Learning to Say No: NaNoWriMo 2014

NaNoWriMo is coming up and I’m feeling complex feelings about it. I am so super busy—do I really have time to commit to 50,000 words? On the other hand, I have participated in it the last 4 years, and won the last 3, so I really want to. A lot of my friends are doing it this year, and I want to support them as well…

It seems that I have so much to do, and not nearly enough time to do it in. Recently, dips in my health and energy levels have left me too fatigued to get things done. I’m juggling:

  • a full-time course load—I’m taking 12 credits, the school recommends 3 hours of study per in class hour: 48 hours per week
  • my job as the Queeries Program Coordinator at our QRC: 20 hours per week
  • writing, editing, and meeting for the Black Girl Dangerous EIT Program: 5 hours per week, minimum
  • writing for TheProspect.net—interview prep time, interviews, transcription, writing, formatting, editing: about 5 per week
  • volunteering with the Vanport Multimedia Project—interview prep, filming, interviewing, transcribing, editing, meeting: about 5 per week
  • work around ongoing protests in Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Justice. That’s All, and Ferguson October—photography, editing, blogging, social media, organising, conference calls: 12 hours per week for the last 10 weeks
  • one-off events: Intersections event (about 3 hours per week for 5 weeks), OSP Poetry Slam (averages to about 1 hour per week for 3 weeks)…
  • sleep—I really do try for 8 hours a night, with greater or lesser degrees of success: 56 hours per week

That adds up to about 155 hours per week. There are 168 hours in a week.

Does anyone have a timeturner I can borrow?

I jest, but it’s true that there’s something wrong here. Eating, showering, other household stuff takes up that remaining 13 hours or so per week, leaving no self-care time. I’ve been struggling with my health a lot this past couple of weeks, and this much work is far too heavy a load.

NaNoWriMo is kind of a big deal: writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days requires writing about 1,667 words per day. I’ve done it for the last four years, and even “won” the last three while handling school and my other responsibilities, and I’m so tempted to try again this year. But even at my fastest, that’s a solid two hours of typing, assuming I don’t take any breaks, and I know that I’ve never had such a heavy load before. With so much on my plate, can I really commit to something like this?

The answer is no.

Yet, I find myself so ready to be convinced to say yes. As my friends gear up, start finding writing buddies and planning write-ins, I find it harder to hold myself back from volunteering, from signing up and committing to this feat. Truthfully, my health is nowhere near good enough, and my housing is up in the air—meeting my current commitments is proving too much. My heart says yes, but I’ve got to buckle down and say no.

All of the work I’m doing, everything I say “yes” to is fantastic; I’ve gotten so many great opportunities and met so many amazing people. It’s really hard to say no to things you want, but sometimes it’s necessary, so that you can say yes down the road.


Do you have any tips you’d like to share about practising self-care and setting boundaries? I’d love to have them; you can comment on this post or send me a message through the contact form.

New piece up on Black Girl Dangerous + upcoming events

Yesterday, a piece I wrote went up on Black Girl Dangerous! You can read it here: Black, Woman, Traveler: Safer In Strange Places Than In the City Where I Live

Other exciting news:

On October 23, I’m participating in Intersections: An Evening of Storytelling About Identity, Community, Culture, and Pride. The event is 6:30-8pm, in Room 228, 1825 SW Broadway at Portland State University. It’s free, and open to the public.

October 28, I’m reading in the Tell It Slant Reading Series. We’ll be at the Alberta St Pub (1036 NE Alberta Street) starting at 7:30pm. $2 suggested donation. Venue is 21+ after 8pm.

I’m working on self-publishing a book of poems. It’s called Fallen/Forever Rising. I’ll post here when it’s done!

Sharing Stories Saves the World

A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately centres on helping others tell stories, and telling my own story.

Recently, I started working at my university; I am the program coordinator for Queeries, an LGBTQ2 speakers bureau organised through the Queer Resource Centre here on campus. Queeries brings panels of folks with various orientations, genders, and intersectional identities to speak about their lives and experiences in college classrooms and the community. I just held the first training session for panelists, which focuses on orienting them to the program and helping them think about how to tell their stories in a time-limited but compelling way.

I also joined the Vanport Multimedia Project, collecting stories from survivors and family members of those who went through the 1948 flood of Vanport, Oregon, for a digital multimedia archive. Vanport was a war-time housing project for shipyard workers and their families. It was the second-largest city in Oregon, until it was obliterated by flooding on Memorial Day in 1948, and many of the residents scrambled to find housing in the aftermath. Some were also survivors of Japanese internment who had already lost all of their belongings, some were recent immigrants facing the difficulty of navigating a new place, and some were African Americans heavily impacted by redlining. We are performing video interviews, editing the videos, and then creating a video and transcript archive that will be freely available, so these stories can be shared instead of being lost.

I was accepted into the Black Girl Dangerous Editor-in-Training program, where we are learning to be editors for online publications, helping authors who submit refine their pieces for an internet audience. We are learning to be better writers ourselves, and will learn what makes an effective piece for online reading: what length to shoot for, what kinds of titles to use, how to shape pieces for BGD’s audience, and so on.

And now I’m in a group performance project about intersectional identities: 4 weeks of workshops ending in a performance where we will each share a personal story about our intersections and journeys. We’ve picked stories we want to tell, and have started generating important details to shape the narrative into an interesting, entertaining stage piece.

I’ve always believed in the power of storytelling: I’ve been participating in speaker’s bureaus for the last decade, and I’ve seen the understanding and interest that can be built through talking about our own identities. Recently, it’s become the focus of a lot of my life. This may be a natural extension of my work as a writer, but it’s the first time almost all of my work has focused on one thing, and it’s a pretty novel experience. I’m so excited for all of it, even if my workaholic tendencies are leaving me a bit frazzled.

I’ve seen over and over folks who have been told they’re uninteresting or unimportant gaining release and healing from sharing their stories and having them validated and affirmed by listeners. Especially for those of us from marginalised communities, who’ve often been made to feel pushed aside or ignored by oppressive systems, it is important to have spaces for this. These stories matter.

So here’s a question for you: what story do you want to tell, need to tell? What story is weighing down your heart? What story is resting like a stone in your belly? What story is buzzing in your brain, sticking in your throat? What story is filming over your eyes?

Whatever that story is, it’s important. I encourage you to tell it.