This weekend has been a bit of a tense one. Ru and I have been laying low at mine and trying to get some significant work done. He has decided to opt out of writing all together, and instead take a bit of a break and focus on map making; and I have been sitting staring at the computer screen so hard I’m surprised there aren’t cracks in the monitor.
The book is coming along. It is hard going, hard work and hard writing- but it is coming along.
The subject matter makes for quite stressful writing; or a more accurate way to describe it might quite heavy writing. It is a self-help book, and so I am writing about all the difficult and perplexing things which have happened over the last ten years, in an effort to make sense of them in a way which might help other people who are still suffering.
Its title will be something along the lines of “How to recover from severe mental illness;” or perhaps something a little less matter of fact, I’m not sure yet.
I have written 90,000 words; and technically a book. However after last edit I decided I wanted to split it up into four sections, and have each section chronologically relate to a stage of mental illness- early, middle, later; and then moving past the condition entirely.
It occurred to me that a lot of the advice I was giving wouldn’t be relevant to a person who had just been sectioned. Moreover things which were important early on, become less so years into this diagnosis. The illness is tricksy and changeable, and so your methods of dealing with it must be adaptable as well.
So I am still really motivated, and excited to get it finished. However, this weekend writing has felt like a slow and gruesome process somewhat similar, I imagine, to trying to pull off all of your finger and toe nails; or trying to tread water in a piranha pool- it has been painful, so so excruciatingly and mind-numbingly painful.
I am trying to re-write two chapters for the first section- two chapter which are similar in the sense that they work to encourage similar feelings of empowerment and pride; but different because they each take a slightly different focus, and a slightly different perspective on how to actually do that.
I had already written them.. but then I went back and wrote a load more notes for each, and then various more ideas for chapter openings and different paragraphs, and then various more different versions, iterations, proposals and more versions still..
Long story short I had about 10,000 words of notes which needed to be re-written, re-arranged and edited down to about 4000 words; and those 10,000 words did not seem to want to order themselves.
It felt like every time I did some editing or rearranged and rewrote sections, I only ended up with another possibility for how the chapter could go, or a new set of ideas for ordering what I’d already done.
I swear the words actually started re-arranging themselves at one point; I left the laptop for five minutes to go and make a cup of tea, and when I came back they’d all moved themselves around- everything I had been working on suddenly looked different again, and as chaotic and messy as it had been five hours ago.
I couldn’t get a handle on what I was trying to write, and I couldn’t work out a strategy for methodically working through what I already had, and working out how to make it sensible.
There were just too many different ideas! And too many options for structure and order. The words just kept blossoming into new and alternate paragraphs; and every time I looked at something I realised it would work just as well, and perhaps better, in a different format.
I took breaks, I did all the things you’re meant to do in moments like that; but those words just wouldn’t arrange themselves, and wouldn’t submit to any kind of order.
So, after two days of this, I gave up and went out to the cinema last with Ru. We watched John Wick 2 (an awesome film btw), ate four massive plates of all you can eat chinese food, and then an absolutely sickening amount of pop corn and chocolate. Today I’m suffering a “sugar come-down,” and the dam chapters are still sitting there, still needing to be re-worked.
I swear that sometimes writing actually feels like pulling teeth, it actually feels like the pain of not writing turns into a furious inner itch which is only satisfied once you sit and stare at the screen for so long the rest of the room fades to black. The pain of writing is when the colours on the screen start to blur into one another and then morph into a blinding headache; and the words still won’t come.
I want to get these chapters written so badly! But dear lord is it turning into the writing equivalent of Everest..
I’ve glared at my laptop so fiercely all the words are starting to come out a little bit apologetic, and the keyboard is beginning to look bruised- but I’m not going to stop! I am going to carry on until those dam words are rearranged into the paragraphs and chapters I want, and the message I’m trying to share is there, and understandable, and compelling.
It’s just sitting inside of me atm, and it’s so close to the surface! I’ve just got to get it out and onto the screen in a way which is meaningful. It will just take time, perseverance and a bit of steely eyed determination.
Wish me luck..