Writing Months In Review: May – August 2021

Number of Writing Weeks: 11 out of 19

Total Word Count: 15,053 words

Average Word Count Per Week: 792

% of Monthly Word Count Goal: 94%

Other Stats: 26 Writing Days

I have not been good about keeping a monthly cadence to my writing updates, have I?

It’s been a on-again, off-again few months, really a roller-coaster ride of writing. Lots of times when I was able to buckle down and really crank out the word count. And lots of times when I succumbed to the various vagaries of health and other such limitations and just… didn’t write. Most of the time… if I didn’t write at least once during the week, it’s because I hit a wall of fatigue in the evening hours when I typically do my writing and JUST. COULD. NOT. STAY. AWAKE. I don’t usually like writing about my health. Maybe it’s because I’m a private person. (I’m an introvert.) And maybe it’s because I prefer to pretend that things are fine. (They aren’t.) But, it is a health issue – among many that I struggle with – and it’s one of the hardest on my writing, not least of which is because it’s been nigh impossible to properly diagnose, and therefore the hardest to treat and manage. In the end, I strongly suspect that some of the medicines I take for other health problems are having a soporific side-effect that has proven extremely difficult to treat and manage. But this isn’t a health blog. It’s a writing blog.

As I write this I’m currently sitting at about 14,200 words for the four-month period of May through August – a mix of writing in the Novel and writing notes and supporting documentation on my RPG game design – and with a few days left to go in the latter month. I’m still hopeful that I’ll be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and get some writing in during these last few sultry days of August.

I’m not overly or unrealistically optimistic, mind you, seeing as that chronic fatigue issue has been especially prevalent of late; but the fatigue comes and goes sometimes without rhyme or reason. It doesn’t generally respond to or correlate with the amount of sleep I get. Instead, it seems to strike at random and over prolonged periods during which I regularly “crash” every evening, having lost any capacity to contemplate any activity other than sleep. Then, just as mysteriously, it’ll clear up for a time and my ability to push through and engage in any activity – not always writing – improves. The good times usually give me an extra hour, maaaaybe two each evening. So, it’s entirely possible that the remaining days of the month will mysteriously turn out better on the fatigue front than it has been lately.

On the bad days, I begin to despair of ever even finishing just this one book, much less the dozens of other ideas I have for novels, short stories, series, and so on. How I reason, can I ever even hope to finish all this work if I can’t stay awake long enough to put in at least some writing time on a regular basis? Never-mind that I ever get even the first thing published in this state. It’s a hard fact. The health problems aren’t going anywhere, and even the doctors are left scratching their heads and shrugging and throwing drugs at the wall to see what sticks and what bounces off.

In my dayjob I’ve been given this amazing opportunity to participate in series of Coaching sessions on building personal resilience. Of course, the first and primary reason for the opportunity is that a resilient and emotionally stable and engaged employee is, in fact, a more productive, creative, and useful worker. But the benefits of personal resilience can have ameliorative and salutary effects in one’s personal life too. Until I get published and writing becomes my actual career (or, at least, a secondary career) my personal life includes writing (and game design!).

Applying the lessons learned (thus far), one of my immediate goals is to be able to identify negative thought patterns that fall under the general umbrella of “Cognitive Distortions”, to label them, and to shift the thought pattern toward a more fact-based foundation. In this case, it goes like this:

My thoughts:

Because of my health problems I can’t write. Because I can’t write now, that means I’ll never finish. If I never finish, I’ll never get published. If I never get published, then I am a failure at the one thing that is most important to me personally (outside of my family). If I fail at that, then I am a failure as a person.

~Me, following the train of thought from it’s impetus to what seems like its logical conclusion.

I can identify and label that thought as a cognitive distortion of the “overgeneralizing”, “all-or-nothing” variety. To reframe it and shift it, I could look at the situation a little more dispassionately, thus:

My health problems are preventing me from writing in this moment. The health problem does not define me, and over time it can be managed, at least some of the time. Maybe it’s not managed today, but tomorrow is a new day. I can still finish this novel, even if it takes me a few more years. And if I finish this novel, I still have a shot at trying to get it published. And even if I never get published, I’ve only ever truly failed if I give up.

~Me, pushing myself to reframe my thoughts despite a very strong inclination to prefer the prior thought pattern as being more consistent with reality.

This is, in fact, an excellent example of what it means to capture and reframe these negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions. In the short term, I don’t know that I really believe the reframed thought. But, with time, it may be enough simply to think it and to repeat it as something of a mantra or an affirmation. By capturing the negative thoughts and forcibly reframing them, regardless of whether I’m feeling it at an emotional level, I hope to train my conscious mind (and, through practice, my unconscious mind) to automatically favor the more positive and edifying trains of thought.

And, because I’m a writer and I think best when I’m writing… I’ll probably be doing some of that here in this blog. I’m putting this out in the open. I may struggle with multiple, often difficult to manage health deficiencies. But that does not define me. It’s legitimately hard to take a positive view sometimes. But I’m counting on being able to change this with practice. Because I need this, for me.

Still to come on this blog: hopefully more positive and edifying reframing of my often negative thought patterns. More learning about resilience. More about my writing: what I’m currently writing, what I plan to write someday, and so on. And more about my game designs. I have plans to share snippets of my first draft work-in-progress on my novel. Snippets of short stories I’ve written. Musings about tabletop game design and game mechanics. And more consistent updates on my writing progress. It’s time I reframe this blog and turn it around from a ghost town overrun by gale-tossed tumbleweeds and build up more clear, more focused picture of me and my writing life. Sometimes with the warts, sometimes with a little cognitive “photoshopping” and reframing. But always the truth. Until next time!