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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Guest Blogger: Annie Gage on NaNoGoGoFloMo

Today's guest blogger, Annie Gage, is a longtime friend and writing partner. We met years ago and teamed up with She-Smoke author Julie Reinhardt to form a powerhouse trio of critique and writing support. I'm especially excited for Annie's current project - she recently came upon her character's core emotional journey - not quickly, not easily, but Annie has persevered in ways that inspire me. Here, she talks about
NaNoGoGoFloMo: National No Goals Go with the Flow Month...


"Don’t push the river, it flows by itself." - a saying from the Gestalt Therapy movement of the 1970s.

My childhood environment was full of ambitious and driven people. For years, I attempted to be ambitious and driven myself, but it always felt like I was wearing a bathing suit that was way too small and had awkwardly-placed leg holes. It was a horrible fit.

Flash forward many years. I started submitting stories. I sold a handful of them. Then my ideas got bigger- novel-sized, my critique group told me.
Golly. How do you write a novel?

I’m not sure, but I keep trying.

Establishing goals seems to work for lots of writers. All around me, writing friends set and achieve them. The Golden Coffee Cup, Summer Revision Smackdown, and NaNoWriMo are all wonderful supports for the goal-setting crowd. I’ve signed up for all of these, and almost immediately forgotten what I said I wanted to do. Stating goals seems to push my personal river. Repeatedly, I’ve learned that my internal current cannot be rushed. All efforts to speed it up just make me anxious or bored or otherwise unhappy.

It can be challenging to honor one’s ebbs and flows in this world where we are exhorted to Just Do It and told that If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail. I remind myself that there are many definitions of success. My personal definition includes never again forcing myself into that ill-fitting bathing suit.

I love writing so much that I am pulled into its eddies. I’m still learning how to glide with grace when the going gets rocky but it’s worth the effort.

I rise before dawn several mornings a week so I can put in my time at the page. A year ago I decided to try writing in the evenings as well, because of a goal I hoped to reach. All I accomplished was missing my family.

Recently, I had an idea for a novel that excited me so much I spontaneously added evening hours to my writing time. Just because I wanted to and it felt right. The river caught me in its drift and I accepted the ride.

My writing probably won’t surge into book contract any time soon. But, honestly, that’s not my core ambition. I want to have a writing life, which I do by writing regularly, being in a critique group, hanging out with writers, and continuing to learn. And I want to have a balanced life by working and having time for friends, family, and exercise.

I want to have a life that fits.


Thank you, Annie!


  1. Beautifully said, Annie! (Thank you, Holly for sharing Annie's message.) I'm off to write without calling it anything more than writing. (Just say no to nano?)

  2. Yay for Annie and her voice in support of Zen writing and perspective.

  3. Thanks for the post. I like writing just for the sake of writing.

  4. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing it, Holly.

    Annie, I'm glad you're enjoying the ride--something that's easy to skip right over when we're focused on goals, goals, goals. It was nice seeing you at the retreat. :)

  5. Thank you, Annie. I am so simpatico with your perspective. I tried the kamikaze approach to writing a novel, and it just wasn't for me. Like you, I prefer to work at my own pace. This doesn't mean I lack ambition or dedication, it just means I want to write well, and I want a life.

  6. Thanks, all! I'm glad my words held meaning for some of you and it's great to connect with some other flow-ers.
    (ooh! I hadn't realized that would spell flowers. I like it.)
    Plus, this is way fun. I think it may be time to activate my blog-
    rAnniedom Notes. I'll let you know!

  7. Thanks Holly for the introduction to Annie. And thanks Annie for the reminder not to try to make that blasted uncomfortable bathing suit fit when it doesn't!

    Have fun with the blog.

    angelina (recovering über-achiever)

  8. Thanks for the beautiful post, Annie, and to Holly for sharing it with us. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, it is important to consider that (with no disrespect to laudable publishing goals and dreams) there is great value to sometimes considering writing, like life, as "a journey, not a destination."

  9. I love this post, Annie. Thank you. I love that you let your writing flow with your personal river. It's the overly goal oriented mindset that puts up dams, floating bridges, and other blockades to the free-flowing creativity. In honor of that, I think I'll just go write.

  10. Hey there! Thought you might be interested in this post:


  11. I think I've worn that very bathing suit out in public!

  12. I'm really glad this struck a chord with so many - there is no right way to go about writing, only the way that is right for you. To discover that is a journey in itself.

    Thank you again, Annie. Hugs.