Priorities

Jul. 13th, 2013 12:35 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Here's the brain weasel that's been keeping me up at night and stopping me posting: "you are not a real writer because right now you are prioritizing your mental health".

It is a stupid weasel and it is fired. How can anyone write when most of their brain is busy checking the room for insects? But that is not a permanent state of being. It might take a while to get through, but it can be got through. And then I will write again. And regardless of which period I'm in, I'm still a real writer. I don't know what a fake writer looks like; I don't think there is such a thing.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I think I saw someone tweet or post about tools you use as a writer, and I wondered if I had any specific to my current theme of talking about mental illness. Turns out, I do. See, my day-to-day peace of mind relies very heavily on two meds which have both good and bad sides. I take fluoxetine (commonly known as Prozac) for my depression, and pregabalin (Lyrica) for my anxiety.

Whatever Robin Hobb has to say about it, I couldn't be me without medication (right now). Screw that "will I ever be myself again" -- if you've ever had medication make a difference for you, you know it isn't a case of it "damping down" the real you. It can give you yourself back. Nearly a year after starting on pregabalin, and I'm doing things I wasn't able to do from being very small. And it's not because pregabalin muscles on in here and takes over for me -- it's still me, it's just a me without the adrenalin kicking in over the stupidest of things.

But sometimes to get this stuff you do have to pay, and sometimes I get worried that I'll pay with my abilities as a writer (such as they are). I always had a very good memory, but now I'll put my pen down and be completely unable to find it when I come back five minutes later, because I just cannot remember where it went. Or I'll be looking for a quotation to use in an essay, but I can't find it, because I can't even remember the title of the book it's from.

And words -- ugh! Don't get me started. I did it in yesterday's post: it wasn't a typo, it was a "Lyrica moment" (as I put it). I typed "angle" instead of "ankle", and didn't notice at all. Typing is a matter of muscle memory for me; I simply wouldn't get it wrong by that many keys over. So it was something in my brain that substituted the word 'angle' for 'ankle'. I think that happens to everyone sometimes, but it happens to me appreciably more since I started taking pregabalin.

And from the combination of fluoxetine and pregabalin, I am simply so dopey sometimes. It takes me a long time to wake up, I zone out in the middle of conversations, I need things to be explained to me multiple times...

And my tool for fighting all that, and therefore the most important tool in my kit as a writer, has been crosswords. I've noticed that when I start the day by helping with the crossword in the paper, I continue the day much quicker on my mental feet. So now I don't even wait for the newspaper. As soon as my alarm goes, I'm opening the app on my phone and pulling up a random crossword. I've done it with strategy games, too: Kingdom Rush proved quite useful.

Actually, I guess you could call fluoxetine, pregabalin, and the apps I use to counteract their side effects tools I use for writing. Take out any side of the equation and I suck at life, and therefore at writing.

Moral of the story, if you need one, is not to let your writing be an excuse to avoid medication or some kind of treatment. You could be driving yourself into a brick wall. Maybe it'll take some false starts and you won't be as lucky as me in finding two medications right off the bat that help so much without cutting down your ability to do whatever's most important to you. Maybe you will.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I missed posting yesterday. It was a bad brain day: crying for no reason, being a whiny brat at people, being clingy, poor impulse control, the lot. I have a counselling appointment on Tuesday and let me tell you, I need it.

One day I should tell you all about healthcare in Wales. The short version is: we have an awesome thing where we get our prescriptions free. We have a not-awesome thing where our doctors refuse to refer us for treatment (whether it be psychological or surgical or whatever) to get us off said medications. And then blame us for the NHS being short of money.

(The long version involves me being told I wasn't sick enough, despite verbalising that I was so anxious I would really prefer not to exist.)

Anyway, pondering the post of two days ago, rules for real writers, it occurred to me that it didn't really cover what I think really makes you a writer. What you should really do to qualify. So here it is.

1. Write when you can. Which is to say, don't write when you can't. Treat writing like training for a 10k, or studying for an exam. You're gonna have to do a certain amount of work to get there, but there's no point in running on a broken angle or studying when you have a migraine. In fact, you're going to make things worse.

And you can't rely on anyone else's training plans, either. I've switched my 10k training plan three times now, because I'm still in the process of figuring out what works for me. I used to do NaNoWriMo, but it turned out that while I got stuff written, I burnt myself and the idea out in the process. That's not productive. But likewise, writing less for 365 days a year doesn't work for me either: I produce utter crap, day after day, and it isn't worth doing.

So yeah, write. That is crucial, but learn how you need to write, too.

2. Experience the world as much as you can. Stretch your limits. If you're sighted, learn to read simple braille. If you're deaf, read about musical theory. If you can only speak your native tongue, read books in translation. Or learn another language. If you're useless at crafts, you can still benefit by listening to other people talk about their knitting. Talk to people through whatever medium you can. If you don't have the spoons to go to the pub, pop into a chatroom. If you have social anxiety, lurk in forums online. Read books, fiction and non-fiction. Watch documentaries, watch cartoons, watch re-runs of Blake's 7 and classic Doctor Who.

In short, stretch yourself. And maybe you don't look all that flexible from outside, but that doesn't matter.

3. Take care of yourself. And that's really the most important rule. People often push the idea that you need to do nothing but write, enjoy nothing but the act of writing. That's a pile of excrement. If writing feels like getting blood out of a stone, you don't have to. Maybe you're only going to trigger a migraine with the stress. Maybe your fingers are dislocating from typing too much or your tennis elbow is playing up from the repetitive movements.

Safeguard yourself -- you're the only one who can write your stories.

4. Care about it. You won't always enjoy it, but you have to care. It can't really be a chore, because trust me, we as readers will know.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Camelot)
You hear a lot about rules for writing, and what makes someone a real writer. I haven't anything better for today's post, so here's a write-up of my day's brainstorming session on those.

Always watch other people, keep a notebook about things you see and think about: Try having interest in other people when you feel completely dead inside yourself. Just try, I dare you. If you're like me, at best, you won't feel anything. At worst, you'll spiral either into a long self-pity party in which you think about how they're probably so much more successful and happy than you, or you start imagining all the reasons they must hate you. Even if they're a bunch of complete strangers.

Write every day: You think I can write when I can't get dressed?

Write even if it's shit: But... in that state, everything is shit. Even if it isn't. Why waste my time and give my brain reasons to beat me up some more?

Use your depression as inspiration!: This brings to mind Hyperbole and a Half. It's "like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back". You're trying to use your total lack of any positive feeling to create a positive result. Does that really make any sense to you?

If you want to be a real writer, read a lot: I refer you to my own poem, Non-Fiction Mood. Read it, it'll do your writing good.

I'm sure there's more, but these are the ones that annoyed me. The rules annoy me because they're saying, "you have to do things like me or you're not really a writer". They're saying that because I "let" my mental illness keep me from writing, I just don't want it enough.

Well, that's true. In the depths of anxiety and depression, all I want is for the feeling to stop. When you're so frightened that you wish you didn't exist anymore, writing is just about the last thing on your mind. So hey, my criteria for being a real writer, for me, is "keep coming out the other side and starting again".

I had a story idea yesterday. I'm excited.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today it's been hard to get anything done. Everywhere I turn, anxiety pops up. Like this.

The old Office paperclip popup, telling me it looks like I'm trying to live but it can't help, because I suck

But [personal profile] lynnoconnacht was chatting with me, and suggested I write about how my mental health affects my creative work. The glib answer would be to screencap an empty Word document, but it's not quite that simple -- some aspects of writing help. As long as they have rules. So when I'm depressed or anxious, I'm unlikely to write a story (and free verse like yesterday's poem is rare), but I could write a sonnet. Or a villanelle.

So, for your delectation, I wrote a fairly bad villanelle about writing a villanelle to make myself feel better, to make myself feel better. CC BY-NC-SA, as before. The title is a reference to Sylvia Plath's Mad Girl's Love Song, just because it is also a villanelle and it has mad in the title.

Sing me moonstruck

Piece by piece, I assemble my art --
my defence, my spell, my secret intent,
the dam, lest this tear me apart.

It's easier to let go than once more to start
to turn back the way my courage went.
Piece by piece, I assemble my art:

a shield, a prayer, a map or chart,
a hope, when imagination's spent.
The dam, lest this tear me apart.

When there are no more words, nothing to impart
the form and rules still dissent
so piece by piece, I assemble my art --

a villanelle, a sonnet, a dart
of light, by other poets lent.
A dam, lest this tear me apart.

Line by line, beat on, my heart,
ignore the fear that nags, torments.
Piece by piece, I assemble my art --
the dam, lest this tear me apart.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I haven't been paying much attention to this blog at all and I'm sorry about that, for however many of you are actually reading! Life takes over. In particular, it's amazing how completely a mental illness can take over your life. I have GAD and depression (also pretty generalised!), and sometimes it's all I can do in a week to keep staggering out of bed. Sometimes it's all I can do to make myself get into bed in the first place.

The fact is, I'm never sure how much of my identity to reveal here and how much to hold back; ideally, I don't want to hold back, but if that's the case, then why use a pen name? But I've decided, at least, that my mental illness is going to be out there. It doesn't want that -- these things hide from scrutiny, from consideration, and hate being held up to the light. And society doesn't really want that either, because we so often fall into thinking of Us vs. Them, and mentally ill people are usually among "Them". But I'm a normal person. I'm no stranger than any of you. That person you admire, who is always smiling, always perfectly put together? Maybe she cries as soon as she locks the door on the world at night. Maybe she's gone past knowing how to cry. That person who embarrasses you by talking to themselves in public might be CEO of a company in a few years time. There's no easy division.

So, I'm not willing to hide or let myself be hidden. For the next week, or as long as I can, I'm going to post every day about something related to mental illness. A book review, a personal piece, fiction, non-fiction. Links to other people's posts about the same.

All of it will be posted under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA: you're free to share or remix this work, with attribution.

The first post in this series is a poem. I'm not sure how much explanation-sauce you like with your poetry (and there's some pun on sauce and source in there, too...), so I've placed some thoughts on what I wrote under the cut at the bottom.

Non-Fiction Mood

You know what that means.
Things close in.
There's no world beyond the wardrobe,
no rainbow road to take me away,
no fairy ring in the woods.
Friends are blank,
incurious,
go on their adventures alone.
Simile, metaphor, a perfect adjective,
all dry as a shrivelled heart
of someone who has never loved.
Tell me about wars,
the methylation of DNA,
the long slow excavation of a single tomb.
In the wonders of this world,
let me glimpse another.

Explanation )

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rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Rhian Crockett

August 2013

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