The last time I posted anything on Respect the Blankie I was plunging into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)—an event/contest of sorts wherein thousands of participants each try to knock out 50,000 words—about 200 pages—of a novel (perhaps an entire novel) inside a month. I am happy to report that I “won”—meaning I reached the 50,000 word goal. Those 50,000-plus words now exist in the form of a partial novel that will probably never be completed. After forcing myself through that much material in that amount of time, all while keeping up with my paid work, but while dropping most of my other ‘recreational’ pursuits, I’m not convinced the story is worth pursuing. I latched onto a basic premise early in the month and forged ahead. Careful plotting and ongoing revision were replaced by the drive to get the word count where it needed to be. Okay, in truth, I never carefully plot things out, which is perhaps of one of many themes of my life.
In large part, having abandoned the writing of this blog for a month was a major factor in forcing myself to best the NaNoWriMo obstacle course. I didn’t want to take on a challenge, use it as a reason for not tending to other things in my life, and then not complete the challenge. Then, on December first, I experienced what others refer to as the NaNoWriMo hangover. I had met my goal, but felt wiped out writing-wise. And much like those suffering a hangover often promise themselves they will never drink again, I didn’t really want to engage with my story and characters that much again. It had gotten to the point where we were all fighting each other, anyway, and being entirely too polite about it.
So, around the third of December, when it dawned on me that I was avoiding my writing life, I realized I couldn’t go cold turkey, but needed a little hair of the dog—or hair of a different dog—I still wasn’t going to go back to the novel. I pledged to get back on track to posting at least one ‘article’ a week on the blog, with the reset button cued to the beginning of December. I am bringing this post in under pressure of that deadline. Having completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, though, made me consider a number of other things about what I am doing, and what I am capable of—or perhaps what I want to be doing, and how I can be more capable. When am I actually challenging myself to do things better, as opposed to more or perhaps just enough? When am I getting stuck in a rut, as opposed to settling into a comfortable groove?
To be sure, it was an exciting feeling to realize I had met such an ambitious goal. But it was a goal with a built-in hangover. It was about doing too much just to prove I could do too much—yet another theme in several parts of my life.
So for now, I reflect on my writing life and its interplay with the other aspects of my existence. When I started this blog, my intent was to tie it to concerns of mental health, to have a focus on issues relevant to my chosen field. I have largely kept in line with that goal, but it has been difficult at times to get a solid idea and bend it into an article worth reading. In part, some of that difficulty is tied to my connection to some rather dark corners of this field, subject matter that is difficult enough to begin with, without the added complication of lacing it with Style.
At other times, I have written things that have been personally satisfying and entertaining, but which I decided did not adequately fit in with the mental health angle, or did fit in with that angle but were potentially…uh…antagonistic, or easily interpreted that way, and so abandoned them. One such post that I decided to go ahead and put up anyway actually served as the seed for an article, completed with a collaborator, that has since been accepted for publication (more on that when it actually comes out, months from now). So I’m re-evaluating my standards for subject matter. That is, I almost second-guessed myself out of a publishing opportunity because I was afraid some ideas might be taken the wrong way—by whom, I don’t know. Well, actually, I could tell you what I’m thinking on that account, but it’s all an idiotic circle of self-limiting hooey based simultaneously on the fear that nobody and everybody will read a post and everything/nothing will happen to make things go in a direction that can’t possibly be good unless it is.
So, for now, the goal is to write about whatever moves me to write, and in the way I want to express it, without getting too worked up about things being taken the wrong way, rather than trying to maintain a narrow, polite-ish focus. After all, every aspect of our lives contributes to our mental health, or lack thereof/limitations thereon. So, here’s to reasonable goals, and fewer hangovers of any sort.