Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Dreaded D-Word and its Effect on Writing.

I haven't posted anything on this site for nearly three weeks just lately. And my posts in the two or three months before then were less regular too. I've also mentioned - oooh, maybe one or two (hundred) times - that draft two of Redemption has been going much slower than I'd like, with my daily wordcount grinding to a tortuous crawl. 

There were other things too. Having less and less energy over the last few months, to the point where the choice became having a twenty-minute nap during the day or actually falling asleep at the keyboard. Wanting to eat chocolate and junk food a lot more of the time - even when I really didn't (if that makes any sense.) And feeling like there was no hope for the world and we were all descending into the bowels of Hell every time I opened a newspaper or switched on the news to see yet another horrible item about how terrible human beings can be.

Looking at the above now, all the signs were there. But, as is usual for me, I didn't see them at the time. While I can pick up the very subtlest of signals in other people's emotions, when it comes to deciphering my own I have to be practically battered over the head with a blunt instrument. This is quite a common thing amongst those of us who suffer from these periodic bouts of sadness - we're generally the last to know that we're even having one.

...Have you noticed how very reluctant I am to use 'The D-Word?' You know the one I mean. That's also quite common, apparently, and there is a certain, albeit delusional, logic to it. Because when you call it The Blues, or a Periodic Bout of Sadness, or a Rough Patch or any of the other myriad of euphemisms that exist, it feels like a temporary, trivial thing. Like a little midsummer shower that'll be over soon and then the sun will come out and everything will be sunny and smiley again... nothing to worry about, just ignore it and time will fix it all by itself. 

However, the minute you utter the word 'Depression' you're officially upgrading the status to Problem - and one that won't just go away on its own if you ignore it for long enough. In fact, if you don't acknowledge it and sort it, it'll very likely get worse the longer you leave it. That's a pretty scary thought. So surely the best way to face up to the fact that what you have is a Problem is to... pretend even harder that you can't see it! Yeahhhh...

Mmmm, no. See, that's what I've been doing since... probably about August. And I was doing a blimmin' good job of it too, to everyone else and particularly myself. I came up with all sorts of creative excuses for all my collective quirks of lethargy and random over-emotion, and stuck to them like a crook to his alibi. This was definitely just a pesky ol' down period, that's all - and I was gonna get through it by harnessing the awesome power of denial! Yaaay, go me!

And then last week happened.

After weeks of growing more and more dissatisfied with my dwindling wordcount for Redemption, it was suddenly and unexpectedly slashed to zero when my computer died. As in, really died this time. It's 'died' twice before in the last couple of years, but on both of those occasions I was able to jump-start its corpse back to life again after some Frankenstein-esque skullduggery with its innards. The cheap and effective solution. But this time there was no saving it; when the motherboard (i.e. brain) of a twelve-year-old computer pegs out, you're pretty much looking at buying either an entire new computer off-the-shelf  or all the bits to build one. Which is of course an effective solution - but nowhere near as cheap. Luckily for me I was in a position to do that - but I wrestled with my conscience over it for an entire week. Spending all that money on something for me, instead of treats for the family? But I'm a writer and I need it, so I bought the thing, mentally slapping myself upside the head the whole time.  (And yeah, I'm still feeling the guilt big time, in case you were wondering...) 

And then I got some sort of virus that temporarily made my throat swell up and swapped my joints for those of an eighty-year-old. I spent two days unable to swallow anything solid and mostly asleep on whatever horizontal surface I happened to flop down on. After two days I'd recovered though, so all in all the whole Disaster Period only lasted about ten days.

So... why did I then spend the days after that feeling permanently like I wanted to just burst into tears and sob like a baby? But whenever I was alone and thought "Oh sod it, just do it then. Let it all out - no-one's around to see..." I couldn't. The tears were most definitely there, but I couldn't persuade them to fall, even though it constantly felt like I was losing the battle to hold them back. That's like having an itch you can't scratch - except even that makes more sense than feeling like you can't stop yourself from crying while simultaneously not being able to start either.

And let's be clear here. I had that virus for just two days. I had a new computer to replace my dead one in just one week. I didn't even lose any of the writing work on my old computer (the only stuff I really cared about) because I've always backed all of that up to the point of paranoia on a USB stick and the Cloud, so copying it and the writing programs I use to my new computer took twenty minutes, tops. If you're looking for definitions of First World Problems, they're right here. Getting that upset over such things is ridiculous. But I did anyway. For days

But now I realise that's because they were the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. The one piece of crap too many in the game of Buckaroo that is life. Which means, if I want to get back into my writing groove so that I don't have to keep beating myself up about lousy wordcounts and missing blog posts, I'm gonna have to Sort My Shizzle Out. Admit that, actually, if I'm truly honest with myself, I have... 

*screws up face, fights facial tics and takes a deep breath*

... depression at the moment. About something. Or maybe nothing. Maybe it's just one of those who-knows, sometimes-it-just-happens depressions. Either way, I need to sort it.

And that goes for anyone who suffers from depression, whether they're writers or not. As tempting as it is to not upgrade the status to Problem, you can't fix it - or anything else that's not working with your life - until you do. It's not 'selfish,' you're not 'weak' and you're certainly not 'attention-seeking.' You're being kind to yourself, and you deserve that. And if you're suffering, it's a fair bet your loved ones are too, watching you suffer and wishing they could help. Let them help. Apart from anything else, it's a great way of showing them you love them too.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Going Through The NaNoWriMo-tions

Yep, it's That Time of The Year again. Writers and would-be writers across the world are sharpening their pencils and clearing some space on their hard drives for the literary stress-fest challenge that is NaNoWriMo. Flippin' heck, a year goes fast!

Some writers look forward to it all year. For them, it's like the Writers' Olympics - a chance to flex their muscles and show off their already-well-honed skills of speed, dexterity and stamina in all their glory. Others view it as the Kick Up The Bum They Need, so they can finally stop dreaming about becoming a writer, put their money where their mouth is and actually write that novel they've always dreamed of writing, dammit. Some don't care if they don't meet the 50,000 word target by the deadline - the point is just to write and have fun doing it. Others take it deadly seriously - for them, failure is not an option.

And then there's the folks like me. At least, I'm assuming I'm not the only writer on Planet Earth who feels this way.

The minute the word NaNoWriMo starts popping up everywhere, I'm that person who dips her head down and tries to disappear into the wallpaper. Don't get me wrong - I love the idea of it. If it gets people writing who would otherwise not have the courage or motivation to write I'm all for waving my pom-poms at that ball game. Just so long as I can do it quietly and discreetly, without anyone asking "So, are you doing it too then?"

Because that's where it gets awkward. 50,000 words, in one month? I already know I'd fail at that, thanks. I get two hours a day at the most for writing and I'm - well, just not that fast at transferring my brain contents from their squishy home to the digital page. And that's been my reasoning for not doing NaNoWriMo for... probably since forever. Is there any point in setting yourself a challenge you are almost 100% certain to fail, other than for the purpose of kicking yourself when you're already, if not down, at least not that far up?

Besides, for the past two years I've had another excuse reason for not NaNoWri-Mo-ing; I'm concentrating on Redemption, and trying (and probably failing) to write 50,000 words of another, completely different novel will set my progress back - and maybe even cause me to lose focus on Redemption completely. I've come this far with it, and I intend to see it through, no matter what.

But something weird's happened to me this year. I've found myself thinking things like "Maybe I could give it a go..." "It wouldn't matter that much if I didn't make the 50,000 word target..." and even "Maybe a bit of freewheeling-down-the-hill-with-no-brakes-style writing is just what I need to get my mojo back while I'm thrashing my way through The Difficult Middle Phase of Redemption..." In other words, I think I may be, kind of... warming to the idea.

Of course, the longer I leave it to make my mind up, the more failing to meet the 50,000 word target becomes a given; it's November 2nd now, so I've lost two days of potential writing time before I even start. But since I've made peace with that already, perhaps I can tweak this whole NaNoWriMo thing a little more. I've got lots of story ideas tumbling around in my head right now, and I'm going to have to write them down at some point anyway...

So, for those of you like me, who find the official NaNoWriMo goals a tad too intimidating, here is my proposed 'lite' version:

To write 10,000 words a week of anything creative during the month of November.

- This includes (but is not limited to); novels, novellas and short stories - and ideas, character profiles and outlines for any of the former, scripts, poems, lyrics, comic strips, blog posts, free-writing exercises and (non-work-related) journal entries.

- This does not include; letters and emails, comments left on forum messageboards, the blog posts of others or social media sites, forms and questionnaires (both in paper form and online) shopping lists, to-do lists and post-it note messages to friends and family.

Personally, I may well fail at this too. But no matter - what's important is the process of freeing up those brain cogs and grinding the rust offa them. And if it goes well, I might continue the regime for the next month - and the next, and the next. 10,000 words a month every month - of anything creative. Let's see if that helps me get through the Difficult Middle Phase!

What are you doing for NaNoWriMo-vember? Are you embracing it - or avoiding it? How does it normally go for you? I'd love to know.