January Begins… and Nearly Ends

Well let’s face it. I failed NaNo all around. I did better in November than I did in December, even though the challenge was really simple.

I’m not sure what it is with me. I don’t make the time to write. Even when I have it, and I sit at the computer with the intention to write, I think, what could I say that the world would want to read?

And then I come up blank.

I actually started this blog post on January 1, with the intent to ring in the New Year with a little something.

But, no. Still blank.

Then it occurred to me: I need to start over. Really, start over. Go back even further. You know what got me writing in the first place?

Reading.

I used to read every day, finishing at least one book per week. Upon completion, I would write a mini review. I was writing weekly blog posts simply offering opinions on what other people wrote. Genius.

So this New Year’s Resolution is just that. I will read at least two novels per month and offer my opinion, for what it’s worth.

January’s reads include:
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs
THE 39 CLUES BOOK ONE: THE MAZE OF BONES by Rick Riordan
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM: MAGICAL MOVIE HANDBOOK

I have already finished reading these three books, now I just need to find the time, and the courage, to sit down and write my thoughts on them!

December Do-Over

All right December; let’s do this.

Every November I commit to writing 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done this for four years in a row, and have won (successfully completed 50,000 words) two of the four times.

Of the two winning times, one went on to be a published book of short stories. The other was just jibber jabber I wasn’t proud of. In order to win, you need to write at least 1,667 words every single day for 30 days.

No days off. No weekends. No excuses.

If you get into a rhythm and routine, this is achievable.

The problem is that it’s NOVEL writing month. So ideally you should be writing words in a novel. I normally get off to a good start but then will have a day or two where I just don’t know what to write, or I don’t know where I want my story to go… or worse, I don’t like what I’ve already written.

That’s when I want to quit.

When I fall behind and feel too defeated to catch up. And you can’t start over because that puts you further behind. So if you don’t like what you’ve done so far, there’s no hope.

If you don’t care that you don’t like what you’ve written, so be it. Good for you. Keep going. You can reread your junk in December and make all the appropriate fixes then.

But I quit. I came close to doing a half-NaNo at just over 22,000 words. But I’d fallen so far behind I just stopped writing and started watching TV instead.

December hits and I feel like a failure. It’s one thing to give it your all and still not complete the challenge, because at least you can say you tried. But after about two and a half weeks, I didn’t even try.

I’m a failure and a quitter. I suck.

So this month is December Do-Over. I challenged a friend, who had the same struggles, to do a write-a-thon with me this month. Let’s set the bar lower though.

Instead of writing 1,667 words per day, seven days per week, we’re going to aim to write 1,000 words per day, five days per week. If we write more than that, great, but tomorrow is a new day and a new start.

This means that if I write 2,000 words today, I’m not off the hook for writing tomorrow, but if something comes up today and I write zero words, I can use my weekend to catch up.

The other stipulation we made to the original NaNo rules is that we can write anything.

Today I feel like writing a blog post, tomorrow a journal entry. Maybe the next three days I’ll work on a book, but come next week I’ll hate it and want to start over. Who cares? Start over then. This time it’s not about writing one novel, but just the exercise of writing itself.

This is important and the step I fail to remember come November every year.

If I can get into this habit of writing a thousand words every weekday, then come January, I’ll do it again. And February, again. Maybe I’ll put an outline together of a book and then work towards that. If I can do this simple thing each day, then maybe next November I won’t be such a failure… or a quitter.

I’ll be a doer. I’ll be a succeeder.

And I will be proud.

Let’s see how December goes, shall we?

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The Cement Suit

Cement shoes

The amount of people who read, commented, and shared one of my most recent blog posts was so overwhelming I cried. I cry often, and I cry without reason, but this was different. These were happy tears.

I had people I’ve known for a while give me a hug and thank me for sharing something so personal. Not only that, but they have shared back with me: “You’re not alone. I, too, suffer.”

There are so many of us out there that appear normal because of the smiles they plant on their faces.

When people ask “How are you?”, we reply with the automatic, “Good, and you?” when the truth is that we are so far from ‘good’, it’s scary.

We hide everything on the inside because we’ve had to for so long. It’s not only for the social acceptance; it’s for us too.

If we lie to you and say we’re ‘fine’ when we’re not, we’re lying to ourselves as well… in the hopes that maybe if we say it often enough, it’ll be true.

Like so many others, I have my good days and bad days. Some days, I might be telling the truth when I say, “I’m good, and you?” – it won’t look or sound a whole lot different than when it’s not true.

Please don’t presume.

A Suggestion of Understanding

One of the more difficult things I’ve experienced since writing the post on mental illness, is having people who still don’t understand try to converse with me as if to solve all my problems.

“How are you doing today?” said in a condescending tone, and it’s the first question of many – I know where this is going…

“Today is a good day,” I’ll say, hoping to stop the forthcoming questions.

“Have you seen the doctor then?” – yes, people have asked this.

My favourite are the suggestions… like they some how have a cure for depression. “Have you tried changing your diet?” or “What are you doing for exercise?”

Yes, I know, diet and exercise are important and for sure can affect your moods in both a good and bad way. The more you exercise and the better you eat, the healthier and happier you feel. It’s not a cure for depression though.

Again, depression is a mental illness and is not synonymous with sadness.

You can feel happy and healthy and still suffer alone in this horrible glass box that is the world.

I get that these people are trying to help, or trying to be nice. But I’m not really sure what they want me to respond with.

If I say, “Oh, my diet is impeccable and I run marathons every morning,” where will their line of questions go next?

If I reply with “You know, I probably should get out of the house more… exercise, you say? Maybe I’ll try that.” The conversation might end there, true, but it might not.

It could very well lead to the dreaded, “You know, if you exercised you’d feel better. Maybe then you wouldn’t be depressed.”

Sigh.

Listening

More Than a “Mental Thing”

Depression is so much more. It doesn’t only affect our thoughts. It’s not only in our minds – and we really should try to call it something other than a mental illness.

Depression takes over our whole bodies. There are days when I physically cannot move. There are days when I can’t get enough sleep, and after 10 hours in bed, I still don’t want to get up.

Depression is dead weight. It covers our entire bodies and clouds our minds.

It takes over.

It can crush our chests. It can fog our brains. It can feel like we’re moving through time in slow motion. It can make it impossible for us to move.

For some, it can make it impossible to sleep. For others, it can be impossible to wake.

Imagine wearing a suit of armour. Except that armour’s main ingredient is cement. Imagine moving through your daily routine wearing this cement suit.

Now imagine someone says, “Have you tried exercise?”

Every day that we leave our bedroom, that’s exercise. We’re trying so hard already. Please understand. We don’t need a magic cure. We don’t need advice.

We simply need a “I’m happy to see you.”

Listening Without Judgement

And know this… whether our smile is fake or not, we are happy to see you too. Because we did it. We made it. We left our bedroom and got out into the world.

We shed a small piece of our cement suit, waved our arms and said hello.

Thank you for saying hi back. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.

Thank you for welcoming me into your circle, despite my differences, despite my illness.

Thank you for loving me and accepting me.

Thank you for listening.

Listening without judgement – that’s the best thing that any of us can do. We should all do that for each other.

From the bottom of my heavy heart, thank you.

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