I’m a Nanowrimo Failure: Why You Should Be One Too

Last year I wrote an article called 10 Tips for Nanowrimo from a 12 Time Veteran. I’d won ten years in a row.

I’m also a Nanowrimo failure, and that’s what we are going to talk about today.

After so many wins, I’d gotten kind of cocky. I admit, I looked down a bit on people for not finishing. I really believed that if most people wanted it enough, if they’d worked hard enough, they could do it. You just had to make it a priority. Clearly, those people hadn’t.

I was very wrong.

I’m actually ashamed of the way I felt. Of all people, I should have understood why sometimes people just can’t. My own mental health has gotten in the way of my doing things I desperately want to more times than I can count.

The last two Novembers I have not completed Nanowrimo. In 2016, my mom had knee replacement surgery during the last week of the month. I’d kept up until then and had about 40k words written, but I chose to prioritize taking care of my mom instead of writing. I could have finished, but the stress could have sent me into an anxiety relapse that could have hurt how well I took care of her.

In 2017, I started out with a struggle. My sister and a couple other people were coming for the weekend and I was super stressed trying to get the house ready to be seen. I got some writing done, but finally accepted that I’d have to get caught up after the weekend.

That Saturday night, my cat Nutmeg died very unexpectedly after a short illness. I was devastated (More about this will be covered in a future blog entry). By the time Monday came around I announced on twitter that I was quitting. There was no doubt in my mind that I could not even try to finish out the challenge.

That was when I decided it was okay to fail. I put Nanowrimo first for so many years. I didn’t realize what a privilege that was. I’m not going to take that privilege for granted anymore. I’m proud to call myself a Nanowrimo failure, because there’s nothing wrong with that.

I still intend to start out every November fully intending to reach 50,000 words. But from now on, I’m going to remember that it’s okay to fail. Every word I write during Nano is a word that wouldn’t have been written otherwise, which makes everyone a winner.

Sometimes Nano can’t come first, or life gets in the way. Or maybe it just doesn’t feel right. So be a Nanowrimo Failure. Whether you win or lose, you still tried and that’s the most important thing, not how many words you wrote (or didn’t write).

Have you ever been a Nanowrimo failure? Winner? Tell me about your Nanowrimo experience(s). What has Nanowrimo taught you?

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Boredom and Figuring Out What I Want

My last couple therapy appointments left me stunned with two revelations that were pretty simple.

1. I’m Bored

My mother always described me as a kid as never being bored. I always had a thousand things I wanted to do and never enough time to do them all. That never really stopped until my mid-twenties, when Depression took away my ability to act on those things.

Almost four years ago (with the help of therapy and medication) I was able to dig myself out of that depressive rut. Recovery from a depressive episode that long is a weird experience, but that’s a whole other blog entry (Coming Soon!).

So when my therapist suggested that I was bored, my first thought was, “Yeah right.” I’ve never been bored! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how right she was.

I love routine, and mine had been pretty stale for a long time. I binge watch a lot of television shows, read voraciously, and have gotten way too obsessed with a few game apps (I’m looking at you, Dragon Merge, Klondike, and GSN Solitaire!). I’d become complacent and the variety in my life had been non-existent.

I took her words to heart and made an effort to fight this boredom head on. I learned some basic origami. I started making jewelry again. I bought a few puzzles and kits to put together. After a month of solid rain, I started taking advantage of every sunny day and got out to swim and soak up some vitamin D. Basically, engaged my brain in new ways and worked at getting back to my old self who never allowed herself to be bored.

2. I Need To Decide What I Want Out of Life

My second session ended with a question I haven’t thought seriously about in too long.

What do I want out of Life?

The first few days I reeled from it. It seemed like such a simple question, but so very hard to answer. I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about all the things I SHOULD change, but I never really stopped to think what I WANT.

When I was sixteen, it was an easy question. If anyone had asked me, I would have immediately rattled off what I wanted out of life. I wanted to get married, have a bunch of kids, and write traditionally published romance novels. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would have those things. If someone had told me what my life would be like at thirty-three, I would have laughed at them.

My life is nothing like I’d planned and different in many ways. I live with my parents (I don’t mooch, I pay rent and live in the upstairs of the house). I don’t have a driver’s license (by choice, I never wanted one). I’m pretty cool with being single (I’m bringing Spinster back!). I’m not sure I would want children anymore if the chance came up. If and when I publish my books, I have no desire to traditionally publish.

Figuring out what I want out of life is going to take longer than I thought. But I’m on the job. I see it’s importance now and I’m going to get going. One thing I do know is that I want to post more on this blog, so I’ll keep you updated as I figure it all out.

Has someone (friend or therapist) ever said something so simple to you about your life that you wondered why you didn’t think of it yourself? How did it affect your life? How do you fight stagnation and boredom? As usual, I love hearing from my readers (all four of you, lol).

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Welcome to Withdrawal Hell

NOTE: I wrote this entry about a week ago and couldn’t get it to post. My symptoms disappeared as fast as they came after almost exactly twenty-four hours, which I really hope is a pattern that will hold for my next reduction in dose.

It’s been about four days since I took my first lower dose and I feel like crap.

It’s not unexpected. When I was a teenager I was prescribed Paxil, which has a bad reputation but was a miracle drug for me. I decided to try something else after a couple years because I let people get in my head about the side effects, which didn’t really bother me all that much (because, for the first time in my life, I felt AMAZING). Withdrawal from Paxil is INTENSE. I remember feeling like a drug addict detoxing. In a nutshell, it sucked.

After a few tries, my psychiatrist finally ended up putting me on Effexor, which works similarly to Paxil. It worked great, and I’ve been very happy with it until this past year when it stopped treating my anxiety effectively. Many anti-depressants poop out eventually, but I’d been on Effexor for about 15 years at this time, so it was a good run.

I knew getting off Effexor was going to be long and unpleasant, and so did my doctor. (I cannot stress enough to go to a psych doctor for your medication. General Practitioners just don’t have the training and education to keep up with these specialized meds and often have people go down in dose way too fast.) I was prescribed a new medication which has worked wonderfully for my anxiety and I’ve been feeling really good for the past couple months, but the time had come to start the process of giving up Effexor.

My doctor knows I had a hard time getting off Paxil so she’s taking me down very slowly. The plan is to get me completely off by the end of the year. So four days ago I went from taking 300mg to taking around 250ish milligrams.

The first couple of days were uneventful, but yesterday I felt my first ‘brain zap’. (if you’ve never experienced them, you lucky dog, I describe it as static electricity to the brain/upper body) Shortly followed by minor nausea and dizziness, as well as a mild headache.

All in all, it could be worse. It’s like when you’re getting over being sick and you don’t really have any symptoms anymore but you generally feel like crap. I just have to rest and be kind to myself while I ride it out.

Hopefully the symptoms won’t last a long time, but they will likely reappear every time I lower my dose. I’m ready, I’m prepared, and don’t have to worry about my anxiety symptoms coming back because I’ve already got other medications on the job. It’s not fun, but I’ve got this.

The hardest part for me is to balance not pushing myself too hard with getting out of the house regularly. My first instinct is to be a hermit and never leave, but that’s my social anxiety and agoraphobia talking and I won’t let them win.

Mental Illness has left me feeling hopeless for long periods of my life, but despite the general sick feeling I’m dealing with today, I feel hope. Hope that things will slowly improve.

So take that, Effexor withdrawals. You’re not going to rule my life.

**DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a medical professional. I am merely a patient who has been treating my mental illness for many years with medication. Nothing I say should be taken as medical advice; go to your doctor for that. I am merely sharing my experiences with others.

Have you ever had withdrawal symptoms while going off medication? How did you deal with it? (If you’ve never had the pleasure, feel free to ask any questions you might have about the process. I’m happy to share my experiences.)

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#MakeChesterProud – One Year Later

(From a series of posts I made on Twitter on the one year anniversary of Linkin’ Park frontman Chester Bennington’s death; placed here as a  permanent memorial.)

When I got the email last night from @TheMighty about the anniversary of Chester Bennington’s death I didn’t think it would impact me. My first thought was to wonder why people kept track of the day. Today I put on the playlist #themighty put together and I understood.

Last year when I saw the news that Chester Bennington had killed himself and read about his history with mental illness his death hit me in a way few celebrity deaths do. Suddenly I understood why Linkin’ Park’s music meant so much to me as a teenager. Why those songs meant what they did to a scared, anxious kid who didn’t understand why her mind was hurting her.

When #LinkinPark first came out with “One Step Closer” I was 15. To me their music was a complete game changer and I probably listened to Hybrid Theory a thousand times. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. When I was frustrated at the world I would pull out my Walkman and put my headphones in, blasting the album until I calmed.

Today my heart ached as I listened to “One More Light”. I realized how much of his music I had never heard. When “Leave Out All the Rest” played my jaw dropped in amazement. How eerie it is to listen to on today of all days. We all fear never making an impact on the world or the people in it, Chester put it into words.

If I could say one thing to Chester Bennington today, it would be that he did make an impact. That his music made a difference in so many people’s lives. He will not be forgotten. Even through his death, he’s helping. #MakeChesterProud guys.

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Missed Dose

I feel like such an idiot. It doesn’t happen often. Being on antidepressants for over a decade kinda drills the routine in your head. 

But it happens. My routine changes, something knocks my world off it’s axis, just a minute amount, and it slips my mind. 

I wake up the next morning and something is wrong. My stomach twists and my arms are tingly and cold. I feel the panic begin to rise. My heart beats faster. Hands shake. I haven’t felt this in some time and I begin to struggle to breathe. I feel the anxiety attack rising. 

There’s a nagging feeling in the back of my head. This doesn’t make sense. I’ve been better. I though I was stable. I want to sob. I don’t want to have one of these days. I have weekend plans, for once. 

An idea drifts to the surface. I did take my pills yesterday, didn’t I? I can’t remember, although that doesn’t mean anything. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. 

Breakfast holds no appeal, so I grab the bag of mini donuts I keep for this very reason. Two tiny chocolate covered pastries help me swallow the five tablets in my pill case. I say the colors to myself as I take each one, to make sure I don’t miss anything. Two maroon, then blue, white, yellow. 

I’ve developed a routine for days like this. Step one is a comfort show. I choose Castle, putting the first disc into my DVD player as I think once again how much easier it would be if it was streaming somewhere. 

The first season has 13 episodes and I know all of them nearly be heart. The familiar theme plays and I breathe a sigh of relief, feeling my anxiety recede just the tiniest amount. 

I drink my coffee, more out of routine than for pleasure. The pilot episode plays and I can’t help but smile at Nathan Fillion’s antics as the playboy novelist Richard Castle. 

I know how this goes. At best, I will feel “off” for the rest of the day. Periodically there will be little zaps to my brain, unpleasant but not painful. That will ease as the day goes on. I probably won’t get much done. It’s entirely possible that I’ll finish season one by tonight. 

I struggle to not yell at myself and call myself names. I know it won’t help. I’m not perfect. This has happened before and it will happen again. I know what to do. I take deep breaths and pull out a coloring book while Castle quips on the screen. With any luck, by tonight I will feel normal again, or at least my usual baseline “normal”. 

It’s just one day.

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What Having Depression Means

(This post originally appeared in my personal Instagram account, but it’s message is still utterly accurate so I wanted to share. There may be a few more like this.

2/12/17

Having depression means when you wake up happy, it’s unsettling. Instead of enjoying the feeling, you’re suspicious. You wonder why you have a smile twisting the corners of your mouth. Why is it here and when will it go away?

(Because it always goes away.)

It makes happiness hard to enjoy because you’re constantly questioning it. Constantly accessing it. Is it just a fluke or did you do something different? Was it that good therapy session? The new Vitamin D tablets you started taking? Is it the result of a normal upward swing in your serotonin levels? 

Unsettling though it may be, one thing you do not do is waste it. Depression sucks, but it does make you more appreciative of the good times. You cherish them, make the most of them, because you never know what the morning will bring. 

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My Stolen Imagination

imagination photo

When I was a kid and a teen I had a huge imagination. I had so many story ideas I couldn’t write them fast enough. I kept

lists of novels I wanted to write, ideas that I wanted to explore.

I loved going to bed at night. I would close my eyes and daydream, usually about members of boy bands meeting and falling madly in love with me. Or I’d pretend I was one of my characters and mentally write scenes that were yet to come and exactly what I would write down the next day.

But when I got depressed, that all ended.

I stopped writing, except during November of each year, for Nanowrimo. But I never wrote new ideas, only ones I had come up with years before. I chipped away at my list of novels I wanted to write. When November ended, I turned off my laptop and never went back.

I didn’t daydream anymore. I genuinely couldn’t think of anything to daydream about. My life was so dark and colorless that daydreaming was pointless. Instead, when I went to bed I read fanfiction for endless hours. The familiar characters comforted me. I didn’t like reading original fiction anymore. The idea of reading about new people made my stomach twist into knots.

 

alone photo
Photo by My name is Randy

 

When I finally admitted my depression and went on medication to fight it, everything started coming back. First was my motivation. I wanted to do things again. I cared about my surroundings. People didn’t have to drag me out of the house. I had things I wanted to do.

When we moved here two years ago, I made a rule for myself that I could only read fanfiction at night. No more going back to bed after meals and doing nothing but read fanfic and nap. I had the ability now and I was going to take advantage of it.

Then came reading. I’d never stopped buying books, but they’d sat unread on my shelves. I bought books I knew I’d have wanted before I was depressed, and they were all sitting on my bookshelves, dusty and waiting to be opened.

Lastly, my imagination came back.

For the first time in years, I have new novel ideas. In fact, I’m starting to build up a list again of things I want to write. As I read, ideas pop into my head I need to jot down, complete scenes, characters, little blurbs for future books.

It hit me today how much I’d missed my imagination. Depression had come like a dark cloud, covering up all that was beautiful in my life. It had done so so slowly that I didn’t even realize what was gone until I came out on the other side.

Every day I see a little more of ME come back. And I swear on everything I love that I will never forget to be grateful. Because when the black days come back, I know that the bright days will return.

And the bright days make everything else bearable.

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A Quick Camp Nanowrimo Progress Report

Camp Nanowrimo, April 2018

Goal: 25,000 words

Day 1: 1,694 words

Day 2: 1,810 words

Day 3: 1,001 words

Day 4: 0 words

Day 5: 0 words

Day 6:  922 words

Day 7: 1,060 words

Week 1 Total: 6,487 words

Participating in Camp Nanowrimo this month? How did your first week go? Remember, even if you aren’t meeting your goal, anything you write this month is more than you would have if you hadn’t tried at all.

temp cover to inspire me
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Things Left Undone- a rare poem

I have to be honest, I’m not a poetry fan. I don’t read it, I don’t write it, I just don’t particularly enjoy it at all.*

*with a couple of rare exceptions, such as Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, and ysome Dorothy Parker.

Last Sunday I took a bathroom break while reading the book “Every Last Word” by Tamara Ireland Stone (if you enjoy YA at all I strongly recommend this book)and when I sat back down this popped into my head and I had to write it down.

So, without further adieu, I present the only poem I have written since my teen years.

 

Things Left Undone

 

sometimes I look around
and all I see
are things left undone

books to be read
crafts to be finished
kits to be sold

a storage box I never filled
mugs never put away
folder laundry sitting there waiting
dresses that should be hanging

a yoga mat gathering dust
oh the dust
there’s so much dust

projects I haven’t started
pictures never hung
paper that needs to be filled
notebooks never defiled

a planner I do not write in
a shirt I will not keep
outfits I have yet to wear
canisters just sitting there

everywhere there’s a place to start
a step to take, a move to make
instead I sit here typing
wondering why
I cannot seem to move
I cannot seem to do

 

I shared this with my therapist yesterday and she found it insightful, so I thought I would share with my readers. If the mood strikes you, I’d of course love to know what you think.

Do you write/read poetry? Have you ever felt inspired to write poetry, even if it is not usually something you write?

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10 Weird Things I’ve Learned Researching Novels

The subject recently came up on Twitter about the strange things you end up knowing from novel research. It’s a favorite one of mine because you can’t help but retain bits of information that when repeated in polite company make you look like a psychopath.

Example:

Random Person: Joe got in a car accident yesterday.
Me: Is he okay?
Random Person: Yeah. He punctured a lung, but the doctors said he’s going to be fine.
Me: Yikes. Can you believe that some people get collapsed lungs for literally no reason? Like, they’re just walking along and bam! Lung collapsed, trouble breathing. Some people it happens to regularly.
Random Person:

Another Example:

Friend: (watching a crime show) Can’t they just dig up the body and test the DNA?
Me: Depends what’s left of the body. Flesh is all gone by this point. And depending on the soil acidity there might not even be bones left anymore.
Friend:

 

Yup, it’s interesting, to say the least, being friends with a writer. I’m full of all kinds of useless* facts and frequently frighten my friends and family.

* It’s actually all completely necessary. Knowing what to do if you’re confronted with a bear could come in handy someday!

So, without further adeau here’s a few of the miscellaneous pieces of information I’ve acquired while doing research that may or may not make me look like (more of) a lunatic on a daily basis.

1. Hearing aids are itchy, sweaty, and are pretty gross at the end of the day.

Ear wax gets everywhere, ya’ll.

2. Getting a family member’s body exhumed is a lot easier than you’d think.

It requires a judge to sign off, but moving Aunt Judy’s body to a closer cemetery isn’t that much of a hassle.

3. If you live in a building with a doorman, depending on his duties, you might not need to hire someone to feed Fluffy while you’re on vacation.

They’re also very useful if you frequently lock yourself out of your apartment or get heavy packages delivered.

4. DNA and blood testing results do not happen quickly.

Most take weeks or even months to come back from the lab and contain a lot less useful information than shown on TV.

5. A child with selective mutism may talk perfectly normal at home but clam up the second they are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation like school.

They also might speak to selected people in that environment, often whispering in the person’s ear.

6. You can’t inherit a rent controlled apartment in NYC unless you can prove you were living with the relative for at least a year prior to their death.

Basically, forget everything you learned on Friends.

7. There aren’t any bears in Maine that are likely to attack, and even then the chance of you being killed are statistically minuscule.

(To my dismay, as I required a bear to attack two young boys in that particular story)

8. Depending on the soil content and the conditions under which the person was buried, bones can decompose in a matter of decades, leaving little to no trace of the murder victim.

Which would be a much less interesting episode of Bones.

9. A large percentage of foster children wind up homeless within a year after aging out of the system.

A haunting statistic.

10. Probably the easiest, least traceable way to kill someone is by injecting air into their veins, causing an air embolism which is often written off as a heart attack or stroke.

I swear I’m not going to kill you*.

*Outside of a book. And probably only is you piss me off.

What kinds of strange (but interesting) kinds of information or tidbits do you know? Has sharing that information ever caused your friends or family to worry that you were going to murder them in their sleep? Share your stories, my readers. I love learning and reading about new things. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer. (possibly a blog post for another day)

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