You know that feeling when it’s like a parasite gets in your head and you feel like you need to do everything humanly possible to keep yourself busy? If you stop for even the shortest time, that parasite starts nibbling away at your brain, causing everything to unravel. I’m convinced it attacks reason first.
I’ve been doing a lot to keep that parasite at bay, and it’s got a lot of reasons to keep creeping up on me. Sometimes I deal with multiple parasites. In an effort to keep myself busy lately, I’ve continued to read everything from blogs to books, thrown myself headlong into learning something about the business world, committed myself to networking for professional purposes (after, of course, figuring out what I want to be), and started really learning about social media.
I’ve also taken up knitting and maintaining a Facebook page for my dogs. When things get really bad, I’ll have conversations with my fish, Richard Marx. I zone out with Netflix. I’m way too into The Real Housewives of NJ.
And sometimes, even after all of that, the parasite just keeps on keepin’ on.
The parasite is, I think, the reason I’ve become so incredibly passionate about writing lately. It’s not that I didn’t love writing before. I always have, and that’s how I’ve identified. There’s just something very different about my relationship with writing right now. It’s more extensive, going beyond just the creative.
And everything beyond the creative has kept me away from the novel for a while. Six months, to be exact.
As I’ve noted many times on this blog, what drove me to novel-writing was NaNoWriMo. So when I heard that they were doing a summer session, Camp NaNo, I saw it as my chance to finally get back to my unfinished second novel. I spent a number of days prepping, reading back over what I’d written.
And then August came and brought me a wicked schedule. First my dad ended up back in the hospital for a week to have emergency heart surgery. Then I somehow managed to get three job interviews, which is really awesome (seriously, I’m 3 check-ins away from becoming the mayor of my regular rest stop on the turnpike. That’s how frequently I’ve been going to Philadelphia lately). He was in the hospital while I was going to the first interview, so that was getting to me right from the start. Personal issues cropped up. Plans with friends. Moving my brother to college. Life.
It’s been a busy month. Needless to say, the novel was the first thing that got put on the back burner.
My OCD is sometimes more endearing than others, but I have this thing about prioritization. Messed up priorities trigger the parasite … even sometimes when they’re other people’s messed up priorities that somehow affect me. So the fact that the novel was open and just hanging out there wasn’t sitting well with me, even when all my brain could handle was knitting mindlessly while watching Melrose Place on Netflix, criticizing how awful Heather Locklear’s hair was at first and trying to figure out whether or not Daphne Zuniga had a lisp.
Finally, while house sitting two weekends ago, I started typing.
Everything felt completely wrong, but I’d been ready for that. If I haven’t learned by now that when things are off-center, you need to keep going until you straighten them out, I probably never will. And anyway, I’m no quitter.
So I was prepared to keep working at it until it got better.
And sometimes, as I’ve also learned, problems aren’t resolved immediately. Sometimes it takes weeks or months and sometimes more to get everything back to a good place.
It just takes some effort. And as a wise, nighttime-sunglasses-wearing man named Corey Hart once said, “With a little perseverance you can get things done.”
(You are spared from a full chorus of “Never Surrender” as it applies to my novel.)
In any case, that first foray back into novel-writing never did start to feel right to me. Ultimately, I can attribute this to the following:
1. I’m out of practice.
I hadn’t worked on that novel in about six months. Of course the flow wasn’t going to be there. I would have been kidding myself if I had expected that, after that much time apart, I could walk right back into it and it would still feel as familiar as it had when I left it last. It doesn’t matter how much I talked about it or thought about it in that time. Familiarity will have to return naturally.
2. I kept questioning myself as a writer.
I’ve been doing so much other writing — cover letters, resumes, blog posts, social media, emails — that I kept feeling like my creative knack was gone. I doubt this is truly the case. It probably just needs to exercise a little bit. Still, it’s hard to feel good about what you’re writing when every sixteen seconds, that parasite is wiggling around and you keep thinking, “Wow. This is really awful. I won’t let anyone read this. Ever. I really suck. At everything. Why am I even trying?” In that instance, I kept trying to refer back to the above. Anyway, wasn’t I writing to get away from that parasite?
3. I’ve changed.
This is probably the biggest one. People close to me have noted this kind of transformation that I’ve undergone in the last couple of years. I expect that once my life gets back on track, I’ll relax quite a bit and all will be well again. A lot of it has to do with the whole… being unemployed for over two years, living with my parents, and just a lot going on in my life… thing. My sense of self has changed. I was pretty sensitive and self-aware before, but it’s a different level now. Certain areas have been completely knocked down to the ground and rebuilt while others have been merely renovated. The last three years have been stressful, but the bulk of everything that’s really messed with me has happened in the last six months. I can’t expect that those things would have no effect on me whatsoever. I’m trying to sort those out. I won’t pick a top priority because that’s dangerous business and I don’t want to put all my focus in one or two places while abandoning everything else. I’m telling you… I have a priority thing.
Instead, I’m trying to balance everything. Or at least put it on a Lazy Susan.
3a. My novel required a certain mind set. I needed to be able to get to a very particular place in my mind in order to be in the zone while writing this story. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, normal or not. It came from a place that I’ve not been able to get back to easily because I’m not sure that place is there anymore. At least not in the same form that it was before. As a result, I’ve started wondering if there’s any point.
But of course there’s a point. When I started writing this thing, I was proud of it. I really liked it and I liked the voice. I couldn’t wait to share it. Every relationship has peaks and valleys and I don’t think my relationship with my novel is any different.
This novel is probably going to put up one hell of a fight, but I’m not ready to give up on it. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to give up on it because, at least in my mind, that’s giving up on myself and everything I’ve worked to build here. I need to see it through, and I will, because that’s my style. It might take me a really long time, but once I hit that groove again, we’ll be in better shape.