Michael also has an excellent blog, filled with much goodness.
Michael also has an excellent blog, filled with much goodness.
I’ve struggled with depression for years. It started with my multiple sclerosis and was the first symptom spotted. Coincidentally, I restarted writing.
My family always tells me I’m the creative one, the one who thinks oddly, out of the box (though I would argue my older brother is also gifted in this area – and my kids are wildly so). I know that, during my brief career in management, I was often on a completely different page than many. This led to feelings of failure and isolation and utter hopelessness…
So, now, I’m having a bad bout with the MS – blurred vision, muscle spasms, pain, confusion, the whole package. And depression. And I feel at these times, any challenge is beyond me, AND, at the same time, my life is meaningless if I don’t do something important. It’s a tough place to be stuck. So I decide to quit everything I am doing and try new things in a flurry of trying to succeed at anything, anywhere.
Along comes Maria Popova’s excellent Brain Pickings today: Creativity and Mental illness. Sometimes, at my most paranoid, I think she secretly knows me, her postings are so appropriate for the day…
And suddenly I don’t feel so alone. There are many others here in the murk (with occasional northern lights and lightning) here with me.
Now all I have to do is decide. Do I quit the writing game? Or do I listen to my chafing neurons and continue?
In “the Secret Life of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4″, by the hilarious Sue Townsend, Adrian’s class is on a field trip when the bus driver, driven to the ends of his nerves, submits to motorway madness. All of the kids arrive home safely, but shaken, and the bus driver gets a well-deserved rest.
We’ve all been there, right? In the car, with howling kids? My oldest son just about lost his hearing thanks to the endless screaming by the middle one. I’ve felt that madness slip over me. (My sister still tells the story of me putting them out of the car.)
Well, today a different madness came over me. I started submitting things to publishers and journals. All sorts of things. Stories that have lain fallow for months, little ditty poems that struck my fancy, shorter or longer versions of other works in progress (called WIPs by the trendy Humber).
It’s not strictly speaking a sane process. I mean, I could work on these stories longer, could probably edit them for another few years, but there’s something about being in this crazy Humber program that makes me want to take it all seriously, start sending things about. It’s been a while since I was published, except in our local grass-roots poetry journal, OHForgery (which I love).
Oh, I’ve sent things in for competitions, sure. Won a few. Placed in a few others. But going for the publication thing – hesitant. See, in a contest, you can always argue there were so many competitors that you couldn’t possibly be expected to win. So when you don’t, that’s cool. No self-abuse required.
But when a journal writes back, no sorry, this isn’t for us, well, it chews a bit of your soul away. Immediately you start the inner walk of shame.
So today, I’m sending out submissions like I used to send out flirts in online dating. Send out lots, you don’t notice the no replies as much. Someone usually replies pleasantly…
Of course, if I don’t, I’ve got some lovely Writers Tears to drown my sorrows…
No writing done today. Why? I can’t see out of my eyes and my throat feels like bears came in my sleep and dug for beetles there.
Been in bed all day, reading and watching British TV, while my cat wanders in and out, mewing in a bored sort of way. He’s even gone mad once or twice, just to see if I react. I do. I cough. He remains unimpressed.
I’m winning, though. I can feel those rhino viruses making a dash for the nearest exit. I hope. Time’s a wasting.
(image from Articulate Matter, a charming site with pictures of plasticine squids that seems, alas, to have gone quiet.)
Ogden Nash‘s “Common Cold”, my favourite poem for such moments:
Read by “Tom O’Bedlam“, a wonderful name if ever I heard one…and a deep, resonant voice, similar to mine today…
Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I’m not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.
By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!
Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.
Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne’er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.
A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare’s plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!
As someone who still hasn’t got the hang of Evernote, I like the simple tips in this article. I already like the different notebooks for different things one – I had one for Sarah Selecky’s excellent course, Story is a State of Mind, and have a fresh new one for my Humber times. I have DA’s little grumpy book for my personal rants and etceteras…
But I need to start colour-coding and leaving space between entries…and a table of contents is good, too.
I’m getting an understanding for the agitation caused by the Mistral. The wind has been howling around my place for hours and hours, making the cat’s ears twitch and getting loud enough at times to make the sound of the radio vanish.
It’s good writing weather, not pleasant enough to escape outside, not gruesome enough to make me hunker down under the blankets and hide. It’s dark enough to make thought of evil characters easy to produce, warm enough to keep my fingers cozy on the keys.
And yet, I’m not writing.
I know it’s Nov 1st, start of Nanowrimo, I know I have assignments due for my writing class (and fair enough I did work on that), but I’m instead reading and percolating things and doing my usual mental canoodling. Tomorrow, I hit the computer and get to work.
Really I will….
Yep. It’s that Nanwrimo thing, which someone told me sounds like baby talk.
In a way it is. You sit and write madly for hours and days and just try to get stuff out of your head onto paper and finally spew out 50,000 words by November 30th and then pat yourself on the back for accomplishing it and forget all about it.
Unless you are like my niece, Stephanie, who honed and self-published her book. Or Stephanie Domet, who wrote her first book this way, and who is offering a workshop at the Tatamagouche Centre this weekend to start people off.
Or me, and use the month to complete an already planned writing project. I’m leading a workshop, too, just a humble free one and so you get what you pay for…it’s at the Woodlawn library in Dartmouth and should be fun.
Or so many others, who use this month and the assigned schedule to help reactivate their writing lives and start living creatively again. It’s all a good thing, both the making of a resolution and meeting it and the writing itself.
But your novel will NOT be immediately ready for prime time. Revision, revision, revision, right? Nanowrimo gets a bad name because people write their 50,000 words and it seems so good to them in their “I did it!” wash of superiority, they think it’s ready for prime time.
Don’t do this, please.
But do participate. It’s free. You get writing prompts. You get bragging rights. And really, you only have to write less than 2000 words a day. And strangely, at the end of the month, you may well have something. It might not be a novel, it might not be anything like what your started out to do, or it might be exactly what you wanted. In any case, you’ll have written, and as you can see elsewhere on this blog, the feeling is unbelievably wonderful.
A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.
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