It is day thirteen of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and my word count is currently at 112, 937 words. Nanowrimo’s “goal” is 50k words, and I’ve surpassed that by 62.9k – which isn’t so surprising for me.
Over the last few years, my then-untreated ADHD symptoms became worse and started to wreak havoc on my memory, as well as severely limiting my ability to focus on any task for longer than a few minutes and perhaps worst (and most dangerous of all) – rendering me incapable of living any sort of life that wasn’t filled to the brim with severe brain fog (to the point where, if I didn’t have music playing over my headphones when I went out, I would be so unfocused that I would walk into traffic at cross walks rather than thinking to stop and check if the lights were red or green for me).
It was difficult but I started drinking coffee after reading that caffeine helps those with ADHD fall into that hyper focused state needed to be able to Get Shit Done. So I developed my two large coffees a day habit, either cramming those two coffees into a two hour period (if I only had a small amount of work to be done) or 4-6 hour periods if I had a longer, more complex project to get done.
That was when I began figuring out ways to focus so that I could type my Nanowrimo novels and not lose focus as much as I did other things. I have no real answer as to ‘how’ I can write so much for Nanowrimo, other than my brain goes as fast as my hands can type, if not faster – all of those words equate to all of the information in my brain. If I have an idea for a novel, you can bet that those ideas are running 300mph and I need to get them typed up or written down before I forget them. As well, if I have an idea I really love, I’ll go with it until I run out of steam. Thus, high word counts.
Enough of the background history though. This post is about my week 1 and how it went. It is currently my second year as ML (municipal liaison) – last year I mostly ran things by myself as our long-time ML fell ill with a sudden cancer diagnosis. I had no time to plan or prep for the year and just went along with whatever he had planned ahead of time, making the rest up as a I went along based upon the structure we used years prior. This year I have a co-ML – my best friend! – to split the workload with, which gives me more time to write.
My first week went a bit strange. In the weeks leading up to Nanowrimo, I went from having a lot of interest and excitement, to suddenly having zero interest and excitement. I was having burnout before even starting and that was strange to me. Once November hit, I went ahead and started my novel, and to my surprise, I went with it so well that I was able to hit 50k within the first week.
I did have my struggles along the way though. Number one being that my favourite place to write is under renovations and the only place I could write that is 24 hours is McDonalds. If you’ve ever been to one, believe me when I say that they are always that busy and it is one of the worst places to write. I lucked out and the one by me has some quiet time between the hours of 12am-5am, so I tuck away in a little booth and try to write as much as possible there.
As well, there are weekly write-in locations for my region (a library, a Starbucks, a Tim Hortons and another cafe) – I attend three of those with the latter being solely hosted by my best friend as that bus is too far for me and my agoraphobia right now. On the days where there isn’t a write in, I either pack up my iPad and notebook and go to McDonalds, or I bite the bullet and attempt to get writing done at home.
I’ve never been able to write from home and I have a whole other blog post on this (called ‘Writers &
Cafes’, which will be uploaded soon) – I can’t really explain why. I can write anywhere else though, and I’m well-known at my local coffee shop, as well as a few Starbucks and Second Cup locations near me. I also utilise another library outside of the one used for write-in locations, and it sort of works. When people understand that the “quiet study zone” has warden-like rules enforced about silence and not being distracting to others.
Since I’ve semi-sorted out the writing location problem, I’ve been able to get anywhere between 5000 and 20k words in a single day, depending on how long I write for. I managed to kill off six out of the eight characters I started with and now I’m having to create new characters to take their place. Luckily, these characters are coming a long nicely, without much outside planning (meaning, more time to write!) and I’ve even made little reminders on my character cards to not kill this character.
I would definitely call that first week a success – both in my writing and in challenging agoraphobia, social anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder symptoms. I was given a Presto pass to use for the month, so that I can attend ML-led write-in’s as I do not drive, and that is also helping expand my world a little bit. I’m still scared to get on the bus if it’s a route I do not know, but for the majority of write-in’s, I’m travelling via bus with my best friend so that definitely helps.
I’m proud of the tiny steps I have made in the last thirteen days, and it’s starting to show me that I’m not only more resilient than I think, but I’m capable of a lot more than my anxiety disordered brain leads me to believe. All because I decided to change the way I think about things (I can instead of a hundred reasons why I cannot).
It’s not always easy. I’ve had some downsides to suddenly throwing myself out there into situations that cause me great distress. My sleep schedule is worse than normal; I’m either sleeping 18 hours a day or barely getting 4 hours and then having to conduct a write-in while in an emotionally vulnerable state (no sleep = an easy way to see just much your mental and emotional stability relies on sleep, and good sleep). I’ve had panic attacks. I’ve spent a few nights crying on the phone to my girlfriend, ready to give up and I’ve also had the urge to avoid, avoid, avoid.
But I didn’t avoid. I didn’t give up. I let myself cry, I let myself rant, I let myself ride the wave of the panic attacks and depressive episodes and reminded myself that tomorrow is another day; a fresh start. I can do one of two things: keep trying, or give up.
I’ve never given up on a single thing in my life. I’m stubborn and persistent.
Besides, there are 17 more days left in the month. I can’t possibly give up now!