NaNoWriMo 2016: Days 11-15

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NaNoWriMo progress screenshot, as at the beginning of 15 November’s writing session. (Source)

Friday, 11 November

Child No. 2 had her annual concert costume fitting and photo portrait day at ballet school, which meant having to tap out the day’s word count as early as possible in order to prepare all the make up and hair styling products. Funny how motherhood so often entails being multi-skilled at a whole range of tasks and yet for some reason 14+ years of parenting, volunteer work experience and two university degrees, not to mention having a number of actual paid jobs before my university days, still aren’t enough to qualify me for any paid careers. What more do you people want?! #australia

(It’s okay, I’ll just employ myself. I do art, people buy my art, I have an Arts degree, I think I’ll call myself an artist.)

We found out that apparently our first rental house inspection is going to be in a week’s time, a mere 2 1/2 months after moving into the house. Normally they’re only every six months but our new agents’ policy is to have an early house inspection ostensibly to check if we’re “settling in,” though in my long experience as a tenant that likely translates to “we’re going to make sure you haven’t trashed the place despite your 16 years’ worth of records as a reliable, careful tenant who consistently pays their rent on time and looks after the houses in which you live.” Suddenly a lot of my creative energy was diverted away from writing as I start noticing all the unpacked moving boxes, the piles of filing that are yet to be sorted into the filing cabinet, my art supplies strewn across the table, and basically every other speck and tuft of cat fur that could be remotely construed as being lax tenants.

It was Remembrance Day in Australia and like many Aussies I had a minute’s silence to remember the sacrifices of fallen Australian soldiers. My grandfather was a WWII veteran and it always seemed important to him that we remembered the wars. One of the schools nearby had a person playing ‘The Last Post’ and I listened to the ABC Classic FM radio station’s coverage of the day while I wrote.

Saturday, 12 November

Unlike previous NaNoWriMos, this year has gone exceedingly well for me. I like my story enough to want to keep writing it and exploring the world. I have built a far more complex world this time, with more characters, who have far more diverse personalities, which certainly helps.

However, Saturday I hit my first real hurdles this time around. I didn’t follow my routine of write first, everything else later. Instead, as I do when my anxiety is triggered (by all the stuff going on, especially the looming house inspection), I went into a manic meltdown and for 7 horrible hours I compulsively cleaned. Now, I do not have OCD so I won’t do OCD sufferers a disservice by claiming that me having a bad day is equivalent to their debilitating disorder; but I did grow up in a setting where the OCD of others was part of the reality. In many ways I was trained to behave in an OCD-like manic fashion when I’m stressed. It’s not just my own innate tendency towards anxiety and depression at work; it’s a learned behavioural response instilled in me over a lifetime of treading on thin ice and trying to not trigger the OCD folk around me.

Unfortunately, it means that the moment my anxiety is triggered I either become self-destructive (not eating properly, working too hard, obsessively ruminating over harmful thoughts, subconsciously sabotaging relationships by starting arguments or having an unecessarily heightened sense of fear and reaction to their words and actions) or I start manically working (usually manifesting as the despairing sense that I suddenly have to earn my right to exist by proving that I can clean every single scuff mark off the walls of a rental house that wasn’t exactly clean when we moved in).

It’s not healthy behaviour and in my calmer moments (which thankfully is most of the time these days) I know it’s not healthy – but in the midst of an anxious meltdown it doesn’t accomplish a whole lot when, say, The Husband tries to reason with me, in his INTJ kind of way, that pushing myself to the point of physical breakdown doesn’t help anyone. I know he’s being logical but when the horrible thing that is human emotions erupts in my cold little ISTP soul, there isn’t a lot anyone can do to help me if I am not listening to them.

In the end, I eventually wrote enough to cover the minimum daily word count, but it was late at night and I was feeling horribly sick by that stage.

I saw a while back that there’s a NaNo discussion thread for those of us who are mentally ill in a variety of ways, asking how our unique challenges and barriers affect our creativity. For me, creativity is my ‘therapy’ (apart from, you know, actually literally going to therapy with mental health practitioners on a regular basis to get external feedback and support for my progress towards greater internal peace and stability), in the sense that I am a far more human, happy, productive, healthy being when I write, listen to music, and draw my drawings. It is part of my mental health management to create. Unfortunately, when anxiety and depression rear their heads, creativity takes a back seat. Even though I know that I will be happier, calmer and all round nicer person if I write/draw every day, it’s often a fight to do things that can seem so selfish.

Anxiety says, “If you waste time on writing, you’re not going to get the house clean before the house inspection, and then you’re going to get kicked out of yet another home. Just an extra five hours of working and then maybe you will have earned the right to be creative.”

(Even though the one and only time we were “evicted” was because the landlords decided they wanted to move back into the house, and that says more about Australia’s rubbish tenancy laws that are hugely biased towards upholding the whims of landlords with an attendant lack of legal protection for tenants than it does about my house keeping skills.)

Depression says, “You wasting time on your stupid little story only makes you happy, it doesn’t do anything for anyone else and you don’t deserve to be happy.”

(Even though the people close to me consistently affirm that they find me easier to get along with when I’m in a creative phase because I’m a lot happier, more patient, and more interesting to talk to. And who knows? Maybe one day what I write will be a source of entertainment, enjoyment &/or other benefit to others. That’s the ultimate aim.)

Sunday, 13 November

I woke up with a bad cold. I felt horrendous. At least part of my house was so clean you could see your face reflected in the stainless steel panels that hold the rods for lowering the external security blinds over the windows, there were no bits of cat fur on the rug, and it turns out that the door frame is a lovely shade of bluish-grey under the layer of former tenants’ shoe prints… but at what cost?

Manic cleaning = physical exhaustion. It happens every single time.

At least I got heaps of writing done on Sunday. My story is repetitive, rambling and getting kind of boring. From a reader’s point of view it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s not even in chronological order, though I have rearranged some of it in Scrivener. But I like my characters and I think that they deserve a good chance at living their fictional lives. It may be that if I continue to write, rewrite, and then rewrite again this story, it could be something that people actually like and enjoy.

Recharging my imagination helps me write. They finally released Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels on Blu-Ray here in Australia. I’m not a big tv watcher, but I do enjoy Rebels. It sort of helps with the sadness I felt after recently watching the final episode of Gravity Falls, only to discover to my absolute rage that Disney have no plans of releasing Gravity Falls in any format. Excuse me?! It’s only the greatest cartoon series to come out in decades (apart from Clone Wars and Rebels). How the hell is it possible to buy a range of absolute travesties like the spin-offs to The Lion King (the original was great, the rest… meh) but a hilarious, complex, witty, intelligent, genuinely moving, intricately plotted, groundbreaking series like Gravity Falls not considered worthy of some kind of public release?

As for my fellow Star Wars aficionados, if you haven’t watched Rebels, do yourself a favour and get onto it. The stories are great, the characters are great, the soundtrack is great. I’ve personally found that the stories are genuinely interesting and captivating. At the end of every episode my kids and I find ourselves hanging out to find out what happens next. Old favourite characters from Clone Wars become an integral part of the stories, too. So if you’re an Ahsoka fan you really want to give Rebels a go.

Monday, 14 November

Child No.2 headed off to school camp which meant an early start. I got writing straight away but by midday was exhausted – I definitely have a cold – and crawled back into bed. Later in the evening I remembered that I had a couple of visitors scheduled (you know I’m not well when I lose track of what day visitors are coming over) so it wasn’t so bad that at least part of the house was already clean and tidy.

At some point in the afternoon the distant strains of someone playing ‘Scotland the Brave’ on the bagpipes came floating in on the breeze. I have no idea where they were but such is the strange new neighbourhood I now call home.

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My photo, 10.18 PM, Monday 14 November 2016. Camera: Lumia 950XL. Edited in Instagram for Windows app. flokot.redbubble.com

The Husband was up really late working on work stuff… graphs and mathematics and other engineer things … and he woke me up around midnight (okay, I wasn’t asleep, I’d stayed up looking at art on Instagram anyway) so I crawled out of bed to look at the closest Full Moon to Earth since 1948. It was very bright and I snapped some shots on my mobile phone camera, then crawled back into bed.

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My photo of the Full Moon at 12.27 AM Tuesday 15 Nov 2016. Camera: Lumia 950XL. flokot.redbubble.com

Tuesday, 15 November

Current word count: 33,890 / 50,000 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: Amiensus and Be’lakor

First there comes the anxiety attack; then comes the low mood. The low mood hit me today. I woke up feeling horrible. My allergies have flared up, too, covering my face in blotches (it’s been a horrible spring for Melbourne’s allergy sufferers). The Husband saw me looking like a blotchy-faced zombie and took me out for a quick coffee for work, which was nice of him. Changes of scenery can be a wonderful thing, but I tend to not take myself out much. Even if I know it would help me.

And still… I know that if I just knuckle down and get to my writing, I should be able to reach at least the daily minimum of 1667 words within the next hour or two. Ideally I will have a little time to do some painting. Child No. 2 is still away so I don’t have to go pick her up from school, and apart from taking Child No.1 to a quick orthodontist appointment, today is full of time and opportunities to get some creativity going – before I finish cleaning. As for my depression, well, it’s there, sitting in the background. I acknowledge it, and then I get on with the things I know will counteract it: writing, listening to music, painting and, at the end of the day, hopefully being able to reflect on my time and feel like it was a day well spent.

Edits: some photos, links and the music video clip added. Grammatical errors corrected.

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