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.

It Starts Here

back-1432137-639x852The journey starts here.

But I think “journey” is the wrong word because it sounds pleasant–all path through the autumn woods, yoga and protein shakes, essential oils and leggings. It was nothing like that. It was a battle–no–multiple battles. It was a war.

I’ve been kind of flailing through space here on my blog. I wanted it to be mostly about writing but in truth it has simply become a catch-all for any thoughts I can manage to get through a keyboard.  I’ve been wanting to give it a niche. Especially since I have vowed to keep all my new creative work to myself in an effort to traditionally publish.

Two weeks ago I was finally given a diagnosis for the chronic pain I had been dealing with for two years. This was the battle. If you’ve never been your own medical advocate, let me tell you how exhausting it is, how hopeless it feels. You bounce from PCP (primary care physician), to specialist, to alternative practitioner looking mostly for relief but also answers. They believe you a little, or not at all. Maybe they believe you fully but their hands are tied by licenses and degrees.

There’s nothing wrong with you.
Then why couldn’t I get out of bed?
Aren’t you glad?
Look, I’m happy that my blood is negative and that my organs function properly but there’s something wrong with me. And that’s ok. Ok? I’ve had “something wrong” with me for fifteen years now. But this is different. Help, please.

I battled my way to a diagnosis. I slashed and stabbed and bloodied many doctors’ offices as well as my own life. I have fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome/chronic pain disorder. My central nervous system is all screwed up with pain and pain signals. Finally: answers.

But I had only won one battle. There are many more to come. And there have already been others. This war didn’t start two years ago but fifteen. And it didn’t start in my muscles, my joints, nor my skin. It started in my head.

My senior year of high school I was diagnosed with social and general anxiety disorders. Four years earlier, I had experienced my first major depressive episode. In college, I spun through the whirlwind of hypomania. I had been self-harming for years by then. It wasn’t until grad school that any of these other issues were addressed. I had to completely combust first.  And, even then, it wasn’t until after I graduated that someone seemed to have a clue and the medications finally started working a little. I had been on so many. I had gained 80 pounds. I was merely surviving. I was bipolar (II). I had PTSD. I still had anxiety disorders. I was severely depressed for five long years.

The hardest battles are the ones you fight with yourself while laying in a dark room, staring at the wall.

Should I be writing about this? I’m already in enough pain daily. Should I be ripping open my soul and letting it bleed all over the internet? You know, nothing ever truly disappears on the internet. There are still people out there who don’t believe in any of my diagnoses (lol, ok, just go ahead and stick your fingers in your ears and sing “la, la, la”). There are people out there who think I’m a drug addict looking for a fix. There are people out there who think I’m just a lazy cow.

And that’s why I have decided to lend my voice to the other brave voices screaming to be heard. My blog, my little pocket of the internet, is now being dedicated to sharing my past and future experiences of being a writer with chronic illness.

(And book reviews.)

Speculative Poetry

woman-1905529_1280Have I told you about speculative poetry?

I DIDN’T KNOW IT EXISTED EITHER!

How long has this been a thing? Probably since before I was born, but one would think I would have stumbled upon such a thing by now. Isn’t poetry supposed to be about love and depression and meadows and industrialization? That’s what they told me in school. I’m pretty sure that the words “science fiction” and “poetry” could not legally be uttered in the same sentence during my undergraduate program. That’s probably a part of the white, male, elitist MFA program problem that I see a lot of my peers mentioning.

Anyway, there was no way in hell that I had written a poem that was intentionally fictional nor fantastical in recent years. But I remember, I have proof, that when I first started writing poems in middle school, I didn’t know any such subject constraints. When I was twelve years old, I wrote all kinds of poetry, including speculative. I wrote about the night and vampires and werewolves. I miss that confidence of youth.  You could break all the rules because you didn’t even know the rules (however arbitrary) existed.

I don’t remember where I first heard about genre poetry, but it was only a few months ago. I used my friend Google and discovered that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association exists, was founded in 1978, and is legitimate. My inner child was so excited.

Ok, let’s be honest. My everything was excited.

My favorite thing to write about is the supernatural and now I have an new form to practice with. My dreamy sixth grade head is satisfied.

I have begun to read published and award-receiving examples of the genre, as well as dabbling in my own versions. I even spied a couple markets I would be interested in submitting to, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. Now if I can just get over the crippling anxiety that my poems are too obvious…

Did you know about science fiction and fantasy poetry? Do you enjoy writing it? I’d love to see your favorite examples!

 

Querying Insecurities

wolf-1336213_1280My husband recently got some sort of fire under his ass to put some fire under my ass to seek an agent for the novel I had previously self-published. Honestly, it made me feel some spark of hope and delight. It’s amazing what just someone believing in you can do for your confidence. And, suffering from some severe anxiety of rejection (and actual anxiety disorders) I do need someone to push me most days. I was appreciative–I am appreciative of his sudden desire to force me to write a query letter.

It’s been about a week of vague day-dreaming about getting published and now today I have realized that this isn’t quite an option. For that project. Problem number one is that it was self-published, which is generally considered “published” period. So while I felt my heart trip a little in excitement to have found that there were places where my little work might fit without an agent, my heart instantly fell as I realized I had already ruined my chances with basically everywhere by putting my work up on CreateSpace. Problem two is the length of “With Teeth.” It’s short. It’s only novella length. I’ve seen some mentions of the style as making a comeback but I’m not hopeful. I’m especially not hopeful for a supernatural YA, previously self-published novella.

I think it has a lost of potential. I think it is very marketable in the current reading climate. I think it needs an editor’s firm hand. I’m just not confident that anyone will be willing to give it a chance seeing the above obstacles.

Am I sabotaging myself? Should I write a query letter and throw it into the abyss to learn to swim on its own despite my reservations. Despite what I know/have read on the industry? Is this just my anxiety talking?

My Process: Short Works

writing-1240442-639x424

Many weeks ago, I posted on how I go about writing longer works of fiction. People seemed interested and so I promised to talk about my process with writing shorter pieces.

Poetry is instinctual and comes from big emotions. The hardest and the happiest times in my life generate the most work. It comes in pieces, phrases. It is moonlit. I’ve always meant to keep a notebook by my bed or a small pad in my purse for when inspiration strikes but I am more likely to type something into my smart phone.  More often than not, I start with a pretty line rather than an idea. I transfer this to a file on my laptop where most of my current poetry lives. Each piece gets a page and I flit between them until they are done.

Now, that used to be it for me. I called a poem done and was done. I realize now that this didn’t come from any sort of over-inflated self confidence, but rather a neurotic avoidance of editing. And you can’t (or shouldn’t) publish anything without editing (although I kind of do it all the time with blog entries).

I edit now. I pick and pull at my poems–moving things around and changing it back and forth. I’m picky and it’s hard for me to believe that a line or word is good enough. I think that it will take a lot of willpower to declare something done. I might have to just close my eyes and click, hoping for the best when submitting pieces for publication next year.

And as for short fiction…if you’ve been following along my writing journey for this year, you will notice that I have not succeeded in writing any. But the way I used to do it, was to take a lot of inspiration from songs and I usually started with a large, slightly abstract theme. I would pick and choose from pieces of my life or lives of people I know and try to tell a story in only a couple thousand words. I focused on details, scene and characterization, and tried to experiment with language and voice.

But I’m really bad at endings.

I think writing in different forms in invaluable practice if nothing else. So tell me, how does your process differ from mine? I’m curious!

Writing and College

originally posted at my other blog Jessica Sita/Watchful Creature.

graduation-1316905-1279x852

Should you go to college if you want to be a writer? Absolutely.

Do you have to? Obviously not.

There are plenty of famous writers out there who never went to school for English, Creative Writing, Literature, etc. (did someone say J.K. Rowling?).  There are plenty of famous writers who didn’t make it to college at all (including Ray Bradbury and Shakespeare).

I have an Masters degree in English (emphasis Creative Writing). Did I want to teach? No. Do I want to pursue a PHD or an MFA (which is the next logical course of action)? Not at this time. Do I currently have a job outside of writing and housewifery? No.  Why did I do it? Do I value my education? To the extreme. In fact, I had to fight my parents every step of the way just to keep my major as English/Creative Writing in college.  They wanted me to study something with a more solid career path at the end of the line, like business.  I wanted to follow my dreams.  They finally relented when they saw how good of an education I was getting and realized that surely, simply having a degree at the end of all of this meant job prospects. After all, how many of us have jobs that reflect our major in college?

I wanted to be a better writer. And so I learned. After college, I still wanted to be a better writer, so I went back (I really should have chosen the MFA route instead of the MA route but that’s a story for another time). I became a better writer, and just as importantly, especially as an undergrad, I grew as a person.

Now education cannot, CANNOT make up for talent, passion and practice, practice, practice.

My advice is, go to college. At least for something.  Get a good job. You’re going to need it to support those coffee habits while you pursue your true passion. Writing.  Go to college and study Creative Writing. Follow those stars! Be prepared to find a career that has nothing to do with writing.  Or hell, maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones.  But no matter what your “job” is or your “major” is, never stop saying: “I am a Writer.”