Today, I finished my sixth Moleskine notebook. It might not mean much to anyone else, but to me, that is an achievement, considering that before I started the Open University creative writing course, I would start notebooks and not finish them, or buy notebooks and never use them. Instead, I have six full notebooks sitting on my bookshelf, neatly standing up together. Each of those notebooks has over 200 pages. In other words, I feel as though they are six small novels. I already have my seventh notebook waiting to be used. The other day, I reached 100,000 words on 750words.com, over four months – although the first two months were touch and go, meaning that I didn’t write everyday for those first two months. But for the past two months I have written at least 1000 words a day on the site. Yet I keep feeling like these are not achievements because they are directionless; they are not my novel or a short story. The argument goes that daily pages help you with the other writing you do, that they help you hone your writing skills, help you become more honest and less stilted when you write other things. They do help, especially in terms of emptying your head of all those issues and worries you have, so you can just put them out of the way and write a story about another character.
Then again, I feel like these past few months I have been so uninspired, so unmotivated when it comes to fiction writing. It might have something to do with everything else going on in my life, and the simple pressure of money and feeling uncertain about things. There are things going on in my life, that sometimes threaten to boil over and make me feel trapped, and make my family feel trapped. I doubt I will ever write about that here, seeing as it is a public forum and I always want to protect my family, but it does have something to do with alcoholism. It isn’t my personal problem, but it is so hard to cope with it sometimes and none of us know what to do, or how to change it. Its been going on for around eight or nine years, maybe even longer than that, but there is still that awful sense of helplessness.
Then I also feel as though I shouldn’t be letting these things hold me back and stop me from living; or stop anyone else affected by it from living. My anger and helplessness are nothing compared to some, because I’m lucky that I have a roof over my head and a place to sleep, somewhere I feel relatively safe. I have a computer, a desk, a family, friends. So this has been my emotional struggle over the past few months. That inspiration and motivation just dried up, and though I kept writing personal stuff and journal stuff, I haven’t touched the novel writing or written a short story since May. I felt a little burnt out after writing such an emotionally difficult subject for the novel I was writing, so maybe that had something to do with it.
However, I’m trying to take steps forward to help me kindle some motivation and get myself more excited about writing fiction again. I’ve been reading and reading this summer, so many books, and I’ve loved it, because I’ve been trying new things and picking up books that I might not have read if I was writing all summer. I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo in November, and I’m feeling fairly confident that I’ll be able to reach 50,000 words in a month if I write on average 1700 words a day. It’s achievable, and the only thing is to see if I can sustain that level of motivation all month. Especially since I’m going away for a long weekend at the beginning of the month, eek. There is a lot that I need to prove to myself, that I can begin living and not just survive day to day. I feel like a better person when I’m giving something to the world, whether that is writing or by volunteering in some way.
I’ve also taken a big step forward with writing articles and reviews, and I’m determined to step it up and build good working habits and relationships with people who might be able to publish my articles. There is a lot I can write about, and a lot of things that interest me. Maybe it feels impossible some days to find a way to make money, but that is why I have to keep going, and need to keep trying. I would let myself down if I didn’t at least give it the best try I have. I’ve learnt that you only get something back if you put yourself out there and make the effort, rather than sitting back and waiting for something to happen to you. My advice to people who want to write articles and reviews – keep going, keep trying, look for opportunities every day if you can. It is hard work, but it pays off when you make the effort.
In my notebook today, I wrote five pages of ‘Today is the day that…’ in order to feel positive about things. This works as a stream of consciousness because you are telling yourself that if you want something, go after it today, rather than waiting for something or doing it tomorrow. There is today, and from today I’m going to be more positive and change the way I do things. Part of the reason I’m trying to change is that you can’t always change the world and you can’t always change other people, but we can change our own behaviour.
For example, I’m taking up Health at Every Size (HAES) instead of Weight Watchers. The big reason is that Weight Watchers hasn’t really worked for me, it hasn’t helped me to accept myself. Instead I’ve been feeling guilty, angry with myself, some days I’ve starved myself, maybe not consciously, but I’ve been punishing myself. I don’t want to be at war with my body, I want to be healthy and happy, and enjoy moving for its own sake because I love to dance or swim or go for walks in the woods. I don’t want exercise to become something I have to do, I want it to be something I love to do. I don’t want to count calories for the rest of my life – I want to start listening to my hunger cues and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. The only way for me to feel better is to love myself and respect my body. Also, I’m wasting money on Weight Watchers, which I could use to go swimming or join a Yoga class. Part of it is that I’ve got PCOS so I know that movement is the most important aspect of helping to control the insulin resistance and that I need to eat food to control the blood sugar dips I get. I think only time will tell if it helps me feel better and I feel more alive and energetic.
So I’ve been relearning how to take care of myself better, how to enjoy the food I eat and what foods make a difference to my energy levels. I’m trying to build up my self esteem again, and find the things that my body does that I’m grateful for, such as my strength and that it can also be graceful (despite how clumsy I am!). It carries me around on two legs, I can write, I can run, even if I am not yet fit enough to run for long. My goal for the rest of this year is to feel fitter and to eat foods that make me feel good inside. Regardless of what weight I am.
Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: “I am with you kid. Let’s go.” ~ Maya Angelou