on being (begrudgingly) realistic

I am not renowned for realism, it has to be said, and so in cases where it is required I am a late-adopter, holding out hope long after it ceases to be sensible to do so.  That’s pretty unusual for someone with such high levels of anxiety I think, and at odds with my general belief that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO GO WRONG…and yet I hope, and hope that it won’t.

I particularly hate the need to be realistic when it relates to my chronic condition.  Even when I was really quite acutely unwell and newly diagnosed I was all “I totally can shower myself!” When it was quite plain for all to see that I could barely lift a spoon to my mouth to feed myself, never mind transport myself to a bathroom and attend to my hygiene needs without falling down flat on my face.

I was like ‘the little engine that could’, and this was my face whenever it turned out that actually I couldn’t:

pissythomas

 

(Incidentally, if anyone ever requires an image of a pissed off looking Thomas the tank engine- there are loads to choose from.  The dude has issues it would seem.)

 

Four years later, honestly, not much has changed.  I still like to think I can do everrrrrything, and you don’t want to be around me when I find out that I can’t.  I am getting better at accepting my limitations (I think?…Ok, maybe not…) but still don’t often fully realise them as part of my self-image and awareness.  This leads me to do things like apply for jobs that are actually beyond my physical capabilities.  That’s not a random non-specific example, that’s an actual thing that I did last week- securing myself an interview for a job that in reality, after considering it at length, I probably can’t actually physically manage- at least not reliably anyway.

Honestly?  It totally sucks.  Every time I tell myself that I can DO WHATEVER I WANT, and then struggle to drain a pan of pasta, or open a can of beans, or fasten a set of buttons without looking like I have the DT’s, I am reminded that actually Positive Mental Attitude is only a tiny part of the battle when it comes to life with CIDP, and that at the end of the day- it’s my nervous system that’s in control, not me (terrifying for anyone, but particularly a control freak like myself.)

But I decided that the right thing to do in this case, even though it felt pretty miserable, was to step back, and decline the post.  It’s one thing for me to be affected by CIDP, when I’m having a bad day or staring down a potential relapse, but in a job role where someone else would be physically dependent on me, it *wouldn’t* just be me that was affected.  So there it is.  Sometimes you want to do a thing, and think you can do the thing, but you actually can’t do the thing, and it’s better to realise it before you’re committed to the thing.

So that’s where I’m at.  Back in Job Search Hell.  I’m trying not to panic or feel too sorry for myself, because really what will that achieve?  But on the other hand I’m definitely feeling a bit sobered by the slowly dawning realisation that shit, I really am stuck in this malfunctioning body hey?

On swimming & writing

I’ve blogged before about my love of- but not necessarily skill at- swimming, here and here.

Well this week I went for my first swim of the year, and by that I mean not only my first swim of 2016 but literally my first swim in almost a year.  I am usually a seasonal swimmer anyway, as the thought of leaving the house after dark in the winter months and voluntarily plunging into luke-warm water wearing nothing but a small amount of lyrca just seems, well wrong.  But I didn’t manage much swimming- or really anything at all- last summer on account of fostering a newborn baby, which left very little time for anything else.

So I was looking forward to getting back in the water, but I was also apprehensive- we have a new local pool so I’d never been before, I didn’t know how busy it would be, where the changing rooms were, I was worried I’d be so out of practice after my year of very little exercise that I’d get in and promptly drown.  But actually?  It was fine.

It was moderately busy, but I was able to swim up and down without getting in anyone’s way (or anyone getting in mine).  Yes there were people there swimming faster than me, and people with better technique, people who weren’t afraid to put their head under the water…but there were also parents with kids struggling to just stay afloat, an elderly man with his daughter practicing rehabilitation exercises, and a woman not much younger than me wearing armbands.  No one cared that my breaststroke was sloppy, or that I kept my head above water.  Everyone was too busy with their own stuff to notice how wide my thighs are or how long it took me to make it from one end of the pool to the other.

It’s no secret that I haven’t been writing much lately, here on the blog things are pretty quiet, and behind the scenes not much is happening either.  I told myself that this year would be the year I would finally DO SOMETHING with my writing, that is- start showing it to people other than my close friends and family, enter competitions, query the book I wrote in 2014 etc etc.  But it’s the middle of April and I haven’t done any of those things yet, and truth be told I’m not sure when I will.  I’ve been crippled with self doubt for weeks now, thinking that every word I put down is pure garbage, reading over the fourth (and so far, final) draft of my YA novel and thinking there’s not a chance in hell of it being published, holding back from the blog because I don’t know how to put my feelings into words, and because there are some things I don’t know if I’m ready to share.  I’ve been comparing myself to anyone and everyone, and always finding myself lacking- in skill, in accomplishments, in LIFE and EVERYTHING.

It’s been pretty shit basically.

I vowed to do Camp NaNoWriMo as a way to push myself to JUST GET WORDS DOWN and get a new project off the ground, but it backfired horribly when I realised I wasn’t 100% on the project and felt completely unqualified to write it.  For a couple of weeks I didn’t write anything, and I thought maybe that could be the answer- to just STOP.  For a while anyway, to not force it and hope that whatever was missing would come back, or whatever had gone wrong would somehow right itself.

But as I swam up and down the pool on Tuesday, I began to feel lighter.  Not just literally, but metaphorically too- does it really matter if my new WIP is a wobbly disaster?  Does it matter if only a handful of people visit this blog?  Does it matter if other people are getting agents and publishers and PHDs and I am scratching down vague notions in a Tesco Notepad?  Or does it only really matter that I do things because I enjoy them?  Like swimming…

I used to be able to swim between 40 and 50 lengths in an hour, so I was torn on Tuesday between setting my goal at 50 lengths or setting it at one hour.  And then I realised that what was important was that I’d got in the pool in the first place, and anything after that was just a bonus.  So I swam for an hour, in which time I managed 35 lengths.  I could have beat myself up about that- last year I could do 50, that guy over there must have done about twice that in half the time, I really need to synchronise my legs and arms better and try putting my face in etc etc etc.  But instead I thought how pleased I was to have made the time to go, how nice it was to try out the new pool, how pleasantly tired my limbs were on the way home, how glad I was that I learned to swim as a kid and how fortunate I am that my CIDP is so well managed that I actually physically CAN swim right now.

And it hit me, that I could apply that same mindset to my writing too.  Sure some people have a stack of writing qualifications, and have won prizes and secured book deals and have a billion followers on twitter and enough money in the bank to not need to worry.  But there are also people who can’t read or write, who wouldn’t know where to start coming up with an idea for a story or who are staring down the barrel of their first ever first draft.  There will always be people ahead of me in swimming- and in writing- and in life, and there will always be people behind.  And actually it’s not a race, and no one is keeping score.

Maybe it is good to take some time out now and again- if everything is frustrating and nothing is working and even trying is making you feel bad about yourself.  But in this case, I think I need to do the opposite- and just push through.  I abandoned my WIP (which was really just a character list, vague plan and a folder of research) and instead jumped on an idea I had a while back and just rolled with it- no planning, no thinking about target audiences or marketability or if it would be The Best Book Ever Written (it won’t).  Just writing.  Making words appear where there weren’t previously any words, and not beating myself up if those words are a bit naff at times, and what do you know- I now have 2500 of them, and my aim is to get enough of them (probably about 10,000) to know whether this is something worth throwing myself into and that’s IT.  My aim is not to have a polished MS by the end of the year or to have an agent by my next birthday, it is just to write.

I thought having clear goals this year with my writing- like entering a short story competition or sending my first query letter would help me feel focused, and truth be told help me justify the vast swathes of time I spend writing when I could (and sometimes should) be doing something else.  But actually it paralysed me with fear, so for now I’m sticking to VAGUE and trying to remember that it doesn’t matter if I am never the Best Swimmer or the Best Writer in the world, and that’s good because I never will be either- it only matters that I don’t let my lack of confidence stop me from doing things I love.

 

writing

The Beginning of the End

Technically that should be “The beginning of the end of the first draft of my first book” but that wasn’t quite as catchy.

I am maybe 80% through the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on since 2004, April It’s complicated.  I had the idea and started the thing back in 2004, then I took a short break of ummm…10 years and went back to it in April this year, but completely re-imagined the whole thing.

Now I’m at the stage where I’m wrapping up.  I’m attempting to bring the main story arc and the subplots together and tie them up (not too tightly) and snip off any loose ends.  I’m finding it hard because I…uh…don’t have a definite ending yet, but shhhhh!  Let’s not talk about that right now.

I feel like everywhere I look there are people writing books that are better than mine.  That almost every person I see on Twitter has “author/writer” in their bio.  That there are literally millions of books in the world floating around and I am beginning to question what exactly mine is going to add.

There are also terrible books selling in droves, and brilliant books that no one has heard of.

So you could say I am having a slight crisis of confidence.  In fact if you were to say that, I would freely admit that you’d probably just made the understatement of the year.  I’m having huge doubts about everything that I’m doing at the minute, as evidenced by my last post.  Maybe I could turn this into a series: “What I’m Feeling Insecure About Today”.  What fun that would be- both to write and to read.

Seriously though, it’s just that it’s so hard to write in a way that does the idea in your head justice.  It is hard to write something original that grabs people’s interest and even harder to then hold that interest enough for them to buy your book, read it and maybe write a review or tell a handful of friends.  It is hard to get published, and even if you choose to self publish then there are difficulties there too.  How do your promote yourself and your book without ramming it down people’s throats and getting on everyone’s nerves?  No doubt there are a million other things about writing that are difficult that I don’t even know about yet because I am that naive I won’t even have considered them.

But here’s the thing:  I love to write.  I want to write.  I need to finish this book.  Even if it isn’t the best idea anyone ever had or the greatest thing anyone ever wrote.

If I got zapped out of existence tomorrow by a stray alien laser beam I would mightily pissed off about missing out on a vast array of life’s wonders, particularly being robbed of the opportunity to grow old with Chris and see my children grow up, but I can’t lie, this unfinished book would bug the crap out of my ethereal self.

It’s not like anyone else can do it for me.  Were it that I could communicate the ideas via telepathic brain wave from my head into someone else’s, I’ve got to say- I’d be tempted.  But I can’t.

So I just need to get on and do it…which is why I am procrastinating here obviously.