Monday 19 November 2018

Spoonie Writer: Balancing Health & Work


As I write this piece (I write them in advance just in case you didn't know) I'm awaiting my PICC line insertion and also dealing with the sadness that comes from knowing that I won't be well enough to take part in NaNoWriMo 2018. I planned to, oh I planned to do this and that and just carry on my merry little way, because November is a huge month for writers. I also have it, usually, as the start of my massive editing train and that's always more stress, but then my health got in the way and because of issues with my port, I'm now getting a PICC line put in for a short period to deal with some new meds I'll be having over a couple of weeks. And that sucks. My port has decided it doesn't want to be in my body, and so that's another stress and the possibility of having surgery soon to remove the old one and put a new one in place. It's all added up to mean that no NaNo for me. :(

But that's a good reason to write this piece because it happens, whether it is a PICC line and multiple hospital days or whether it's just a flare that zaps your energy and time. As a spoonie, your body can also be a bit of your enemy. And a lot of the time, the focus in writing, both on and offline, is that you have to be productive to be valid. I don't help this by posting the words and pages and chapters I do for #JoWriMoGo every month. I hope that people know that I'm not looking at anyone but myself with those posts. They're a way for me to track things and yes, to celebrate at the end of the month with how I've done, but I do see a lot of people who feel like they're not valid as a writer because they didn't make this word count. And that gets worse, I think, during November because so many people are telling you to push through and that you must get 50K no matter what. And that's a tad unhealthy. Not just for spoonies, but for anyone really.

And it made me think about writing something about it, because as I said above, I perpetuate that with the way I do things, and I want it to be clear for my followers or anyone reading this: Your worth is not measure by your productivity. I don't care if you manage a page or fifty words a day or a week or a month, you are not valid no matter how little or how much you do. I don't think it's been said enough. I don't think people realise just how damaging this mindset is because it is so engrained in us as writers and people. The idea that to be valid and worthy you have to have achieved x number of words a day. And that's so harmful.

At the same time, I'm a big believer in things like NaNo as a way to set a routine, so don't be thinking I'm shitting on that because I'm not. I'm just aware that a lot of people can't reach 50K and during the month of November, they're kinda told that they're supposed to push past and suddenly hit this word count that they'd not be able to make any month. I understand wanting to be motivated and take part in the events. I also like the community that surrounds it, but so much of that pressure is harming people and turning them off writing rather than wanting them to continue. And that's something that we shouldn't be ignoring.

As a spoonie, I've contemplated not posting about my monthly word count. I mean the tag has done it's job in that now I have a very good writing routine and because of that, am able to get a lot done in a month, but I don't want it to be detrimental to other people's writing journeys. Nor do I want to be perpetuating the myth that word count is the be all and end all of writing. I've publishing thirteen books, they have ranged in word count from 40K to 130K. All of them have the right amount of words to tell that story. I've grown as a writer sure, and because of that some of my story telling has necessitated more words than before, but I don't look down at other word counts and think that the bigger ones are the best. I know I'm an over-writer and I know that a huge chunk will be cut from the story when I go through edits and betas.

So what's the point of this piece? It's a mix of things. Your worth is not decided by how many words you write this November, or well, ever. But also it's okay to take a while to write your book, I've taken at most thirteen years to finish a book - and it was my shortest by far - but as I've said before and will say again. It takes as long as it takes, and that's okay. Keep writing!

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