Not Today NaNo, Not Today!

For the first time in years I won’t be taking part in National Novel Writing Month. For those who don’t know National Novel Writing Month is the month where writers across the globe decide to take on the mammoth task of writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November.

I won’t be recording words, competing, doing instagram challenges or writing in general (weeeeelllllllll….). I won’t be hyper-focusing on a singular story.

I have no idea what I’ll be doing. Hopefully some reading, hopefully a bit of writing here and there but zero pressure.

This year has been – in the words of Fred Kwan “A helluva thing!”*

I have battled harder this year against my own brain than I ever have. I have fought to get help in a way I haven’t before. I’ve asked for help in ways I haven’t before and in the past 3 months I’ve discovered or come to the conclusion that I’m Autistic. Since putting all the puzzle pieces together everything makes sense. Everything. All the bits of myself I couldn’t unpick, that I couldn’t understand, that didn’t seem to have a root cause, now make sense.

Understanding myself and psychology in general is important to me, and from my reading this seems to be a passion for a lot of Autistic people as they try to understand the world, especially the people, around them.

Now I’m not even sure I have Bipolar II (which I was 80% sure of) and I’m not even sure depression and anxiety are what they are because all those things, through the lens of Autism make a different kind of sense. A fitting perfectly into a puzzle kind of sense.

This, awakening, if you want to call it that has been good and bad in equal measure. I now know why I don’t fit in, why I’ve always felt so alien and why I can’t cope with certain situations. I now know I haven’t failed at getting better from depression, anxiety or Bipolar. I haven’t failed at helping myself, at coping, at just getting on with things. In terms of the bad though I’m burnt out. I’m completely exhausted. With everything. Not in a depressed way (I know how that feels), not in a procrastination way or I’ve been too busy way. I’m just exhausted, even my writing cavern is empty. The bats have taken flight and not come home to roost yet.

Back to NaNo.

I’ve completed NaNo so many times. The first one I did was 14 years ago, or there-abouts. I’ve had few breaks in that time. Silverdeer was a NaNo project – at least 4 of my current shelved projects were NaNo projects of which a first draft was completed (or mostly completed).

My brain generates stories, characters, settings, ideas and all that pretty rapidly. Inspiration comes from all over. A line in a movie, a note in a song, an object in the background of a TV show. I’m not short of those at all.

Physically writing and reading though feels like a mammoth task at the moment.

Screenwriting feels like it would be easier. As does watching movies but even those there’s some sort of grey cloud over. It’s like I’m looking at them through glasses covered in vaseline.

If movies feel like that novel writing and reading feels like someone has poured toffee or golden syrup, or well just anything viscous and sticky that’s hard to clean (wayhay!) all over the glasses. It feels like walking with lead shoes on. Books, reading and writing them feels like a mountain my fat arse cannot climb.

I know I need a break but whilst I know I need this. My brain also doesn’t stop generating scenes, ideas and, spits of dialogue but they get lost when it comes to sitting down and getting on with them.

Forgoing NaNo this year is hopefully me giving myself some of a break, forgoing NaNo is me saying it’s okay not to do this, it’s also okay to ‘look’ like you’re not doing anything to the outside world. There’s this rhetoric which has been drilled into me in the past couple of years because of the spaces I found myself in and that rhetoric is that you HAVE to be this big, friendly, approachable, talkative, bright thing in order to not only do these things but succeed. You have to build, grow and cultivate a community with YOU, not your writing, not your characters, YOU at the centre of it. (Almost like a weird cult)

I can admit now, though I fought it hard, that it dampened my spirit.

I am the other. I’ve always been the other. Not only that but I like my solitude, I like the quiet of my own space. I have few friends because I find them hard. I like to write. I like to talk about writing, about ideas and about fiction. I like pulling apart things and dissecting them. I don’t like small talk. I really struggle with engaging with people, especially strangers. In fact I don’t like people in general. I’m not good at charming, at schmoozing, at playing pretend and acting like I like people. I’m not good with falsity. I’m not comfortable with play acting a version of myself (is that irony given all the masking I’ve done over the years?)

It’s hard to win any kind of popularity contests when you don’t like or want to engage with people en masse.

And the one thing I’ve learnt over the past few years is that a lot of indie businesses are pretty much popularity contests. It’s all about making friends with the right people and scmoozing the right people and finding yourself in the right circles. It seems (from Social Media anyway) to be about who you know rather than what you produce. Like every other aspect of life it’s a performance I can’t seem to understand or get my head around. Why would you want to know how many books I’ve sold or how many reviews I have when you could be asking me about the characters? About the exciting events in store for them?

I suppose that’s life though because it happens everywhere. In fact the only place it doesn’t seem to happen is fiction, which is probably why I’d rather spend my time there.

I hate to say it but the reality of that dampened my spirit. It makes the voice of ‘what’s the point’ echo ever louder in my head, because, the reality is, as I said before, that I’m the other. I’m the witch in the woods in the house kids throw eggs at. I’m the alien that gets taken advantage of as she fails to understand societal rules and norms. I’m the monster on the outskirts.

So NaNo; the tracking, planning and at times competitive nature is out this year. As my creative monsters battle to keep the ‘what’s the point’ demon at bay.

NaNo is out this year as I recover to come back stronger.

NaNo is out this year as I hold out a hand to the battered and bruised me, inside of me, that knows the point is ‘because you want to’, ‘because it’s in your bones’, ‘because why the fuck not!’

*If you got the Galaxy Quest reference here’s a beryllium sphere.

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