Present, not precious – A November Project

For me, November has always been a month to hurry over or smudge.  During the eleventh month, some people write novels, others grow moustaches. I fidget with cold fingers until it ends, looking forward to US Thanksgiving as much as to give thanks for the end of the month as for anything else.

In memory, November is the month of hoping for early snow. After the splendour of autumn, it is the bitter half of the season, the crumbling that is fall. Birds leave. Flowers finish. Night lengthens. The winds sharpen. In the branches of trees, the bones of the year are laid bare. Although the solstice is weeks away, November days feel shortest of all to me. November is a dip, a hush before the advent season.  A lull.

This year, I want to make peace with the month. Although I write most days, I don’t post most days. Sometimes, months go by without a word here. As way of inhabiting instead of enduring this barest of months, I’ve decided to share a short post each day. The writing will be rather rough. I’m thinking of it as bringing a block of marble out of the quarry each day to see how it looks in the November light. I’m calling this project Present, not precious.

Would you like to join me? You could join in on any or all of the days. You can participate in many ways: you might simply choose to read and use my words as a springboard for your own thoughts, you might journal your thoughts, perhaps you’ll share writing here or post on your own blog. Whatever you choose, I hope you, too, find a way of becoming present, not precious.

Several years ago, I did something similar. There were 32 days until I was going to meet a friend in Paris. So I wrote down 32 words in my journal. Each day, I chose one randomly to write about as a bellwether for the day.  At the end, I typed up all 32 entries and gave them to my friend. This time, I’ve chosen 30 words to guide each day’s writing through November.

Here are my words:


Because I wanted to root the writing in the experienced world and avoid abstractions, I made a guideline of choosing things I could see, touch, hear, taste, smell, or visit. You might like to spend some time coming up with a pool of your own words. What will your words be?

I’ll be back tomorrow to share some ideas on a mindset that I hope will help me embrace a month of Present, not precious.

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21 Responses to Present, not precious – A November Project

  1. babycrow says:

    I’m a bit of a November-phobe too so I’ll look forward to your inspiration of how to be more present during the month, whatever it brings. Embrace Autumn should be my mantra! Thanks for sharing this creative post, Melissa.


  2. Alan Nance says:

    Hello Melissa
    Lovely post – and idea. When I read “In the branches of trees, the bones of the year are laid bare”, I thought, well there’s a sentence worth stealing ;-D
    Hope all is well with you. I’ll be tuning in during the coming month.


    • Melissa says:

      Hi Alan – thank you. Underneath all semblance otherwise, we are always magpies when it comes to good words, I think. Glad to hear you’ll be tuning in. Perhaps you’ll pen a few bits yourself?


  3. Count me in! I so enjoyed the Advent project you did. I look forward to spinning off into unexpected writing tangents 🙂 beverley


    • Melissa says:

      Great! I’ll be curious to hear what you find out. Thanks for joining in!


      • i’ve used a ‘random word generator’ to come up with a list. I did put a filtration process in for words that stood out, so it isn’t entirely random but close enough to have come up with words I would have been unlikely to choose otherwise e.g. demolish, awkward and drip!


        • Melissa says:

          Ooh – inviting in Serendipity with open arms, huh? Will you be posting on your blog? If so, feel free to include a link here so we can have a little leap over to yours.


  4. Can’t promise to be present every day, but I’ll give it a go: I’ve got 32 tarot cards here to give me a noun-a-day (with a couple to reject if I don’t like them!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Melissa, I’ll give it a go x


  6. thenomadicnester says:

    I love this Melissa! What a fantastic idea, I think the whole ethos of ‘present, not precious’ is just beautiful, and a great encouragement to just sit down and do it. Why is it that 5 minutes to sit down and write (or do whatever) can feel like the simplest thing in the world, and yet at the same time such a challenge to fit it into our so-busy lives?! I’ve struggled with (and still do) my own ‘I’ll do it when…’ demons, and can procrastinate with the best of them, never quite feeling ‘ready’ to take that step, or do that thing that I’ve been building up and building up for ages. We let these things grow too much fear and power over us, whereas if we made the commitment to sit with it, it usually turns out quite easy and painless. I’ll be following along your words this month and will be interested to see what they prompt in me 🙂 Jennifer x


    • Melissa says:

      Hello Jennifer – thanks for reading and commenting! ‘We let these things grow too much fear and power over us, whereas if we made the commitment to sit with it, it usually turns out quite easy and painless.’ – Oh, I agree! And the funny thing that I don’t get is why we so often put off the things that we love the most and bring us the most joy.


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