As an explanation for why my writing on this blog slowed down this month, I want to discuss what I’ve done.
I was challenged by friends to participate in National Novel Writing Month, in which you spend the month of November trying to write a novel of 50,000 words. On day 30, if you’ve written 50,000 words, you are considered a winner.
I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo previously, but I never had the story that I desperately wanted to tell. I had stories that felt like they could be completed in a short period of time, in works of poetry or short stories. I never had something that I wanted to take into a 50,000 word novel.
This year, after my friends challenged me to join them, I knew exactly what I was going to write. My mother and I, the most recent summer, discussed writing a book about my experiences in treatment and what life has been like since. I’d always considered it, but I had never been in sustained recovery, so I thought that was a bad idea. Who was I to talk about the other side of an eating disorder when I was still struggling? This period of time, since leaving residential in May of 2015, has been the first period of time that I have managed to stay in recovery. Of course it hasn’t always been perfect or pretty, but I’ve always been trying.
When my mother suggested writing this, I told her I’d think about it. I still didn’t think there was room for my voice when discussing my own mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. But when NaNoWriMo came around, I started at page one and wrote nearly everyday until I reached completion of both the challenge and the manuscript.
I don’t know as of right now if I’ll do anything with what I’ve written. While I do think it would be beneficial for people to have insight into what treatment for mental illness actually looks like, I don’t know if I want my personal life to be that insight. If I do decide to try and do something with it, I’ll have to work through the fear, but that’s something for future me to consider. Right now, I’m basking in the fact that I accomplished what I set out to accomplish.
Outside of the 50,403 words I wrote for this specific purpose, I continued most of my regular writing–this blog being my one slip. That means I’ve written just over 80,000 words this month for academic, creative, and professional purposes.
It wasn’t until this year that I first thought, “maybe I could make a career out of writing.” I credit a lot of that realization to the jobs I’ve worked and am working this year. I was afraid previously that I wasn’t good enough to be what I wanted to be, and following my heart would lead to issues down the road.
I effectively proved myself wrong this month. I proved to myself that I can maintain my life and write. I proved to myself that, whatever I put my time into, I can do and be. If I want to be a writer, I can. I just have to practice, work hard, put myself out there, and learn how to take criticism.
A large part of my recovery has been finding myself outside of my previously established identity as “sick.” Writer has taken a piece of that. Kind, outgoing, and exciting have taken pieces of that. I’m still figuring out who and what I want to be, but I know I can be whatever I want to be. I don’t need to hold onto the identity of being sick, when there are so many other options for me and how I live.