Since October 12th, I’ve been down in Florida and during this time, I’ve managed to scratch out a couple thousand words. That’s much less than a week’s worth when I’m at home, but for these 3 weeks, I’ve been helping out family and having the mental energy necessary to write has been a challenge.
I’m mentally, physically, even emotionally exhausted. Being a caregiver, short-term or long-term is not for the faint of heart. It’s definitely not for the selfish or the ‘me’ mentality. It requires patience, kindness, and the ability to scream internally when you can’t scream externally.
Normally, I would have said, ‘I just can’t. I’ll just wait until I get back home and get my head back on straight, catch up on sleep, on de-stressing, on XYZ… And then, I’ll start writing again.’ I haven’t done that. I’ve eked out words here and there, most of which don’t make much sense and most of which will be edited out. I also not upset about it, about the lack of progress on a novella I’d hoped to have finished long before November. I’m barely halfway.
I’ve texted with a couple of friends since I’ve been here. I’ve mostly taken my mom or grandma to the Dr, the store, to run whatever errands need to be taken care of, etc… while my mom is recovering from a fall that left her with multiple fractures in one arm along with a plate and nine screws in her wrist. Her sleep schedule is way off which means that mine is, too. By the time I fall asleep around 2-3am… my brain and body have had enough.
Writing is often an escape, sometimes a joy, a lot of times very hard work. Right now it’s not an escape. I can’t think straight enough for it to be an escape and I don’t have the time to sit and immerse myself in a story. I cobble together a few words, try to figure out a storyline in the moments I may have a second to think. I crave and cherish time to myself, something I haven’t had any of for three weeks. I don’t think I’ll be taking that for granted when I return home.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful I can be here and I can help out when needed because no one else in the family can come. I have the freedom and flexibility in my life and schedule that my sister and cousins don’t. I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my grandma who is 95. I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my mom. I am close with both of these women, but we’re all also cut from the same stubborn piece of cloth and it does pull on the nerves from time to time.
All this, though, is to say… Whatever the circumstance, writing can happen. Even if it’s ten words a day. Five words a day. It’s like the jigsaw puzzles my grandma and I do when I’m here and there’s some down time. It’s one piece at a time. It may be a total of one thousand pieces, but one piece at a time gets you one step closer. It’s the same with writing. One word, five words, ten words in a novella or novel doesn’t seem like much, maybe a drop in a bucket, but it’s one, five, or ten words that weren’t written before and it’s one, five, or ten words closer to the goal.
So, if you find yourself in need of writing but you don’t have much time, you’re exhausted and don’t know which way is up or down and everything seems to be going sideways… Just add one word, five words, ten words… They don’t have to make sense. They just have to be there.
I love y’all… And I’ll be in touch again soon.
As I was thinking about what to title this post, the song Slow Ride by Foghat kept popping into my head for some reason, but the words kind of sounded the same and so, Slow Write became the title.
The song starts out…
Slow Ride, Take It Easy…
And that’s the approach I’ve chosen to take with my writing for the time being, for the near future, maybe longer. I don’t know.
I’ve always loved writing in notebooks and buying all the cute pens and pencils, color coordinating everything, including the story within. It sounds strange, maybe, but it sort of fit with my own brand of OCD.
Author Whitney G. writes her books by hand, has them typed up by someone (she used to do it herself) and when I first found this out, I was really kind of…surprised, I think. In this current landscape of write publish write publish write publish, there’s someone who still writes their books by hand? I was fascinated and tucked it away in the back of my mind. Then, a few things happened.
One, my office. I now have an office. I could move out of the family room into the converted dining room, repaint the walls, add my own things. This led to going through old notebooks from the past decade of writing for publication. I have a few dozen notebooks and hundreds of pages with notes and the beginnings of ideas and a chapter here or there and in some cases, half written books. And I got to thinking…
Two, NaNoWriMo. I was planning to participate. No one is expecting anything from me. I think, in part, my readers have given up on me which I understand, so, why not try this writing a book by hand thing. I’m writing by hand in journals every day, taking notes by hand in a mindset course, taking notes from books by hand… It seemed like the perfect time to play with it. Besides, if JK Rowling could write Harry Potter longhand on legal pads, then dammit, I could pants a novel or a couple novellas for NaNoWriMo.
Three, my eyes. They don’t like looking at screens all day long anymore. Computer, phone, tablet, Kindle, television. My eyes get tired much quicker these days. They get scratchy and dry and honestly, I get tired of being in one place to write, I get tired of being constantly distracted by the bright colors of the computer and the million other things I could be doing.
And so, here we are…
It’s not easy. Some days I want to just sit at the computer and type because the words would fill the page much faster. But I don’t give in. This blog post is the first time in a week that I’ve turned on the computer and let me tell you, it’s hard updating the NaNoWriMo site on my phone cause their site is not mobile friendly.
The process of writing by hand is a deliberate one for me. I don’t know how it is for others, but for me… The notebook has to be just the right one, the right color. The pencil has to be comfortable and also, the right color. But it can also be a whim… I can pick up the notebook and start writing at any moment. I can get a few lines of dialog or a paragraph in whereas with the computer, it’s not quite that easy unless I’m carrying a laptop or Chromebook or tablet around with me. The phone can be used in a pinch and I’ve done that before, written a thousand words or so on the phone in an app. But this process of writing by hand, writing slower… I’m enjoying the deliberateness of it. I’m enjoying the freedom and constraint of it. I’m enjoying the numbers adding up at the end of the day without me stressing over the word count at the bottom of the computer screen.
And yes, I have to count out each and every word, each and every day to figure out where I’m at for NaNoWriMo, but it’s been worth it for me. Of course, we are only on day 8, but that’s 8 days of writing something, writing anything and that’s something I haven’t done in a very long time.
There’s something wonderful to be said for slowing down, for being deliberate and intentional with the formation of each word.