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A Look Back At 2012

2012 was quite a year, so we decided to make a picture capturing all of the big things that happened.

Happy New Year everybody!2012review3

What I Learned Writing 50,176 Words In One Month

You may remember about 30 days ago, we posted that we were tackling National Novel Writing Month.

How did it go?

Alice got part way through but realized she wanted to get more organized and do this during a time of year when she didn’t have so many family obligations going on. (If you’ve ever been to the state of Maine in March, you’ll completely understand her point.)

I decided that despite missing about ten days of writing due to a business trip and Thanksgiving, I was going to do this anyway.

Consistent productivity? Nope. Got it done? Yes.

Consistent productivity? Nope. Got it done? Yes.

A few interesting things:

If you finish, you’re a winner.

One of my writer friends scoffed at the idea that you could write a book in a month. Probably at the way I would scoff at a beginner who told me they were going to design a website in a month.

Look, this isn’t Shakespeare. I know that, everyone who attempts this knows that. For about a week, you think your little book is going to be a best seller but by week two, you realize you are in the trenches and you just need to survive.

The point of an intense period with a deadline is to get you started. It’s like doing a Detox; it’s not something you are going to do indefinitely but something you do for a period of time to better yourself and maybe have some kind of positive outcome. When I submitted my word count and got my little winner badge this morning, I was pretty excited and did feel like a winner, even if I would need years of editing and rewriting before it might be finally published.

You learn to tolerate spelling and other small errors.

I’m pretty good about not letting small things bother me. A dirty mug on the sink, the idea of finishing a work project I thought I’d get done today tomorrow, I can let it go.

But when you are on a tear and see a spelling error you could easily stop and fix now get underlined, you have a dilemma: deal with the small thing now (what every productivity expert tells you to do) or keep going with your ideas and worry about that stuff later (what you actually need to do). I changed the spelling of my main character’s name and her workplace twice accidentally but that’s what ‘Find and Replace’ is for during editing. Just get it down!

At one point I wrote something terrible like ‘and there was no putting Pandora back in that box.” I rolled my eyes at myself and just kept going.

The story writes itself once you’ve helped it along.

At a certain point, you’ll notice if you get your mind in the habit of doing something (like writing 500 words in the morning before work), your brain seems to work on it on the subconcious level. I say this because otherwise how do you explain that you suddenly write a paragraph even you aren’t expecting.

An example? I was writing at one point when one of my shy characters stood up for herself and left the room full of people. I was as surprised as if I had been watching a movie… except I was actually writing this. You go Clara! I wanted to say. I was proud that she did something I didn’t expect her to be capable of doing. It was very weird. The character I didn’t like got arrested. I knew you couldn’t trust that Buffy!

I would say all this is like an out of body experience: something kind of cool but a little unsettling.

Don’t let getting behind depress you.

If you notice my graph above, you’ll see I wrote almost half the novel in the last five days. It’s amazing how motivating a self imposed deadline with a badge you get at the end can be. If you want to keep your sanity, I wouldn’t go so far as suggesting writing 20,000 words in three days but know that it can be done. It is physically possible. But they won’t be Shakespeare.

Congratulations to all the other NaNoWriMo participants. What am I going to do with all my spare time? I’m sure I’ll find something!

Curious what the book is about? It has no title but it’s about a woman who starts an anonymous dating blog and it suddenly gets national attention. Will she come out as who she really is? Or will she have to remain behind a pen name forever?

I’d like to thank J. of Blog Sexier/Budgets Are Sexy for his tips three years ago about starting a blog that made me think ‘What if I would have?” and Matt Baya for some technical tips helping me figure out how someone would carefully stay anonumous blogging. I’d also like to thank Derrick Sekulich for cooking me dinner and otherwise helping me keep life running without one complaint. I’d also like to thank several Facebook friends who contributed bad dating stories for my character to blog about. I had many in my past but apparently not enough to fill this book.

Breaking Even Takes On National Novel Writing Month

What to say in 50,000 words? Guess we better think of something!

What to say in 50,000 words? Guess we better think of something!

They say every day you should do something that scares you. What if you dedicated a whole month to it?

Alice and I, beyond working together, happen to be really good friends. When I told her last month that, after reading The Happiness Project, I wanted to tackle National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo for short), she agreed to join me. It’s the first year for both of us, though Alice actually has some novel writing experience, which I’m pretty jealous of at the moment.

We decided as a non-work but good life experience we’d tackle this novel month together. This will get us thinking more creatively and ideally make us better at our day jobs.

These past few weeks we’ve been reading helpful books (like No Plot, No Problem), writing down character and story ideas, and hoping we can writing 50,000 words in 30 days while business trips, Thanksgiving, regular work, and life continue to happen.

Thanks for your support (asking us ‘How is the novel going?’ is great for support and accountability) and maybe, someday in the future, you’ll see our novels on a bookshelf.

But until typing ‘The End’, I begin this project completely terrified. ūüôā

Busying About: My London Impressions

Tower Bridge was really close to where we stayed, and kind of what I was expecting London Bridge to look like.

Tower Bridge was really close to where we stayed, and kind of what I was expecting London Bridge to look like.

Zero degrees longitude, Greenwich Mean time. Now we just need to get to the Equator!

Zero degrees longitude, Greenwich Mean time. Now we just need to get to the Equator!

Just getting back from three weeks of traveling and, if it’s possible, I’m both exhausted and renewed at the same time.

The London trip came about entirely because of this blog. Phil has been reading my blog for years (way back when, it was about Maine and saving money, check out the archives if you want to see some old posts, which like old diary entries both mortify and delight me whenever I read them) and comes to Maine often for vacation. I met him on a trip to Maine in 2009 (You can read an account of how I almost killed us on Mount Katahdin, which is funny now that there is some mental distance from it). This past summer, he brought his girlfriend Geraldine (who we call G) and we, along with my friend Alice (who now works at Breaking Even Inc, I know, convoluted little story my life is but in a good way), got along swimmingly as a foursome.

Phil and G invited us to come visit verbally and then via a preloaded Oyster card (for riding the tube) in our Christmas cards. That’s right, buy us a coupon worth $40 and we’ll get on a plane for you.

Seeing another culture helps you see your own in a new way, and gives you some ideas. Some design inspiration from Burrow Market jams.

Seeing another culture helps you see your own in a new way, and gives you some ideas. Some design inspiration from Burrow Market jams.

Alice and I set off on March 12 and spent threeish glorious weeks in London (I had a sidetrip to Bosnia in there too) getting a locals tour, doing touristy stuff, and generally relaxing.

Some of what we did:

  • Double decker bus tour (rode on top because that’s how we roll)
  • Saw the Royal Ballet perform Alice in Wonderland
  • Had Sunday Roast with yorkshire pudding and everything
  • Visited Burrow Market on a Saturday morning
  • Checked out the Greenwich Observatory (ie 0 degrees longitude) on daylight savings weekend
  • Visited Liberty and other posh British department stores
  • Read books (Alice read four, I read two)
  • Sampled just about every available cider in the UK
  • Ate Indian food and raclette (a French dish specially prepared for us by G)
  • Saw a British improv group
  • Coined the phrase ‘busying about’ which means to run around doing errands and otherwise getting stuff done (Doesn’t that sound British?!?)
Alice and I both appreciated the British sensibility of politeness and allowing people to take personal responsibility. This sign was quite capturing of this sentiment.

Alice and I both appreciated the British sensibility of politeness and allowing people to take personal responsibility. This sign was quite capturing of this sentiment.

There was more than that of course but that gives you an idea. It was a very fun trip and great to see our friends on their home turf. It was also helpful to get a bit of design and marketing inspiration. We saw Twitter references, QR codes, and all kinds of things we deal with every day in new contexts.

Thanks to Phil and G for being such gracious hosts and here’s hoping to hop over the pond again soon!

Greetings From Banja Luka

Ogy and I out on the town at Boom Boom.

Ogy and I out on the town at Boom Boom.

When I told my friend and colleague Ogy I was going to be in London on a business/pleasure trip this month, he told me I should come to Bosnia and visit him. His web development company OgoSense develops Joomla CMS websites and we often work on projects together. A trip to Banja Luka (the second largest city in Bosnia) would be good chance to see his operation and discuss business plans in person.

Ivana, who works at OgoSense has been a particularly good friend to me during my visit.

Ivana, who works at OgoSense has been a particularly good friend to me during my visit.

Also, the trip meant I could visit a good friend in his hometown. I met Ogy about ten years ago when he went to college with one of my high school friends Roland. We would sometimes go out as a group in Portland Maine (where they went to school). One thing Ogy and I have in common is we’ll talk to anyone, so we were bound to become friends.

I reconnected with Ogy at Roland’s wedding a few years later when we were both running our own web businesses. Ogy and I have complimentary skill sets; I love the writing and marketing part of website development and Ogy likes the more technical challenges. We decided we should try to work together on projects. Two years later, we now do this on a regular basis. It’s always nice when you can work with your friends so I’m not only grateful for the revenue stream but also for getting the chance to talk to Ogy often.

Everyone I told about my plan for a side trip to Bosnia thought I was crazy. I assure ¬†you that not only is Bosnia safe but probably safer than many American cities. The people are friendly and speak English well. I’ve met Ogy’s employees, family, and friends and they’ve all been very friendly, which I appreciate being somewhere where I can’t even read the signs.

The local food is also fantastic. Ogy’s mother made dinner the first night and, while everyone thinks their own mother is a good cook, Ogy’s mom actually is. One dish I really liked was called ‘pita’ which I am going to try to make when I get home. But in case I can’t, I’m going to eat as much of it while I’m here as I can.

The people who make pita at one of Ogy's favorite local places. Ogy think I have a picture of me with just about everyone I met in Banja Luka.

The people who make pita at one of Ogy’s favorite local places. Ogy I think has a picture of me with just about everyone I met in Banja Luka.

The countryside is also really beautiful. There’s a lot of hiking areas and they hold the world white water rafting championships about a fifteen minute drive from Ogy’s house. The water is so blue it makes me wish I had a camera (or the camera skills) to capture it.

While I would have never thought to come to Bosnia, I’m so glad I did. It’s been great to get to know about Ogy’s life and also this beautiful place in the world. Thanks to Ogy for being such a good host, tour guide and friend during this part of my European trip! I will definitely be back to Banja Luka, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Overlooking Banja Luka from Ogy's balcony.

Overlooking Banja Luka from Ogy’s balcony.

A Playlist For My Dad: Four Years Later

Some Fridays on this blog, I write about whatever I want. Because I can. :^)

Happy Veteran’s Day! I am so proud of the people who have served and grateful that their sacrifices have made my life possible. Thank you, veterans.

I usually get a lot of condolences this day every year about my father so it’s natural to think he was a veteran. He was not, he just happened to have a fatal accident on Veteran’s Day four years ago. (You can read about it here if you want.)

I also blog about this every year (I’ve had this blog since before the accident even):
http://breakingeveninc.com/family-and-friends/two-years-later/ (This one in particular gives a good back story and even has a picture of my dad in it.)
(I think I must have just ignored this last year because I can’t find the post!)

Part of the reason I think I do this is that I like to take some time on this date every year and think about my father. (I usually even try to do something he would have gotten a kick out of, like drink a red wine with an ice cube in it or have a frozen Snickers bar.)

And the other part of why I revisit this every year (and a less all-about-me reason) is that I somehow want to take the shame out of grief. As a society, we don’t grieve publicly so I’ve tried to do things like write about how I joined a support group¬†and letting people in on what you shouldn’t say to someone who is grieving.¬†I like to be public about it not because my struggle is somehow more important or difficult than anyone else’s but because I want people to know their feelings are normal and it’s ok to talk about them and otherwise deal with them.

This year, I thought I’d change up the format. Dad, this playlist is for you. (Well, more accurately it is for me about you.) Because music helps.

Father Daughter- Paul Simon
I could totally picture my dad saying ‘Trust your intuition, it’s just like going fishin’.” He was kind of cheesy… sort of like how I’m kind of cheesy.

Cap Enrage, Zachary Richard
In case you don’t speak French, this song is about a shipwreck and someone drowning, thinking of their loved ones and what they wish they could say: “I love you, I’ve never loved anyone as much as you.” It took me a couple years to be able to even be able to listen to this song again. (Song starts about one minute in)

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful, Gary Allen
I found this song after everything happened. It’s a good one and I bet my dad would have liked it too.

Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground, Willie Nelson
This is the song my sister and my father danced to at her wedding. We remember thinking it was a slightly odd choice I think (Dad’s idea) but reminds me of him whenever I hear it and ends up being quite fitting.

Stop This World, Diana Krall
The last Christmas he was around, I remember putting Diana Krall’s CD in my dad’s CD player and him realizing my taste in music didn’t totally stink. He made me copy a bunch of my CDs so he could listen to them in his truck.

Every Day, Stevie Nicks
The other day when I was running, this came on shuffle on my iPod. It made me smile and think of Dad so it is in the mix.
http://youtu.be/IG2r3MMzm2Q (Stevie, you’re killing me by not letting me embed!)

I’m sure I’ll think of tons of other songs once I publish this. My dad loved 70s rock for example and I’m sure some Elton John or Janis Joplin song may come to mind at some point.

So if you are missing someone, I hope you take some time today and remember them, with music or otherwise. Losing someone requires a constant recovery process that is never quite over but we can take comfort in knowing we share it with many other people out there.

Anyone else have good songs to add to my playlist here? Maybe a good remembering someone song or something my dad would have gotten a kick out of (if you knew him that is)? 

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