ritual, especially during Oscar season. As creativity seekers, we embrace movies for all sorts of reasons: technical accomplishments, actors who become other people, writing that makes us nod in agreement. We love movies. And theatre and music and literature and art – well, specifically visual arts in that reference: Painting and sculpture and textiles and pottery. Color and shape and design. Seeing things in new ways through art helps me to dream of new creative ideas. It all helps me to combine ideas from disparate sources.

I heard part of an interview on the BBC with three scientists who are studying imagination. They’re looking at blood flow in the brain using MRI as people are told to think about certain images. Too bad they can’t check it while people are reading great literature. Isn’t the ability to cause images in another person’s mind an amazing power?

The #YourTurnChallenge is an effort to expand my writing career. As I move in to the world of  blogging personal essays, and eventually publishing fiction, I promise I will always use my powers for good!

 What makes your blood flow?