mental health, Personal, Uncategorized

Aftermath!

Phew, guys. That’s all I can say. Phew.

These past two months have been absolutely crazy-go-nuts. In November, I did NaNoWriMo (and won!). In the middle of that was Thanksgiving, which is a big cooking holiday for us, and then everything from Black Friday until, like, this past Saturday was…Christmas.

Christmas, with the making of gifts for friends and family.

Christmas, with the enjoyment of music and movies.

Christmas, with the traveling and visiting (we live in Pittsburgh and our families live in Maryland and Southern Virginia).

Christmas, with the scheduling of all of the above.

And now New Years is in spitting distance, and I’m holding my head like…what just happened and why is 2015 ending I can’t even.

I’m not sure why, but the combination fried rice of making, doing, seeing, being and working has made my brain feel like it’s pretty much just that: scrambled egg in soft grain. With peas and carrots. I can tell that I’ve reached my limit because all my anxiety which is normally just sort of simmering beneath the surface is erupting all Old-Faithful style. This comparison works because Old Faithful is more like Anything But, because it’s not easy to predict when it’s going to happen.

My anxiety manifests itself in obsessive thinking patterns, over-analyzing, and Way Too Big Picture questioning. I get in bed, and I ask my husband, “Do you think I’m where I’m supposed to be? I’m so old. What am I doing? I’m pretty sure the world is ending.” These are not things that one should be thinking about before they sleep. In fact, my anxiety created this bizarre dream in which a Jason Momoa lookalike berated me at length – about my appearance, my life choices, what I was doing with myself.

It is safe to say I woke up confused, perturbed and hurt.

The post-holiday letdown is something I know that other people deal with too. We get so, so wrapped up in the season that when it’s all over, you end up looking around like, “Okay! What’s next?” And the answer is a big slap in the face by baby new year.

So, y’all, if you’re anything like me…be good to yourself right now. Take everything a little bit at a time. Create a to do list and commit to taking care of just one thing every day. Get sleep. Eat well, even when the anxiety demons are all, “Dip the chocolate bar IN the Speculos spread!”

You’ll feel a hell of a lot better in a week. I know it.

Essay, Fiction, Personal, Writing

A Writer’s Nightmare

Oh God.

Last night, I had a dream of a lush storyscape. Full of characters and beautiful scenery. There were accents and glorious tension. There was physical attraction, and oh the dialogue: natural and unique, the likes of a Hollywood-Dickensian lovechild.

I rose from my bed, grabbing an old book. A library book, bought at a used book fair. I opened to the pages and started to write in the margins, over the words themselves. It felt dirty. It felt so wrong, but I was so happy. Happy that these wonderful characters and their wonderful-er world hadn’t slipped from my nocturnal fingers.

And as I watched the ink bleed through each aged page…as I studied it, relieved that I had it all down…

That, dear reader, is when I actually woke up.

I woke up, realizing that not only had I not, in fact, captured this tale from my slumber but…

It was just a Harry Potter knock-off.

5 Things, NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing challenge, Writing Tips

Looking Over My Shoulder

It’s been three days since NaNoWriMo ended, and it all feels very weird. There’s this huge gap in my day-to-day schedule, like going from taking classes to summer vacation. When I’m not at my day job, I feel aimless. I’ve started keeping lists just so I don’t feel like I’m not doing anything at all.

NaNoWriMo was really, really hard. I did the bare minimum, writing almost every day with the exception of a day or two in the first week as well as Thanksgiving. I was never scrambling to catch up on more than a few thousand words, which I am obscenely grateful for. High five, November Katie.

Here are 5 lessons I learned from NaNo 2015:

  1. Never be afraid to go in without a plan. A general idea is great, sure, but the real magic truly does come when you pick up from where you left off and springboard into a random event. How your characters react may end up being super natural because even you didn’t know it was coming!
  2. Decide what you know you can do each day and make that your goal. I know now that I can comfortably write about 1,000 words in roughly an hour. Sometimes I get a momentum and head forward, others I get really ‘meh.’ But now I know I can do that, and I’m going to use that as my baseline.
  3. You have time. Now, I know I’m saying that from a place of not having kids, but I think in general that people have more time than they realize. When you are trying to fit in a specific amount of work each day, you’ll be surprised where you can carve out the opportunity. It’s just easier to say “I don’t have time.”
  4. You can do it. Just don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. It’s easy to go, “Oh god, I don’t know where this scene is going to go. I don’t even know if this book is good. Should I start over? Maybe I should go to veterinary school instead.” Just open the document and start writing. Pick up where you left off and go, even if it’s just to a scene where one of the characters goes to the bathroom. It’s something, and something will happen after they go to the bathroom.
  5. Take every ounce of writing advice with a grain of salt. Not even that. Half a grain of salt. A thought of salt. There is so much “guidance” out there telling you what is the “right” way to put a book together and how “wrong” it is to do something and how a certain method is the way “all writers do it.” By all means, listen, but try different things. Break rules. Say, “Thanks, dude, but I’m going to do this instead.” Nobody is 100% right. Because otherwise every book – every style, every voice, every story – would sound exactly the same.

Phew. Now what, world?