With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I am seriously trying to stop myself from writing. It seemed like a good idea at first: after eight months of intense revision, a 20k-rewrite of the ending to The Fourth Rule of the Sacrifice, and the excitement of sending off the first query letters, taking a break before November sounded like a smart thing to do. The Muse, I thought, needed a break, and I needed some sleep, and I’d start over refreshed and merry on the first of November.
Only it’s not like I imagined, and I should have known. This is going to sound slightly insane, and maybe funny, but while I can’t argue against insane, it’s not funny in the least: writing is an addiction. It’s every bit as addictive as alcohol or drugs can be (though a lot healthier, of course). Writing regularly makes me a balanced, pleasant, diplomatic person with infinite patience and an attitude my friends, colleagues, and the children at school appreciate equally much.
And then there’s the dark side, and let me reiterate, it may sound funny, but it’s really not. When I go periods without writing, I get cranky. I start feeling restless and unfulfilled, I sleep badly, my patience goes down the drain, and though I do usually stay nice, my thoughts will be a whole lot darker than they usually are. Yes, it sounds like a First World Problem (I guess it is). Yes, it sounds like I should probably be looking into therapy. Yes, it may sound amusing if you haven’t experienced this yourself. But I’m serious. Writing is an addiction, and the more I do of it, the more I crave. I used to go months and months without writing in the past. I could still do weeks a year or two ago. Now, three weeks off writing, I’m starting to feel it, and the eight days till NaNo suddenly feel like a very long time.
I’ve spent some thought on why this should be the case, and I think it comes down to this. We all have experiences in life which we don’t appreciate, or which make us so happy that we could burst. Both types of experience need to come out one way or the other. For the majority of people I know, this means talking to as many people as possible and going over the story until all emotions connected with it have paled and they are back to feeling balanced and relaxed. Others I know take to exhausting themselves by doing sports, by punching something, by having the occasional fit of anger or tears.
These things happen to me very rarely. Instead, my emotions go straight onto the page where they come alive in what my characters experience. They don’t need to be exact translations of what happens in my life–not at all. I can be filled to the brim with happiness and make myself cry over my saddest scenes. I can, on the other hand, be upset or hurt or angry and still write light-hearted, and it’ll be okay. What matters is not what I feel, but that I feel, and that my pages are charged with emotion. I think this makes me a good writer; it also makes me a balanced person. It’s a win-win situation.
Except when I’m not writing, I feel horrible. The worst of it gets me when I’m entirely stuck and frantically looking for a way out. This explains my mad drive when it comes to trying and trying every possible way to solve a ‘writer’s block’ situation in my stories. I’m not even sure I believe in writer’s block. For me, so far, there’s only been ‘being stuck’, and ‘being stuck’ can be solved, although I don’t claim to always know how. But seeing as I’m addicted to writing, there’s no waiting around for inspiration to strike. When I do get stuck, I go after it with a club and drag it back kicking and screaming, even if it takes months. There’s no giving up, and that’s not because I’m especially ambitious or driven, but because it’s essential to my mental health.
So there you have it. The secret of my balance, and why I’ve been sleeping badly lately.
I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that a self-imposed ban on writing is about as stupid as it gets, now that I’ve spent some thought on it. I’ll still leave my NaNo story untouched so I won’t miss the rush. But I’m going to sit down right now and write the alternate ending to The Fourth Rule of the Sacrifice which my friend requested.
Onward, and here’s to writing for my sanity.