Simply put this October that’s what happened. I had been joking a few different places about “All Hallow’s Eve” and I’d been trying to plan my NaNo story. It wasn’t that I didn’t know November was approaching like a freight train, but it took me by surprise anyway.
I forgot to make my standard “it’s that time again” pre-NaNo post. I also didn’t properly finish planning my NaNo story. I had a lot of the character and world details locked down, but the actual plot itself? On Monday I realised I had to throw most of it out and start again. Talk about a last minute scramble to have something that worked to start writing on Wednesday.
Anyway, what am I writing?
This year I am attempting a serial. My history of writing short is not successful so I am highly sceptical but we shall see. I didn’t finish the revision I started over the summer because (and this is the thing I should talk about most) I realised that I hadn’t had any joy really in writing since 2016. Oh there have been moments here and there. I didn’t write much of anything for a few years, until I picked fanfic back up and dove into a new fandom (Sanctuary). However, fanfic is a little different as my brain sort of accepts whatever spews out for the most part, and as a lot of things are familiar, it is easy to skate on a lot of foundational parts of writing. Also even then it could be a slog.
Writing is hard. And I’m not romanticising how it was back pre-late 2016 – it was always hard. I remember countless days of staring at the screen and not getting anywhere, of frustrated tears, and a lot of anger at myself for not getting on with it. I remember feeling like I wanted to burn it with fire, as my drafts were so terrible that’s all it deserved – none of this is new. But it was balanced by the times it went well. The times I had a brainwave, everything fell into place and I felt a spark of magic. The times the words did flow and it didn’t feel constantly like pulling teeth. The times I remembered why I did this writing thing.
I know that writing requires discipline. I’m not advocating chasing new shiny stories, as ultimately they do all end up in the same place – as writing is hard work, it’s a slog to write tens of thousands of words to draft a novel – but my primary motivation this November is to try and find my joy again.
It’s a difficult problem because the reality is I don’t have joy for anything. It’s not a problem exclusive to writing, it’s just that writing bears the brunt quite often as it’s the thing that matters most to me. Yes I know that sounds like depression (and it is). I also have intense and dehibilitating anxiety (I can’t leave my house alone anymore), and the sensory overwhelm is a real problem. It’s depressingly (ha!) easy to just drift, to give up. Every now and then I get a burst of energy which motivates frustrated anger and self-hate at how much time I’ve wasted, how I have things I want to do and time in which to do them, but do I? NO! But it rarely translates into much of a burst of actually doing the things, and even if it does it doesn’t last because I mentally tear to shreds everything I attempt – there is no joy to be found there.
So how can I find joy again this November? I suppose I do doubt that it’s possible. Indeed I am currently writing this on Day Two, and I haven’t done my words today. I did yesterday. But today I had an appointment first thing, and I had an awful nightmare last night, and I’m just permenantly on the edge of tears, and I feel so out of the mental energy to push myself. To actually make myself start. I have opened everything, I am sitting at the desk, and I just feel more like crying than writing – the very opposite of joy. It’s not that I hate what I’m writing (even if I do hate how I have strung the words together). I do like my idea very much. I like all my ideas. I joke that I want to have them done, rather than actually do them, but that’s the truth really. I want them to exist but I don’t think I have the skills, and I am struggling to find the spoons, necessary to make that a reality.
When I picked my new shiny project I tried hard to pick something that hit all my like buttons. I wanted to feel excited to write it, I wanted to obsess over it, to have my mind wander to that world – like it used to years ago. As I said I do like it very much but that’s the only tick off that list so far.
My word count goal this NaNo is obviously 50k, which I think should equate to about 2.5 ‘episodes’ of this serial. My real goal is to enjoy the process and that leaves me conflicted because I am definitely not enjoying it today. But I know I will beat myself up if I don’t write, as then I will be ‘behind’ pace. But then again I’m not exactly getting anywhere just sitting here either. It’s an eternal dilemma. I wish there was an answer.