One week into Camp NaNoWriMo! And I’ve written….

What word count?

I have no idea.

That’s the beauty of it. I’ve written every day, but I’ve decided not to tally words until the end. Last week was spent vacationing with my family at my parents’ house. My kids were there. My brother and his family were there. My sister was there. Needless to say, my parents were there. I was really happy if I got to say “Hi” to my computer every day, much less sit down and spend quality time with it. But I did spend a lot of quality time with my family (though I often forgot to say “Hi” until I had my second cup of coffee), and that’s why it felt like a wonderful vacation.

Meanwhile, I’ve moved my story along, introduced some new characters, and added some interesting but tricky plot twists (which, knowing me, will come back to bite me in the metaphorical behind by Chapter 29 or so).

So on the Welcome-Back-to-the-Real-World-Monday, I’m indeed in need of some encouragement. I found it, unexpectedly, by going back to my undergraduate roots as an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major. On the drive back home, my husband and I were listening to the NPR Science Friday podcast with Edward O. Wilson, legendary Harvard biologist (Professor Emeritus), who talked about his new book “Letters to a Young Scientist”. E.O. Wilson was famous, of course, even when I was in college 20-something years ago, and I was curious to hear what he had to say from his 40+ years as a scientist. He didn’t let me down, and I couldn’t help but notice that scientists and writers benefit from the same kind of encouragements.

For instance:

  1. We both live our work: real scientists don’t take vacations, they just take short breaks during which they come up with new ideas or other ways of tackling their old problems. While I was on “vacation” I figured out how to fix two old short stories and started one new novel. (YIKES! In the middle of a NANO! I KNOW!)
  2. Scientists take risks, make quick, dirty experiments, and aren’t afraid to go down lots of paths trying to find the one right one. (Substitute “writers” for “scientist” and “stories” or “characters” for “experiments”.)
  3. Finally, to be a great scientist, you don’t have to be the best or brightest. You just have to be smart enough to come up with interesting questions, but not so smart that you get bored answering them. (I found this last bit of advice particularly encouraging.)

In my other career, I tried to be a scientist, and I wish I’d had his advice earlier. But it’s not too late: I’m taking it to heart as a writer. (Even better, as a writer of science fiction: His words on that field are particularly inspirational!)

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