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December 26, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

Turning Points, Part II: NaNoWriMo

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As I said in my last post, in the past two months or so (a little less, actually), there have been some huge, major turning points in my life, including but not limited to:

  1. Getting started on ADD meds
  2. My second NaNoWriMo win
  3. Decluttering and repairs at home
  4. . . . And my visit with my Someone Special
    .

This post is about # 2, my second NaNoWriMo win.

I spent part of October seriously struggling with my decision over whether to attempt NaNo this year.  I had been trying (and feeling as if I were largely spinning my wheels) to get the apartment in order for Someone Special’s impending visit as well as working a little bit of overtime at work, trying to catch up on things I’d fallen behind in.  That alone was a lot to put on my plate, I felt, without adding NaNo to the mix.

I also felt a little bit of self-imposed pressure that, because I won last year for the first time, I had to win this year too.  As if a failed attempt after a win would be the equivalent of going backwards.  As if I wouldn’t be allowed to give myself some slack for dealing with the apartment and extra work hours at the same time.  (For anyone reading this blog for the first time, last year’s win symbolized a whole lot more for me than simply winning NaNo; it was all about teaching myself that I’m able to do things I set out to do; a concept I’m still wrapping my head around, and getting my apartment in order hasn’t been a simple matter of organizing and cleaning; I’m [still] working to undo a lifetime of compulsive cluttering and almost five years of having that out of control.  There will be more on that in my Part III post.)

But I couldn’t forget the fact that I’ve participated in NaNo since 2004 or the way it has become such a big part of every fall that I look forward to.  It was hard to imagine a November without participating.  I asked myself what I would want to write about if I did decide to do it.  I felt I wanted to start a whole new project, rather than starting the next novel in the series I’ve been working on the last several years.  I tossed around some ideas, brainstormed with Sister and with SS, and finally landed on an idea I liked a whole lot.

2009-2008I decided to go for it.  I did pretty well the first 9 days or so.  I compared my word-count bar-graph from the NaNo site to the one from last year (screen shots at left – I love the way they included the goal mark for each day, too, this year) and I was so pleased to see how much more smoothly I was sticking to daily word count goals.

Then, on the 10th, SS and I video-chatted for the first time.  Neither of us knows why we didn’t think to do that earlier.  The night of the 10th, we were talking on the phone and I was feeling a little sad and weepy, wishing she could be here, and I said, “I want to watch your mouth move when you talk and see your facial expressions change.”  My next thought was that I had an old web cam, somewhere, and when I brought it up she said she did, too.  Somewhere.  We both got up and went looking, and both found our web cams fairly quickly.  Our first video chat was in gmail chat.  When I saw her, I burst into tears.  None of us really realizes, I don’t think, how much we take certain things for granted in face-to-face relationships, like watching another’s expressions change, the subtle unspoken communication in the tilt of the head or the movement of an eyebrow.

I was so glad we decided to use video chat, for a lot of reasons, but initially because once I saw how much I cried, I knew that would have happened at the airport when she arrived.  As it was, I cried at the airport anyway, but I didn’t lose control, and I know now that I would have.  But I’ll write more about that in Part IV.

We moved from gmail chat to Skype within a few days, and SS got us better cameras.  I found that I really wanted to spend long stretches of time staring into one another’s eyes, but I learned to incorporate it into my writing schedule so that I could minimize the Skype window and write, checking in every so often to talk with her.

Not long after we started video chatting, I went into Hormone Hell.  That was when I came apart.  I continued writing, but very few words each day.  I started doing better after beginning the Ritalin, but by then I was so far behind it seemed hopeless.

I was still hormonal, feeling stressed, and had been glutened again (SS and I finally figured out a lot of my serial mystery glutenings; more about that in a future entry) – all things that exacerbate my depression.  Added to that was the fact that each time the Ritalin would wear off (the regular Ritalin seems to last about 3 to 3.25 hours in my system), it seemed I was even more irritable and depressed than I had been before I took it.  I blamed the Ritalin, for a little while.  I decided it was an evil drug and only made everything worse, until SS and I talked about it and she reminded me of the glutenings I’d experienced, and about the added stress I was feeling due to trying to handle so many things at once (this also being a new behavior for me, recently; dealing with things rather than going to sleep and avoiding them).

The turning point came when there were three days left before NaNo ended.  It was on the Saturday, November 28th.  The day before, Friday, I had the day off (it was the day after Thanksgiving) and I went out in the afternoon to run some errands.  My morning dose of Ritalin was wearing off, but I decided to wait until I got home to take the next dose.  I felt I didn’t want to “waste” a good portion of that 3 to 3.25 hour window with something as unimportant as errands.  That was actually a time when I could have used the effects of the meds (partly because they make it easier to deal with frustration), but I didn’t realize it at that point.  I was in Target, walking around with a few things in my cart and looking for something else, and I felt the anxiety beginning to swell in my chest.  I reached a point where I felt I needed to get out of there and retreat to the safety of home, and I went and put everything back that was in my cart, and left without buying anything.  I was only barely keeping my anxiety in check at that point, a very thin thread keeping me from completely falling apart.  On the drive home, the depression hit with force, and I felt it was just hopeless to continue any of the things I had been trying so hard to accomplish, including NaNo.  I felt that by expending the time and effort I had already put into it, I was cheating SS and me of that time that I could have been using to work on the apartment, for her visit.  I felt I had been foolish and selfish to attempt NaNo in a year when there were other things that really needed my attention.  I told SS that I was going to stop taking the Ritalin (that was the point where I’d decided it was evil), and that I was giving up on NaNo, and I cried.  All evening.  Into the night.  I woke up Saturday morning and started crying again.  I cried with a deep grief in my heart, as if I’d lost a good friend who I loved very much.

SS listened and let me talk and vent and cry, and then she asked me how I’d feel if I went ahead and pushed and finished NaNo.  I was 20,589 words from the 50K mark with less than three full days left.  That would have meant writing an average of 6863 words a day for those three days.  The highest word count I’d hit in one day prior to that (since I’ve been keeping track) was 5697, and that was a rarity.  I didn’t know if I could do it, or especially if I could do it three days in a row.  But I stopped crying when I thought about it, and I knew I wanted it really, really badly.  SS told me she would be there for me no matter what I decided, and that she understood how important NaNo was to me and all that it symbolized to me, and she told me she believed I could do it, even if I didn’t believe it yet.

As a test, I made some coffee, took my medication, and sat down to write for one hour.  I decided to base my decision on how many words I could write in that hour, using that to figure out how many hours it would take on average to write 20,589.  I didn’t write down what that word count was that first hour, but it was around 1000.  Then I went for another hour, and another, and wound up writing 4623 by the time I went to bed that night.  Between 10 am on Sunday, the 29th, and 2 am Monday, I wrote 12,528, with breaks for bathroom visits, meals, walking around, and stretching, and on Monday night after work, I wrote the other 3461 that took me to 50,023.

I effectively overwrote the part of my brain that couldn’t fathom writing 12,528 words in 16 hours, and the experience reinforced that still-new knowledge from last year that, “I can”.

It felt exciting, and exhilarating, and exhausting (in a really good way).  I loved that SS was right there with me through the whole time, also.  She was working on some legal paperwork on her computer that weekend and we kept Skype open so that we could look up at one another every so often.  It felt like we were in the same room, each doing her own thing but still being together.  Because of that, it becomes not just my own memory of an amazing few days and of pushing myself beyond the limits I’d thought possible; it’s a shared memory of something we both put long hours into, together.  She stayed awake with me until 2 am that Monday, and we both went to work on less sleep and then met in front of our computers that night, to finish.

Something that made me even more excited was that I felt the writing was better than it’s been in the past.  Obviously, there are many rough spots, as there always are with first draft stuff and especially marathon-writing, but overall, there were many more times that I sat back and smiled and said, “Wow, that came out of me!” than in past Novembers.  The story was wrapped up by the time I finished, as well, which I also liked.  I have ideas of what I might add if/when I go back and polish it and expand it to a full-length novel, but it can actually be read as it is, if the reader understands about the rough spots.

So, to sum up the whole experience in SS’s words . . . Holy Crap!

4 Comments

  1. Comment by davidrochester:

    Holy crap indeed! What an amazing breakthrough — and a great testament to how the support of a loved one really can make an impossible situation suddenly possible.

  2. Comment by kate1975:

    Such amazing things and such amazingly stories. I am so happy for you going through all this and finding the victory. You are an amazing woman and I am so glad that you are getting a clue about just how amazing you are. So happy for you for your accomplishments and the wonderful changes in your life. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  3. Comment by Kerro:

    I’m with David and Kate here… what an amazing breakthrough. Well done again, Tamp! 🙂

  4. Comment by lifeischange:

    Thanks, you guys! It was a pretty amazing experience.

    David, you are right about the support of a loved one. My therapist and I were discussing recently that I wouldn’t have faced a lot of things I’ve been facing lately if it weren’t for SS. Seriously.

    Kate, thank you for thinking I’m amazing. I don’t see myself as amazing, but the experiences of the last several months sure have been. lol

    Kerro and David, yes, “breakthrough” feels like such an appropriate word.

    I’m happy to have some time now to breathe for a while and get used to all that has changed in my life, before the next wave comes along.

Thoughts?

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