Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo - To Write, or Not to Write



I started to seriously considering writing, as an option, a hobby, maybe one day a career, at about this time last year.

I had read Divergent and fallen in love with books more than I ever had. And I loved reading before. But something about the world and Tris’ voice and Veronica’s blog opened something in my soul that I didn’t really know was there.

A desire to write, not just autobiographically, or spiritually as I had been periodically doing,

but a desire to write novels.

And a desire to write to connect with others, rather than just share my testimony or feelings about something.

A whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. Novels, blogging better and more honestly, touching lives with both fiction and real-life vulnerability.

I got excited. Really excited. I found as many blogs as I could about writing. I wrote down ideas that came to me. I talked to a few of my friends who are writers. I dreamed. I made a goal to read every day.

That alone was a big change for me. I had no self-control when it came to reading so my rule during my previous 5 years of school was no reading during the semester. Now, I was starting up my last semester, arguably my most difficult (if only because my senioritis hit new heights), and I was reading every day.

I knew I couldn’t commit to actually starting my novel until I was done with school because I knew it would consume me. So I planned it as best I could, having absolutely no writing classes under my belt (other than “writing in the social sciences” which is a different solar system than writing fiction), or knowledge of how best to tackle the scary goal of “WRITING A NOVEL.”
Graduation came on a sticky May afternoon full of accomplishment and smiles and gratitude and family and rushing to move on to bigger and better things. 

(Not to mention an amazing hug from my gorgeous professor from my first semester).

Sarah took me 2 days later to New York City and my mind was full of Wicked and $1 pizza, gorgeous buildings and discovering publishing companies, tour bus rides and museums, painful feet and biting wind and falling in love with a city which reason and practicality tell me will never be my home, no matter how much I may want it.

I'd had 5 months of build up to writing MY novel and I couldn’t be more full of hope and passion. I was ready. I would get home from the Big Apple and finally put that world on paper. 

And then the exhaustion set in. 

The fatigue that comes from starting your graduate program 11 days after graduating with your Bachelor’s. 

From a year of wonderful and scary and healing sessions with clients who shape your first year of seeing clients but leave you unsure how to take care of yourself. 

From having a perfectionist brain with a broken body that keeps breaking in new, bone-breaking, world-shattering ways.

From going non-stop on vacation because your spirit is enlivened but you body is begging you to stop. 

So I slept, and despite the darkness covering my mind and soul, dreamed of those characters and that world.

Finally, I started writing. Putting words to the story that had been building slowly in my mind for the past 10 months.

And I wrote 5,000 words my first go!

And it felt amazing. Maybe I could do this. This big, scary, wonderful thing. 

But, it was also tiring. Physically. Emotionally. 

So the time between each writing session became longer and longer and the word count dropped lower and lower.

All the while the darkness became darker and the hope became dimmer.

Finally, I re-read the story I’d written so far and realized that the main character in my head was NOT the person coming out onto the pages.

Where I meant her to be proud of her differences, she was beaten down by them.

Where I meant her to be inspirational, she was unsure of who she was and what she had to offer.

Now, I know those traits would have develop throughout the book if I had continued, but it was happening different than I wanted. Different than the character in my head wanted.

It wasn’t happening for the sake of the story, or the characterization, or any reason contained within the novel.

It was happening because of my Depression. My doubt, my feelings of being beaten down were seeping onto the pages, darkening them in ways I didn’t intend.

And if I learned anything as a therapist over the last year, it’s that if something is coming from me and my needs rather than my client’s needs, I need to re-evaluate and change something.

Movement in therapy should always be client-driven, not come from the experiences or needs of the therapist.

Movement in stories should always be character-driven, not come from the un-related sufferings of the writer. At least, that was how it felt at the time, for this book. (Maybe there are times where this is good; I don’t want to assume I know better than other authors for their own work).

Not only was the story not going in the direction it needed to, but it was starting from the very first page in the wrong place.

So, I decided to take a break.

Wait until I was in the right state of mind and heart to write the story that I had planned.

I was exhausted and had no faith in myself to get anything done. Just getting out of bed took all my mental energy. I had so many plans for my last, little break before real life set in and I didn't do any of them. I couldn't. The weight and heaviness and pain from my body was somehow transferring to my mind and I was helpless to stop it. 

I convinced myself I was lazy because any normal person can get their ass off the couch and do something. But I couldn't. There was a weight in my chest (anxiety, maybe?) that prevented me from stepping out the door unless absolutely necessary and doing anything of value inside the safety of my apartment. 

Even reading, which is my favorite thing in the world, took more energy than I typically had. I would just stare at my bookshelf and sigh because I couldn't invest in the stories I loved so much. 

The one thing I could do was watch TV. (And look at Pinterest, of course). So, I self-medicated with Netflix. 

Sherlock, 
Grey’s Anatomy, 
How I Met Your Mother, 
Doctor Who, 
Torchwood, 
Merlin, 
Heroes, 
Parenthood…

Seriously, y’all, it was a problem.

For what it’s worth, watching these shows did keep me from going to a much darker, scarier place. I honestly believe that if I hadn’t had these shows to turn off my brain and actually enjoy something, I would have had some serious suicide ideation. I like to think I would never become actively suicidal, but ideation was within my realm of possibilities. These shows, thankfully, kept those thoughts at bay.

So, yes, I numbed out with TV.

I still do, sometimes when I need to, sometimes when I don’t.

I’m doing a little better. I think. I’m trying to work out seeing my own therapist, because God knows, I need one. But it is difficult in my current financial situation. I’m reading blogs of people who have gone through trials that have similarities to mine, seeing what helped them, trying to find way to cope with the life ahead of me. And it’s helping. Slowly.

But I think the desire to write is back.

And today is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The 30 days each year in which writers all over the world commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel. Or at least trying to.

Coincidence? Maybe.

If I’m honest with myself, however, I’m not sure a novel is something I can do right now.

I know I’m not ready to commit to writing that much in the story I began in June. And I don’t have any other novel ideas.

But I still want to write. And I think I still want to try to write 50,000 words this month.

Some of it will be in my journal. Some of it will be on my laptop (to ease in speed and word tracking). Some of it, hopefully, will be working on my WIP. Some of it I will post here.

I have a lot of things to work out in my mind, in my heart, and I’m finally in a place where I think I can start putting the words down again.

I might find out I’m not actually ready, but I want to try.

I might not hit the word count goal, might not even get close. But I want to try.

And I want to be a part of the writing frenzy that will be happening everywhere. I want to support my writer friends who are taking the challenge on, whether as is or modifying it to fit their needs (with editing and the like).

Hopefully, as I work things out, I’ll feel that darkness lift and I’ll be able to get back to my WIP.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to fully participate in NaNoWriMo 2014.

But for now, I will write my story.

And that is enough.


To everyone doing NaNoWriMo, GOOD LUCK!!! I’m so looking forward to hearing about your stories and progress! You can do it!!!!