Once a very very long time ago I worked at a small corner drugstore downtown. It was an exceedingly awkward time in my life being that I was fresh out of high school with no conceivable life plan outside of at some vague point in the future someone would magically discover my innate hidden talent for story-telling and give me many bags of money for it.
I was a recovering epileptic still on heavy medication while also trying to process the recent revelation of the years of sexual abuse I endured, which wouldn’t come near to resolving for many years yet. So in simpler terms, I was just not there at all mentally. I was only moderately functioning by external stimulus only. A habit that I am only just beginning to break.
My manager at the time was a sweet motherly lady named Janet. She watched over our crazy little store like a hen. Between us despondent teens, dramatic gays, and rauncy old women, she was much more calm and collected than she had any right to be.
So when you’re standing at the register and this sweet tiny mousy lady comes up to you screaming with a brilliant red face for you to just DO SOMETHING you know things are truly fucked.
This moment nearly destroyed me. She will never know how much she cut me to the bone that day with just those two words, and how many years after the fact that I replayed her face and those words over and over again until I brought myself to tears.
To be absolutely fair, I did deserve it. I was so shut down that I would literally just stand behind the register and stare out into space totally lost. I never dusted or sorted out the stuff around me, just stood there waiting for the next customer to come up. So Janet had every right to be frustrated with me. Hell it was her job to make sure I did mine.
What I didn’t know though, as I chewed this memory to death in my head, was that this moment was also the biggest turning point and kick in the ass my life needed. It took a long time after the fact for it to truly take effect, but those two words finally cut through the fog and cleared a path for me to grow beyond my circumstances.
First thing after this event I made the call to stop all my medication. At that time I was seizure free for five plus years, and since I have not had one in almost fifteen years now it’s obvious I made the right choice. Immediately after my head started to clear up and I became more present in my life.
With my head clear I was better able to cope with and understand my trauma. The healing process is still one I’m working on, but if Janet hadn’t brought me to the painful realization that I was not doing enough I would not be anywhere near the self sufficiant adult I am now.
Less than a year after that day our tiny company got gobbled up by a bigger brand and then sold and dismantled. And I lost track of Janet the second I pulled away from that place after we spent a week gutting it. Aside from running into her once at Target, I have not seen her again.
Now there is a reason I bring this painful yet powerful memory up here at the mid point of NaNoWriMo. The point being that sometimes you need to be mean to yourself. There will be times in our lives where we need to stop coddling and making excuses for the places we fall short.
I just spent a few minutes reading an old journal from five years ago I kept specifically for the great American novel I was convinced I would write. I couldn’t spend much more than a few minutes on it because every entry was another bland excuse.
This time I’ll write it as a screen play…
This time I’ll hand write it…
This time I’ll give up the deadline…
This time I’ll just write this practice book first…
This time I’ll write a memoir…
Seriously, every single entry.
Damnit kid, there is no easy way to write a novel. It’s just you, the blank page, and the words in your head. You can either decide to write or not, there is no inbetween. And I have no more patience to pretend otherwise with myself or with anyone else.
You may not like it, but it works. So far this month I have been more successful and consistent than I have during any other NaNoWriMo. All because I make the active choice every day I wake up to hold myself accountable for my action or inaction.
Now I wake up a little earlier each morning, pound out a few hundred words with my coffee before I trudge on to work. Then the moment I hit home I set up my nest of pillows on my bed and knock out whatever else I have left in me.
I’m still not the most prolific writer, but I have put out more fiction this month than any other where I’ve spent my days whining on here about how little writing I’ve been doing.
Slow and steady wins the race.