Today’s soundtrack: A mix of songs from bands like Jinjer, Insomnium, Cellar Darling, Myrkur, and Rishloo.
Current word count: 3,538/50,000 words.
NaNoWriMo has barely started and already I’m wrestling with that drifting, frustrated feeling I normally wouldn’t get until about day 14 or 15. It’s that sense of judgementally looking at my words and thinking, “What is this rubbish? No one in their right mind would want to read this.”
Perhaps part of the problem that this is the first NaNoWriMo in which I really feel like I have a story that could be something significant. My previous Nanos were a journey in learning how to write quantity. Now I’m trying to write quality. Something that other people might want to read. Which means I’m probably subconsciously pressuring myself to write something amazing, even though realistically a first draft manuscript isn’t likely to be brilliant.
I’m also writing a script, which is different to previous literary forms I’ve tried. I’m writing it with the intention of illustrating it as a graphic novel. That said, I resorted to a mix of scripting and prose narrative for now simply because as I develop the imagery in my mind of certain scenes and characters, descriptive prose is faster for me than drawing as a way to retain the ideas.
Basically, I’m looking at my meagre little word document first-draft script and asking it why it isn’t fulfilling my dreams yet.
I tap away despondently, trying to force the words out. I think of my favourite comics and books and wonder if anyone will be moved by my words and art the way that I’m moved and inspired by the work of others. The rain falls in fits and bursts on this unpleasantly chilly spring day. The sun glows weak and pallid through the grey skies. I keep getting distracted. I have a wedding to attend this weekend and I keep remembering stuff: We haven’t bought a present yet, how did that slip my mind? I don’t have appropriate shoes, how could I have forgotten something so obvious like buying shoes? Do I still have time to buy them? Let alone money? I have to clean before the babysitter comes over. There are school uniforms to wash and floors to vacuum and, God help me, kitty litter trays to clean. I wonder about the wedding, about the people I expect to see there, people who were once a regular part of my daily life until we drifted apart, old friends who I still care about while conscious that we have headed down very different paths… even though we all live quite close to each other. I wonder what they think of me, will they think I look terribly old, because I certainly feel tired and haggard, and will they think that I’ve chosen to be a loner because two years ago I left the church we all used to attend?
The sense of not belonging rises within me. It doesn’t worry me much, not like it used to, but some days it hits me out of the blue. An artefact of my disordered mental space that has taken years of recovery to reach a mostly functional level.
The other night, at the folk metal gig I attended, it was one of the few spaces where I ever felt truly myself, but it is hard to meet people and form friendships in that community. We’re often introverts, melancholy folks who don’t get out much… I literally saw a man reading a novel at the front of the moshpit in between sets. Everyone has a little zone of personal space, even in the moshpit. It’s not some horrible crush like some of the concerts I went to in the 1990s. Conversing in the queue for the women’s toilets, where I got chatting to several other women who like me have tattoos and piercings and multicoloured hair and a love of Nordic heavy metal, resulted in a generally agreed consensus that we are creative introverts who all struggle to meet new people. Our chatting was probably fuelled by beer more than any innate social drive. It was a comforting thought that we all saw ourselves as similar types of people, but at the end of the night we still all went our own separate ways, unlikely to meet each other again in the sprawling space of our city. Sometimes I will see someone wearing a tour shirt from a band I’ve seen and there’ll be a nod of acknowledgement, but otherwise… we are out here on our own.
Then there’s the annual pressure of trying to organise Christmas events is starting already and it fills me with the kind of despair that comes from feeling like I have barely recovered from last year’s annual dramas. I have often wondered why people who don’t seem to really like me in my day-to-day normal existence seem so desperately intent on my attendance at their annual “Let’s pretend we are a happy, functional group of people” gatherings. I remember a time when Christmas was for me about the transcendent wonder of the nativity, this deeply resonant mythos that God became embodied within the physicality of humanness to sympathise with our lives and sufferings, and the spiritual symbolism and beautifully strange southern hemisphere clash between the traditions of Yule with the more locally appropriate imagery of Litha. At some point all this was lost for me in stress: stress of family obligations, of budgets that never seem to stretch far enough to buy the expected gifts for the distant relatives we barely know, of trying to appease people with competing demands, of co-dependent figures and the repetition of old unhealthy ways of relating that are amplified when people who never dealt with old conflicts are forced into the same space, clashing schedules, and the angsty political conspiracy theories of members of my former church who bleat about a so-called ‘war on Christmas’ even while all the stores have decked their windows with Christian-influenced décor, and the only ‘war’ on Christmas I’ve ever seen has come from other Christians who think it’s unbiblical.
Somehow, in the midst of these external and internal pressures, my writing has to go on. I have to write without cruelly judging my words when some days it seems like all my relationships and circumstances and surroundings are conspiring to keep me subdued and limited.
I have to battle this voice in my head that everyday proceeds to tell me why I’m not enough, not good enough, not talented enough, not significant enough, and keep writing.
And I have to accept that maybe I’m actually not enough, and that’s the cold reality of it, that maybe my family were right about me all along, that I’m weak and talentless and naïve and that my mortal existence will come to nothing, and that I should never have left the “safety” of our small home town by braving the big city…
But even if their words turned out to be true, I won’t go down without a fight. My weapon of choice is my words and my art and my music and I will stand as strong as I can.
It’s this drive to have no excuses, to not let life slip past me even if I fail at it, that keeps me writing my little Celtic and Norse-inspired tale of weirdos, outcasts, warriors, of aliens and fae and otherworldly beings, and of people who are losing their minds in the face of the pathetic, miserable ordinariness of life. Because if I can’t literally stand and fight my enemies like the ancient warriors whose blood runs in my veins, the characters that live in my head can do it for me in ink on paper and pixels on a screen.
One word at a time.