NaNoWriMo and What I Learned Attempting It

If you’ve been following my blog for the past few weeks, you know the following:

1) I signed up for NaNoWriMo and got off to a pretty good start.

2) Then came the week-long migraine of DOOM.

3) Then came the family drama of DOOM.

4) Then I gave up, because I was just too behind at that point and my brain was whimpering from all the DOOM.

But I promised a retrospective of sorts, because while my participation in NaNoWriMo was short and limited, I actually learned a lot about how to participate in the future, so I thought I’d share those thoughts here, so that I can actually, yanno, remember them for the future and also in case they might help others. Continue reading

Week #2: NaNoWriMo and the Nope

Even if I wanted to, I can’t even begin to describe this week. I was talking to my grandmother last night, telling her about last week’s migraine, and the week before’s fighting of the cold, and combining that with THIS week, I feel like I should put on some umpire gear and yell, “Strike three! You’re out!” at whatever gnome or goblin that has jinxed me this week, last week, the week before, and this year over all.

I’m not the only one who feels this way: 2014 has been full of suck.

It’s an interesting thing though: I know I haven’t talked specifics about my personal life, and there’s some things that, no matter how open I may get on this blog, that I’m just not going to air to the public. But those things that happened earlier have prepared me, I feel, for the here and now. I’m a different person now that I was back in February, when I felt my life was draining through my fingers. I’m a stronger person now, which is good, because the events of this week have required it, and it’s still not over.

I know, I know: don’t you hate it when someone writes something, asking for prayers or clearly bemoaning their life, clearly indicating something is wrong but not telling you what it is? It feels like a cry for help. It feels like begging for attention. I’m doing neither of these things, and I’m not keeping secrets either: the people in my life who need to know absolutely know.

But I’m writing this in vague terms to say I’ve officially thrown in the towel for NaNoWriMo. I’d contemplated it over the weekend, after the week-long migraine subsided and I could legitimately focus on writing again. Yet, I couldn’t focus. And then something completely different started brewing on Monday, not related to my health at all, but my family. Monday was the warning, Tuesday was the tornado, Wednesday was the calm before the storm, and then Thursday dropped a bomb so big I’m still reeling from it, and since then, while telling myself and others, “Take one day at a time,” I’ve been dreading what that next day would bring.

This year, more than anything, has been a year of transition. And not just that, it’s a year that’s defining me. It’s a year that’s forcing me to focus on my fears, face them, and accept the fallout, whatever that may be. It’s forcing me to step up and that’s a scary thing.

And to put things in more specific terms, what’s happened this week has absolutely killed the writing brain. Not for good, just for NaNoWriMo. I have some thoughts about the few days I actually participated, how I felt about having to write nearly 1,700 words per day versus the way I normally write, but that’s a post for another day.

So for now, I’m gracefully bowing out. The migraine was one thing. This week has been an entirely different beast, one that colors the rest of the month, let alone the rest of the year. Trying to write to a deadline is just not going to happen right now.

And I’m okay with that.

Week #1: NaNoWriMo and the Week That Wasn’t

It started innocently enough: Monday night writing session, sitting in a crap chair that encourages crap posture, a chair I’ve used since my freshman year of college 11 years ago and I’m surprised it hasn’t crippled me yet. That kind of crap chair.

On Tuesday, I felt the starting tension of a headache building at the base of my skull. Easy fix: grab a Coke, see if caffeine will knock it out. By time lunch was over, it was clear the full octane, liquid caffeine wouldn’t work, so I did the next best thing: took the generic form of Excedrin Tension Headache. Two pills.

Three hours pass and I arrive at my physical therapy session and the receptionist asks if I’m okay. I lie, say I’m fine, because it’s automatic and really, when someone asks you that question, they’re not really expecting a different answer, are they? Well, maybe in the medical and health-related field they actually do, but I keep the building headache to myself, get on the exercise bike, and work with my physical therapist and talk extensively about the crap chair and what to do about it.

Get to my car, take a prescription migraine pill. Generic form of Imitrex. One pill every two hours, maximum two pills a day. One pill should do it. Except it doesn’t. Driving home I realize I’m in a kind of trouble, because none, absolutely none of the medication I’ve taken that day has even come close to making a dent in this thing. I stop at a gas station, grab an emergency Coke, and when I get home, take my second and last dose in 24 hours of my prescription migraine medicine, hoping, just hoping, that this will do the trick.

I go to bed. Wake up at 4:30 am Wednesday. Still in pain.

Migraines used to be a different beast for me. Back in college, I would wake up with them, and I’d wake up vomiting. That particular migraine/trait/symptom is mostly history (used to be a monthly occurrence), and I get tiny headaches, the kind that lurk in the background and throb just enough to let you know they’re there, but not bad enough that you’re reaching for the first available pain medication. I also get bad headaches, the ones that make me debate between the Excedrin generics or the heavy-hitting prescriptions (it’s a debate, because I don’t want to starting overusing any one thing and make it less effective as a result). But by and large, if  headaches don’t make me vomit, I feel I’m functional.

I’ve not had a migraine that’s lasted longer than a day. Or, if I have, I’ve forgotten, and the circumstances were so completely different that it’s not even triggering the whole, “Oh, I’ve been here before,” feeling.

For the purpose of this entry, I’m blaming the craptastic chair. Truth be told, I honestly don’t know. In the past few weeks there’s been enough going on that’s different (I’ve made a list) that it could be any one of or any combination of those things.

In those wee hours of Wednesday morning, I gave up and took two generic Excedrin Migraines (only two in 24 hours allowed!). I feel asleep, and when I woke for work, the headache was on the way out. I grabbed my emergency Coke from the fridge, hoping the extra caffeine would drive it away completely, but I ended up taking a nap at lunch. When the timer went off and I was forced to return to a vertical position, I knew it was a very, very bad idea. But I did it anyway. After all, I only had four hours of work left. How bad could it be?

Bad enough that I finally gave up and went home at 3:15, after fighting to keep my head upright. Bad enough I called my doctor and asked for his advice on medication: I’d already taken my recommended dosage of the generic Imitrex. I’d already taken the recommended dosage of the generic Excedrin. What else could I do? He asked about my symptoms, the location of the pain, about what I’d taken and when, and called in two prescriptions: a new round of generic Imitrex (as the stuff I’d been taking had gone out of date in March. Ooops) for migraine, and generic Fioricet for tension headaches, which we both agreed was what this was. An aggressive, Hulk-sized tension headache, but a tension headache nonetheless.

I pick up the meds, get tips from the pharmacist on how to make those meds more effective (20 minutes soaking in a hot-as-humanly-tolerable bath with 4 lbs of Epsom salt). Pick up Thursday, until mid-afternoon, where I swear, in the span of 20 minutes, if left like someone grabbed the remote and turned up the pain levels back up to screaming. I wanted to pop my head like a zit. Powered through to 4:00, went home, made my list of WTF-is-causing-this-shit list, took my special bath, and then ended the night with the prescription dispersing in my system.

Today, Friday, was a day of goals: don’t ingest the things that might be exacerbating the pain (sugar, caffeine). Don’t take anything for the sinuses, even though the blockage is annoying as hell (and yet this isn’t a sinus headache). Keep taking the big guns through-out the day, because if the bugger comes roaring back like it has the past two days, it’s time to call the doctor and beg for a brain scan.

Fortunately, I did not have to call the doctor and beg for a brain scan. But headache’s still there. Lingering and waiting, shifting around and testing various locations in my head, like it’s trying to find a room just right. But because it’s Friday night, I’m debating taking another around of the big guns. I want to go to sleep, see what I wake up with, so I can get a feeling for how this sucker really operates, if it’s really on the way out like I hope. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I didn’t need to go home early today (stayed late, even!), and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Writing-wise: Tuesday yielded nothing. Wednesday yielded a couple hundred words that knocked me over 10K. Thursday I didn’t quite make the daily word count, and today, Friday, well, I need to get started. While I’m not in bad shape for NaNoWriMo, I’m also not where I want to be either, and I’m hoping the weekend affords me some time to get ahead, really ahead. I’m also hoping that this migraine, this tension headache on steroids, goes the hell away and stays the hell away.

Because this bastard has been here since lunch on Tuesday. Not off and on, but on, brighter and sharper at some times and dimmer at others. Friday’s been the best day since this started, and I hope that’s a sign that Saturday and Sunday will get better and better. I’m tired of having to say, “I was migraining yesterday,” in order to explain a lapse in attention, a screw up at work, a bumbling of words, or a plain fuck up (leaving the garage door open, forgetting to feed the cat twice). I’ve had to say it two days in a row, and that’s more than enough.

So let’s be optimistic: here’s to a migraine/tension headache-free weekend. Here’s to writing my heart out, eating delicious Chinese food with friends, and being blown away by the glory of Interstellar on IMAX. Please be awesome, Interstellar. Please be awesome.

NaNoWriMo 2014

I’ve never done this before. When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I scoffed at it. A mere 50k words make a novel? Please! But over the years, I’ve let go of my writing snobbery, and I’ve begun to recognize NaNoWriMo for what it really is: a chance for writers of all types to sit down and really get the words out, just to prove they can, or maybe to get a jumpstart on a project that would languish otherwise.

But most of all, it’s to have fun.

I’m a competitive sort, and when a friend of mine mentioned she was seriously considering NaNoWriMo this year, I started thinking about it. When she started egging me on, I looked at my project that I started earlier this year, that I got fantastic feedback for earlier this month, and realized this might be the jumpstart I need. It’s not a normal novel for me: it’s not science fiction, it’s not fantasy. It’s the here and now. It’s about my backyard, geographically speaking. It’s about the mountains and music and madness.

And I have to say, I’m looking forward to discovering it.

Participant-2014-Web-BannerIf you’re on the site, feel free to add me and follow my progress, cheer me on, and let me cheer YOU on if you are also embarking on this crazy journey! While Ghostcatcher is not my first novel, it is the first one I’ve attempted to write for NaNoWriMo. It’s also the first novel I’ve attempted to write on a laptop. So let’s just say I’m feeling very, very green.

November’s almost here! If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, are you ready? Feel free to send me links to your pages, and tell me about your projects!

But in the meantime, Happy Halloween!