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The Write Life: NaNoing November

Any way I slice it, November is NaNoWriMo. This year I elected to save myself a little frustration, aggravation, and sanity, and decided to not write 50,000 words. 2020 has been enough of a mess without struggling to slap words on a page while feeling the stress of an arbitrary deadline (plus needing to fulfill my duties as a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for Orlando, FL). Ultimately, I think this was the right decision, and it freed me up to enjoy more of the events I organized during the month. And the one I want to talk about is the biggest event I worked on: Write Around (Virtual) Disney World.

We’ve been running an in-person Write Around Disney World since 2013. We meet in a central location on Disney property and then use free Disney transportation to travel (by all means available) to various non-ticketed locations to write. Our path typically takes us to hotel lobbies and cafeterias, where tourists wonder why there are suddenly so many people sitting around with laptops and furrowed brows.

When the pandemic looked like it would keep our region at home this year, I began planning how to turn our biggest writing event into a virtual experience.

With the help of my friend, KL Cripe, we created a virtual traveling write-in hosted on three of our NaNOrlando social media platforms—Discord, Twitter, and Facebook. Since a virtual experience removed the need for a Disney ticket, we also took the opportunity to move our writing stops inside the Disney parks, visiting three inspiring locations in Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios (yes, we picked Galaxy’s Edge), and Magic Kingdom.

Each location included a welcome, description of the location, how the location could inspire a writer, and time in which to write. We posted pictures from previous years (or from independent visits, in the case of our special in-park locations) and links to ambience sounds or music to help writers feel like they were actually there. We also included transportation between each stop because traveling by boat, bus, and monorail is just part of the appeal of Write Around Disney World.

In the past we’ve escorted up to 70 writers at our in-person write-in, which was about the same turn out for our virtual event. And not everyone was from Orlando. We had writers joining us from California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio, Vermont, and even Canada! I’m so glad we were able to successfully execute this event virtually. Every year we have writers who can’t join us, often because of transportation or mobility issues, and I’m excited to prove that we can bring this unique writing experience to everyone, despite the limitations that exist in the real world.

2020 has been an absolute mess, but I feel like it’s been a year to teach us about accessibility and I hope more event organizers are learning the same lesson I am—with a little creativity, we can shift our events so that anyone is able to participate.

If you want to check out Write Around (Virtual) Disney World, I recommend visiting our Twitter threads, organized by location:

 

 

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The Write Life: November 2019

November means National Novel Writing Month. Instead of talking about word counts or impressive sprints and slogs to writing 50,000 words, I want to share a little about the various activities I participated in during the month because even though I was sick and homebound for a week, it was still a lot.

Weekly Write-Ins
My writing group once again opened its doors to welcome NaNOrlando writers to join us for our weekly write-in. The Central Florida Inklings is currently at capacity, but we figure for one month out of the year we can uncomfortably cram a few extra laptops at a table or spread out to fully take over our usual Starbucks. Every year a few extra writers join us, and we love having them for the month—it’s good to meet new people.

Hogsmeade Write-In
Early in the month, I lead a write-in at one of my favorite places to write: the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Five other writers joined me behind The Three Broomsticks to write some truly magical words and reap some butterbeer-flavored rewards. It was a completely gorgeous (and mercifully cooler) day in which we each wrote about 2,000 words. One family incredulously asked us, “You pay to come into the parks to stare at your computers?” Sometimes the benefits of an annual pass (or Universal employment) are difficult to explain to others.

Write Around Disney World
Right in the center of the month was the pièce de résistance concerning the NaNOrlando events. On November 16, I and the other Orlando region MLs lead 40+ writers around Disney property on boats, buses, and monorails to resort lobbies and cafeterias to write as many words as we could on this traveling write-in. 

This event is my favorite every year because it’s so unusual, so fun, and so big.

Descending on and taking over the lobbies at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian makes me happy. I love threading between tourists and seeing so many writers on their laptops, focus firmly attached to their novels. It’s also a great opportunity to say hello to writers I only hang out with once a year and also to meet new friendly faces. This year we even had someone come down from Atlanta just for the event!

Brad Shreffler and I have been working together to build the NaNOrlando region for the last four years, and while Write Around Disney World is a tradition on its own, Brad and I have another tradition that we partook in this year: our annual picture writing at the kids table. When NaNoWriMo tells you that you can write anywhere, they mean it.

Even though I was sick for a week, out of town for a few days, and had relatives visiting, I still managed to get to ten write-ins. Which is more than I would have thought given that crammed schedule. But my commitment to attending write-ins during November is a testament to how much I believe writing with people increases my productivity and fulfills an important need in my writing life. Writing is all too often a solitary endeavor, and I believe it’s important to connect to a community and remember that through all the private, quiet struggles I might be having with my word count, revisions, or confidence, I’m not alone.

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

The Write Life: April 2019

Ever wonder what it takes to be an every day writer? It’s this: planning, determination, and prioritizing writing.

My friends and I decided it was high time we visit the Magic Kingdom for an epic 12-hour theme park day. I write every day and while I want to prioritize having fun with my friends and enjoying the happiest place on Earth, I don’t want to do that at the expense of my 1,200-day writing streak.

I came to Disney prepared to make sure I got my words in while having a rollicking good time. That meant: fully charging my battery, fully charging my back up battery, shifting an in-progress story to GoogleDocs and making it available offline, and brainstorming what happens in the scene I was planning to write.

Finding the time to write while we were in the park was a balance between knowing we’d have long wait times for ride queues and not being rude to my friends. I waited until the conversation lulled, or when everyone else seemed equally distracted (or exhausted) before pulling out my phone to write. Because I had thought about the scene beforehand, it was easier to turn a handful of disjointed minutes into productive writing time. In the end I wrote 387 words while at Disney, which is not a staggering amount—I didn’t even finish writing the scene—but my writing streak is in tact and I like some of the ideas that presented themselves in that land of distraction. (Also I will always think it’s funny to write on theme park rides.)

Many thanks to Lara Eckener for being my in-line and on-ride photographer.

 

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.