It’s been a rollercoaster of a week. I’ve been trying to write-by-speaking, and accordingly have been testing various set-ups in my car to take dictation. The phone with voice recorder app failed. Too much road noise. Mom, who I have offered to hire to transcribe, reported back that the recording was very difficult to understand. I’ll type that up myself, since I know more or less what I was thinking, and the dictation should prompt me enough to write it out. I haven’t had time during the week because… well, I’m not getting into details. Suffice it to say there was family stuff, which had priority, and work spilled past the usual boundaries and it got messy here at the Nut House.
On top of all of that, I’m dealing with some… huh. There’s not really a politely vague way to describe this, so I’m going to be blunt. Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if it bothers you. While it might be polite to not talk about this in public, I feel moved to lay it out on the table, because I know one thing: I’m not unique. If I am not alone, then I also know by talking about stuff I struggle with, it might help someone else have that lightbulb moment and be better equipped to deal with it on their own. Plus, I don’t give a flying flip about the ‘stigma’ it may have. I’m talking about hormone-driven mental health issues. Cyclical, unpleasant, but part of being a female for me. I’ve dealt with this in the past, enough that I do, indeed, have diagnoses although they are more than a decade old because it was under control for a long time. What has this got to do with being a writer? You might be asking. Well, for this writer it’s a pain in the tuchis when it comes to creative efforts. When I feel like if I sit down and start to write it will be like slitting the casing on a sausage and all that pain and doubt and fear (which I am exquisitely, painfully, aware that is not logical but that doesn’t matter to my brain in that moment) will come squirting out and can’t be put back in again. So I don’t write. Unless I can channel it into a story, and then I do. Anyway. We have been monitoring this for several months, and after years of considering myself ‘cured’ it’s back again with a vengeance. Haha, sucker, you can’t escape your own endocrine system!
Rollercoasters are, after all, predictable. You can see the structure. You can feel the spine-tingling ratchet of the mechanism drawing you up, up, and you know that when it stops, you’ll be plummeting downward. Story plots can be like this, too. Here’s the thing – plots are invisible rides. With a ‘coaster you are using your eyes to look at the hills, that monster loop, you know what’s coming. With a book, you can see the climax is near, but you don’t know when, and sometimes the author takes you over some bunny-hop hills first, to build up the thrills. The other thing about a book plot is that you don’t, entirely, trust the author not to take you down that hill, screaming all the way, feeling the thrill of danger… with a ‘coaster you trust that the car is going to swoop safely up the next hill, until momentum pauses and the mechanism catches, to pull you up even further and then do it all again. Which is what a good plot ought to do. A bad plot? goes off the rails and suddenly you’re buried in the dirt with all the fun gone and the pain of disappointment.
I’m not suggesting we all write boring, predictable plots. That’s not fun at all. I am pointing out that sometimes the depths of despair are necessary to highlight the heights of ‘win!’ and that if we throw in unexpected twists and turns it is just as exciting as that ‘coaster taking a quick tilt and twist to the side as it crests the hill and you couldn’t see what was coming. As authors, we just need to avoid the rails just… ending. Leaving your readers crashed into the ground wondering ‘what just happened?’ isn’t any fun for either of you.
The really odd thing here? I hate amusement parks. I would rather have a kidney removed without anesthetic than go to one. My kids love them, of course. Fortunately they have friends with a mom who likes the whole thing, so I buy tickets, slip her some gas money, and stand on the porch smiling and waving while they head off to one of those hellish places. The only thing I’d actually go for? A rollercoaster. I really enjoyed the couple of rides I got back when I was their age. I don’t want to relive the experience enough to endure another park, though.
As for the other thing? I’m finding the predictable ups and downs make it endurable. I’ve been collecting data and using it to generate a calendar with alerts (there are apps for this) and that helps. I get a ping on my phone, evaluate my headspace and think “ooooh… yeah, no decisions for Cedar today that would affect life beyond what’s for lunch or dinner.” It helps, to be able to step out of my own head a little and realize that it’s all a sea of hormones I’m drowning in, not reality, and if I am patient the tide will turn and flow back out and I’ll feel much more myself again. It doesn’t help to wonder, even a little, if this is what I’m really like, this awash in endocrine-generated emo self who just wants to retreat into her shell. I find that talking to someone I trust, and who knows what’s going on, helps. They can give me the objectivity I need to get through a few days of mental struggles to pick apart what’s real and what’s just my worst-case scenarios.
Then the rollercoaster ramps up again, and within 24 hours I get to publicly announce that three of my ‘secret’ projects from last year are coming soon! I have stories in three anthologies that will be released in the next couple of months. I went from never having been invited to participate in an anthology, to getting an invitation at LibertyCon and it snowballed from there. Whee! I’m so excited to finally show off what I’ve been writing!