But on a More Positive Note

I ended my thoughts on trying to NaNoWriMo while managing chronic pain on a rather bleak note.  It wasn’t my intention but so often my current moods will color my writing–especially the nonfiction–and I was feeling broody and pragmatic that day.  It goes against the spirit of why I even joined NaNoWriMo this year to end the month feeling pessimistic, so I’ve come back to add a final thought.

Some is better than none.*

I am reminded over and over again that writing a novel mostly lives in the editing portion. That is where you grow and that is where you shine.  Brilliant books go through several drafts.  But you know what you have to do before you can edit your manuscript Yup, you have to write the first draft. Physically. On paper. It has to exist in 3D, not just in your daydreamer brain.

So, while I may have only gotten 2,000 words out of the 50,000 word goal (I dunno, I stopped keeping track. It was probably less.) that is still 2,000 more words than I started with on November first.  It’s something.  It’s positive. It has value. It was the best I could do this year and that month and it was enough.

*Psssst. I borrowed that. Click the link.

 

How to NaNo with Chronic Pain

teddy-teddy-bear-association-ill-42230Having previously come to terms with being a tortuously slow writer, I had not participated in NANoWriMo for a couple of years. I didn’t see a point. I had never won. I have since immersed myself in various online communities that include many writers and I found myself at the very, very end of October reading a thread of people announcing their intent to participate in NaNoWriMo. What really surprised me was the amount of people who freely and unapologetically admitted that they already knew they wouldn’t finish. But they signed up anyway. I began to feel more like a loser for not signing up rather than for not making 50,000 words. So a day or two into November, I joined in and recorded my intention to NaNoWriMo my current WIP (which should be noted, was also last year’s WIP).

It really is more about the intention. It doesn’t cost any money. There aren’t any consequences for “losing.” What was it going to hurt? I turned the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days into my intention to write as much as possible every day and it made me feel good.

Until the chronic pain settled into my hands and arms for the umpteenth time. What do you do with that? Like honestly, how do you perform a task with malfunctioning tools? I am always in pain, but sometimes it’s at a level that I can ignore, or sometimes it has settled into a different part of my body that can be accommodated for writing. But when your hands hurt to the point that you wring them together absentmindedly and your tendinitis has flared so that your wrist is swollen, and the pain is radiating up your arm in a solid line to what is more like your shoulders, there is no comfortable way to type. I can’t even type just on my phone because my thumbs are a large part of the problem. Forget hand writing. Maybe I could dictate? Is there even a good program for that yet? And good luck getting three dogs and a toddler to be quiet enough for it.

Bitch, whine, and moan. I suppose I could have no hands at all.

Pain robs you of energy too, physically and mentally.  And the brain fog that seems unique to fibromyalgia can be a totally different animal. It’s exhausting to be sick. And it hurts, in another way, to not be able to do the things that make your soul smile. I am left feeling guilty about all the time I waste not-writing when I feel good.

This post was titled as a “how to” which is misleading I guess. How To NaNo With Chronic Pain. You can’t. Or I couldn’t. I guess you pray that your flare-up gets over with quickly and that you still have motivation when you come out the other side.  I don’t say this to be depressing, or to inspire hopelessness; I say this to normalize my problems. I want you to see yourself in my journey and feel less alone. Maybe you can learn something too.

Book Review: Warbringer

Wonder Woman: Warbringer

3/5 Stars

I was wary of reading this book because, well, I suppose I find it difficult to consume a character in a different media than I am used to. Because I am not a comic reader, I have only seen Wonder Woman on screens and was thus afraid of the author’s inability to portray her correctly. I was afraid that there would not be enough substance to fill an entire novel. But I saw that the book was being met with excitement and anticipation so I took the chance.

I enjoyed it. The Wonder Woman and warbringer lore were all new to me and fascinating. I was interested enough in the plot to keep reading. Once through the middle, you will find yourself flying through till the end. It was jam-packed with fight scenes and surprises, like a really good action movie. I liked the characters enough to care whether they lived or died but mostly I kept reading because of a “what next?” compulsion.

In the end though, the book is ALL plot and I was glad I had borrowed it from the library. Kudos to the author though, for including many POC characters and keeping faithful to Wonder Woman’s feminism. That’s nothing to frown at.

Book Review: Carry On

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Three out of Five stars

I didn’t know much about this book other than the information on the dust jacket. It sounded funny. It sounded kind of like a Harry Potter thing with the school of magic. I didn’t know that it was a carry-over from her Fangirl novel (which I haven’t read). I didn’t know that it was like a fanfic inside a fanfic trying to be a stand alone novel. The similarities to Harry Potter (while not reading as parody) were so jarring that I had to stop a few chapters in and Google some information on this book.

It is entertaining. It is important as a LGBTQ+ positive, YA novel. And it does stand on its own merits. Eventually. The first half of the book was slow and too steeped in Harry Potter parallels. I know we all miss JK Rowling’s world, but we are not seeking to read something so similar that it could have been published on the internet under a screen name. I am just unsure as to why the later (unique) elements were not incorporated into the front of the book.

While I don’t mind switching view points, I think we had too many in this book. It detracted from the development and appeal of other characters. The conclusion was also anticlimactic for our main protagonist.

Carry On was not a bad book, but I would say that it was a disappointment from Rainbow Rowell.

My Painful Past

If you haven’t been following along, I like to set my readers in a good place to start the story. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia after a two year battle with daily pain and I have taken it upon myself to document my story of chronic illnesses here. When I think about it, when I really focus, I can remember a life-long relationship with pain.

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In elementary school, I sat out of a lot of P.E. activities. Mostly if they involved running. I have never been very sporty and grew to hate gym class but I don’t think avoidance was my issue. I distinctly recall that my ankles bothered me when I ran. I remember it as a sharp, jarring pain that was worse in one ankle than the other (which one I can’t be too sure of at the moment). I saw a doctor several times. I had X-rays done. I might have even worn a brace? But the most vivid memory I have of this time period is that a doctor eventually decided I had hurt my ankle and was now causing micro-fractures every time I ran on it. He put me in a cast (bright pink, waterproof) in the hopes that I would heal. It was very weird explaining to people that I had not broken anything really. I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t know how long it took for my ankle problems to dissipate but they did. I don’t currently have problems with them and I haven’t had problems with them in a decade or more. It’s entirely possible that I grew out of whatever issue my ankle bones had with running.

In middle school, I graduated to back pain. I don’t remember if it took awhile for people to take me seriously or not. I do remember describing what I went through sometimes, as the muscles in my back gripping tight and refusing to let go (spasms). I remember I got pretty good care. I went through dozens of tests including five million scoliosis exams, XRays, an MRI, and a bone scan. A couple of those were damn near terrifying considering my phobia of needles and enclosed spaces.  The most frustrating part was that they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with chronic back problems. They thought maybe I had injured myself from carrying around a 25 pound french horn and a backpack that weighed even more as well as carrying my emotions in my back muscles. I went to a gifted and talented school and was pushed to be a high achiever. I was under too much stress for a thirteen year old.  They sent me to stress management counseling where I learned how to meditate (a skill that has been very useful to me over the years). In the end, my mom sought out chiropractic care and massage therapy. Both were considered way more alternative than they are now. But I actually found answers and relief. Although my situation would remain chronic.

Over the years I was able to achieve lower levels of pain and many, many pain-free days. I was able to remain moderately active. I didn’t need any prescriptions. I was never bed-bound. It became routine. Familiar. I was actually proud of my tolerance, considering it fairly high because I dealt with pain so often. It didn’t have a scientific name and I never wrote “back problems” down under medical issues. Life carried on.

At twenty nine I was pregnant. Along with many other issues including but not limited to debilitating fatigue, oily hair, burning acne on my chest, horrible depression and suicidal ideation, my old friend Severe Pain returned. It was most prominent in my tail bone, butt bones, and pubic bone and it started early. They liked to tell me that my body was preparing for labor and I would just stare at them like ,”Guys, I’m only two months in.” Exercising? Out of the question. Walking became ridiculous too. Rolling over in bed? Agony. It has come to my attention that I was probably suffering from Symphysis pubis dysfunction but even if I had gotten them to diagnose this, they still would have waved it off.

It set the precedent for the next two years: being in pain and being ignored.

 

Book review: Dog Songs

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Five out of five Paws

When I asked for help to find this in the bookstore, the employee was enthusiastic, inquisitive, and he told me that I would love the poet. I just wanted to share that because it made me smile and think about the value of brick and mortar stores. I’ve worked at a chain bookstore and it was the only job I ever truly enjoyed.

Back to Mary Oliver: I had never read her which is kind of shameful as she won the Pulitzer, but I suppose there are too many writers out there for me to know everyone. This book was on my to-read list after it was recommended to a grieving dog parent. I had actually been interested to know if anyone was writing “good” dog poems. I should  know better than to ask such things of poetry.

Well, the bookstore employee was right. I did love this book. I even devoured it in only a few hours which never happens anymore. It made me cry. Books never make me cry.

I am aware that this review has become merely an overview of my visceral response rather than any thoughts on writing style or whatnot but I’d like to think that saying “this book broke and mended my heart” is review enough.

Book Review: The Scorpio Races


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

4.8 out of 5 Paws

🐾🐾🐾🐾

This is an unusual book and a bit of a jarring switch from her usual if you spent the past couple months working your way through Stiefvater’s books. I would classify this one as magical realism.

I loved that I could tell Stiefvater was a fellow horse lover. I didn’t know for sure until after I finished the book and looked it up. It was the way she wrote about them. Even the blood-thirsty sea horses.

I also ended up looking into whether or not Thisby is real place. It’s not. But it felt so real. That was one of the real strengths of the book. You could feel the sand and taste the salt on the air.

It was a love song to place and animals.