NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Life is for Enjoying

It’s National Novel Writing Month and I’m participating again.  It’s so exciting starting a brand new project.

Although, I have to admit, I’ve never juggled this many writing projects at one time.  I’m thinking about buying brand new outfits–one for each story.  Then I could just change wardrobe when I open a different Word document (I assume my brain will make the transition as well).

Totally makes sense, right?

Even without the new outfits, I’m having fun.  This NaNoWriMo quote sums it up for me:


“Thirty days and nights of literary abandon”

national novel writing month

November 1st-30th

Literary abandon.  For me that means locking my inner editor in the tool shed outside–and really enjoying the fun of just making something up.

Last year I blogged about my NaNoWriMo inspiration–about how my brother inspired me to not only pursue my writing, but really enjoy my life.  The information still applies. 🙂  So here’s that post.

Life is for Enjoying

I first heard about NaNoWriMo five years ago, and used the general principles to write my first middle grade story.  I’d been filling notebooks with stories for years, but I did it strictly for the fun of it.  But I wanted to do more, and NaNo seemed like the perfect way to launch that spark.  So I started writing with more of a purpose.  The only person I told at the time (other than my husband) was my brother.  I remember him being fascinated by the idea of writing a thousand plus words a day.  He was a creative type–he drew, wrote, cooked (even went to culinary school), so he was the perfect person to understand the need to do a writing marathon in a month.

When I finished that first draft, I put it away to read it at a later date with fresh eyes.  Then, when the time came to go back to it, I decided I didn’t really want to write.  So I went out and got a job, leaving the story behind.

I was afraid.  Afraid to read the rough draft.  Afraid of what it would mean to move forward with my writing.  So I went about life and work without it.

And then a couple of months later, my brother died.

It was sudden–a brain aneurysm.  He was 31.

My brother was so funny.  He did the best Chewbacca impression ever.  He was also incredibly kind.  Maybe it’s the sharp finality of death that smooths away the rough edges of a life, but I truly can’t remember him ever being anything but nice to me.

But I think he was hard on himself.  He had unrealized dreams.  He had physical obstacles, like when he stopped working in restaurants because he couldn’t be on his feet for that many hours (he battled Type 1 diabetes starting from the age of 11).  But I think maybe some of his biggest struggles were more internal.  He got bogged down by dark moments, the kind that show up to shadow your plans and leave you filled with self-doubt and fear.

I know that fear.  I think we all do.

I have one of my brother’s journals.  In it there’s the beginnings of a story, some sketches, and some personal notes he wrote to himself.  One of those notes stays with me:

“Write damn you! Write! Anything, something, Please!”

My first instinct is to feel sad at that personal plea to his self, but then I realize that goes against what he wrote.  Because he didn’t want to get stuck in those paralyzing fears.

In fact the first line in the journal he wrote is: “Life is for enjoying.”

I remember my aunt said at his funeral that she was sad because she couldn’t learn anything more from him and I get that because I would love to know what he would have thought of the LOST finale (our last conversation happened to be about the beginning episodes of season three and the oh so random subject of peanut butter).  I also am curious what his thoughts would be regarding Twitter, the Kindle or his take on the whole new world of publishing.  I would love to hear his opinion on all of this crazy writing stuff I’ve been pursuing. Plus I wonder if he too would be blogging, putting his writing and drawings out there. Tweeting.

my brother daniel patrick opt

My brother Daniel 

But then again I know now, five years later, that I am still learning from him.

I am learning not to be afraid.  I am learning not to worry about regret.

And I am learning to enjoy my life, from random peanut butter moments to marathon writing months.

What are you enjoying this week?  Are you participating in any of the creative marathons this month?  Do you think I need to go shopping to keep my writing projects straight?

Have a great week!









61 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Life is for Enjoying

  1. Your brother sounds wonderful – and I love the type of relationship you had. Sounds a lot like me and my siblings.

    I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, a blog every day of the month creative marathon. I’ve promised myself that I will enjoy it, and so far (yeah, it is only 5 days in) I am. In addition, I am doing #fmsphotoaday ( which is a great small dose of creativity each day.

    Best wishes on your November – Enjoy it!!


    1. I’m getting your posts in my inbox–and am so impressed Amber. I like the photo prompts–that sounds fun to me. You always have great pics on your site. Good luck with your November creations!


  2. I’m sorry for the loss of your brother, Coleen, he sounds like a real treasure. I also commend your courage as you face the fear, but soldier on. It is through these trials that you will accomplish amazing things. I wish you great joy of the journey.

    Rock on, NaNo girl!


  3. I think of you and your brother and this post now and again, and am inspired every time. You’ve both given NaNoWriMo and creative dreams in general more meaning. Thank you! And best wishes for a wonderful day, month and writing journey. I can’t wait to share in your mad crazy successes, which have already begun. *hugs*


  4. Thank you for the kleenex warning. I wish I were close enough to give you a real hug but … {{{COLEEN}}} What a blessing your brother is to you. This month, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo proper, but some of my critique group are doing our own version. Whatever fits our lives to get words on the page. And now, when I feel stuck or uninspired or bogged down with stifling procrastination, I’m going to think of Daniel and follow his advice, “Write damn you! Write! Anything, something, Please!”



  5. What an absolutely beautiful post Coleen. Brought tears to my eyes but at the same time inspired me…and empowered me. Your brother was a wise soul and I have no doubt he is looking down from heaven encouraging you and wrapping you in the arms of his love and devotion. He is so proud…as we all are. Thank you for sharing something so personal and beautiful with all of us.


  6. Lovely post Coleen. Last year it tugged at my heart and still does. I love that you want to have a different outfit for each story, that makes perfect sense to me! Enjoy NaNo and have fun with whatever tale you’re working on. Daniel’s love is evident in every word you put on the page. Huge hugs to you, my friend.


  7. OK, first? Your brother sounds amazing and you totally made me all teary with this post. But it’s so true. Just too bad that sometimes it takes loss to remind us. Second, on to happier things, have FUN with NaNoWriMo! Did you see that YouTube musical? Rick is hysterical! And I recommend a different pair of comfy PJs for each writing project – I mean, perks of being a writer 🙂


    1. I’ve seen the link, but haven’t watched it yet. 🙂 I LOVE the idea of pjs–I so need a new pair anyway. Why not more than one?? And they come in so many cute varieties. I could probably find ones that match some sort of theme in my story! Thanks Susanna 🙂


  8. This was a really amazing post, Coleen. I am terribly sorry about your loss, but I love how you look at it all and apply it to life. I think your brother would be really flattered to know that you continue to feel inspired by him. He must have been an amazing person.

    I’m engulfed in NaNo again, too. I love the idea of diving into a story and not worrying about structure or plausibility or grammar. To simply write for the enjoyment of it.

    Good luck to you!


  9. My oldest daughter started encouraging me to try self-publishing through something called LuLu…about five years ago, but I wasn’t interested. And then she died in December of 2010…and I spent the first part of 2011 in a horrible depression…then I started devoting myself to this. I like to think she would be happy.

    So I know what you mean about your brother still having an influence in your life. It’s kind of nice to be doing things the people we’ve lost wanted us to do, isn’t it?


    1. Kristy, my heart dropped as I read your comment. I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter–it’s an unthinkable loss. I imagine she is happy you’ve found a way to make your writing career happen. I like to think those that we’ve lost are still close–whispering suggestions on how to keep on keeping on. Hugs to you Kristy. Thank you for sharing.


  10. I love this post, Coleen. I think it’s wonderful that you have your brother close to your heart through your projects. I totally get that. And I totally get the outfit change. My father used to work from home, but he would put his suit on to get in the right mind set so that he wouldn’t slack off. I had a lot of things going last month and it was a challenge. I’ll say a prayer for you.


    1. You and your sister came to mind when I posted this morning. 🙂
      I love that your dad wore his suit at home. I feel compelled to get dressed every morning, because somehow pjs feel less productive. Although brand new pjs might be the ticket!
      Thanks Debra!


  11. Your brother would get a kick out of all you’ve accomplished in the last few years, Coleen. Your blog is a visual delight, and he’d be impressed by your manuscripts, your trips, and your empathy toward teens. If he were here, you might have persuaded him to do NaNo with you. As it is, you do it for both of you, and I can’t think of a better tribute.


  12. Oh I’m so sorry to hear this but also invigorated, moved, and inspired by the way you see the beauty in life, its pain, its loss and lessons, and the way you share these with us.

    I wonder…if you ask your brother what he does think of those things, you might hear an answer?


    1. Thanks Sophia! You’re question is especially interesting seeing as I just finished watching an episode of Long Island Medium. That show always gets me wondering how close our spiritual friends/family are . . . 🙂


  13. Such a moving essay about your brother, Coleen! I remember reading it last year, and I’m so glad you shared it again.

    I think the different outfits idea is awesome! Good luck with NaNo!!


  14. Your talent for writing shines here, you’ve introduced us to your brother.. and I’ve cried for the loss of him. I can’t wait to hear how this month goes for you. I don’t participate in this sort of thing because of other commitments and wish I could.. perhaps one day! xx


    1. Thanks Barbara. I know it’s a sad subject, but I decided to post it again in hopes it could inspire. Still, even simply reposting this reminded me how hard it is to dig deep and air it on the blog. It’s more exhausting than writing 50,000 words! But you all are so supportive–thanks! 🙂


  15. Hang on while I swallow the lump in my throat. Phew. There are two men whom I cannot imagine what my life would be like without them. Neither of them are my husband. He comes from a long line of men who died young of heart disease so I’ve assumed from our wedding day that I’d outlive him. But my brother has always, always been there for me. Hard to think about life without him.

    And your brother sounds–and actually looks–a lot like my son. Definitely can’t fathom losing him. (Kristy, the absolute worst loss is that of a child. It’s very good that you have found meaning again through your writing and can use it to feel closer to your daughter.) My son studied creative writing. He wrote his first novella when he was a sophomore in high school. It was actually pretty good. I can imagine him writing the things your brother said in his own journal. He is 32 now, and has gotten caught up in making a living and raising a family, but he tries to keep his writing dream afloat.

    I guess what I’m saying is thank you, Coleen, for the reminder to cherish the people we love. And the dreams, both theirs and ours!


    1. Your welcome Kassandra! There are some days when I am just a bossy pill and take my loved ones for granted. It’s not easy in the day to day grind to remember what matters. Cherish! That’s my word for the day. Thank you. 🙂


  16. Hi Coleen. We are new to your post by way of mutual blogger, 4am writer and are happy to have found your site. After spending some time on it, I have to say, your post: “Enjoy The Little….” was by far my favorite and I really was inspired by your words. You are an amazing woman with a true respect for life and loved ones. Though I’m sure you’ve heard it before, trust me when I say, we really understand. If you stop by our blog, you will see, we went thru something similiar, in our lives, losing three family members within a few months of each other. Those little things you speak of, are what keep you going. It’s clear in your writing, that your brother had an impact on you. What a brave woman, to use those words of wisdom, to strengthen your life. I feel honored to have been privy to read such an intimate moment. And I look forward to reading your future posts. And the picture, is beautiful! Best of luck with NaNoWriMo!


    1. Hi! I’m so glad you found me–and that this post inspired you in some way. I’m so sorry you had to go thru so much loss at once. It’s so true how the things that seem so insignificant become so precious after a loss.
      Thanks again for stopping by and taking time to share. 🙂


  17. What a wonderful tribute to your brother, Coleen… I can’t imagine this kind of loss, but you are doing him proud with your writing, and with passing on his inspiration to the world.

    I want you to know, too, that I’ve been surrounded by lady bugs lately. And have thought of you (and your brother) often as they grace me with their presence. Perhaps I’ll ask them to fly your way and whisper as you write.

    Goodluck, and happy writing, anyway – cheering you on from Oz 🙂


  18. My heart breaks at the thought of losing a sibling. I can’t imagine the absence you feel. It does seem like his dreams are living through you, though, as his life inspired your writing. How wonderful that you still have his words!

    Have a great NaNoWriMo! Pulling for you…and your outfits. 🙂


  19. Beautiful memories of your brother. I wish I could say the same for my sister, who was 3 years older and died 8 years ago. But we were always at odds with each other until later in life when we held an uneasy truce. But your story and your brother’s words have inspired me to take nano more seriously. Here I go. Also, I think it’s a great idea for you to have a different outfit for each story you’re working on. I, personally, change my underwear for each story. It really does help! 😉


  20. That’s a great post, Coleen and a special tribute to your brother. Sometimes it’s only when we come face to face with mortality that we realize how short life is and how little time we have to follow our dreams. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!


  21. What a beautiful tribute and so many wonderful memories. Brought tears to my eyes. So, he’s your inspiration — he certainly taught you how precious life is and to make each moment count. I’ve learned some very tough lessons in life, so I understand. Yes, I’m involved in PiBoMo. Have a great time witn NaNoWriMo! Hope you are inspired.


  22. Losing a loved one is sad, but when we are inspired by their life they live on. Good luck with NaNo. It seems I’m the lone non-participant this year. Everyone I know is writing like crazy on some project.


  23. November is the month to be thankful. Thankful for 31 years with a wonderful brother and thankful for motivation to keep writing which comes in so many ways in November. I am doing PiBoIdMo (picture book idea month) and I am thankful for the opportunity to take a break from editing and focus on new starts.


  24. Wow! Brothers are amazing inspiration, aren’t they? Lost mine, too, though it’s been well over 20 years, I can still hear him cheering me on. I’m sorry for your loss, but so glad he inspired you to grab life by the horns.


  25. OOOH! Good luck with NaNo! That’s exciting. I haven’t taken the plunge into that one yet, but I know I need to. And I still need to lock that inner editor in the tool shed. Great way to put it 🙂


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