In today’s vlog, (which was filmed yesterday on day 2 of NaNo but goes up today on day 3 of NaNo. That makes my eyes cross a bit when I think about it) I continue on my 2021 Nano Journey, hit delirious levels of tired and mildly resent yoga..
I’m on the YouTubes
So this year I had decided I wanted to start creating video content for YouTube but couldn’t quite figure out what to start with or how to start. After much deliberation (for deliberation, please read overthinking to a commical extent) I realised something; NO ONE CARES.
So, I put all my poems up, that felt very risk free almost because they were already on my Instagram and website and then I made the decision to launch with Nano. To be more precise, with me vlogging my experience of NaNo, so that’s exactly what I did. The first video went up today and you can watch it below, I hope you enjoy!
Until next time,
I hope you have better luck than me with the words and the numbers!
“What the hell is NaNo anyway?“
An honest account of my first Nano, on the eve of my second…
This time last year I had barely a clue what “NaNoWriMo” was (I think I’d heard about it in passing about ten years ago and laughed at the idea) let alone the “indie writing” community. I certainly didn’t understand the whirlwind I was about to unleash or the incredible people I would later have the honour of calling my community…
I, like a lot of people, had fancied myself a writer—more, I fancied the idea of being a writer, as I really had no clue of what being a writer entailed. I’d previously dabbled. I used to have a blog and I had written an extremely short screenplay a few years back, but I really hadn’t taken it that seriously. I was watching some YouTube videos and listening to a couple of podcasts very sporadically, but that was about it. I was basically clueless.
Now, a couple of things happened last year that led me to where I am today. Number one, I had decided to take a step—nay, leap—back from pursuing my acting career due to my minor debilitating mental health and so had been musing about what I could do to replace acting as a career option. My criteria were simple:
- I must be able to do this in my pyjamas from my bed (non-negotiable)
- I must be able to interact with real-life, in-person people as little as humanly possible
- I must be able to interact with people of any description as little as possible.
Naturally, my brain dropped on writer—more specifically, author. I figured I could stay in bed, eat, and type…
Really, how hard could it be?
Number two, while I was fancying myself an author, making money from my (obviously) brilliant and hilarious works of fiction (which were themselves still very much works of fiction), I promised my niece I would write her a novel for Christmas.
I vowed this in June. Six months to write a novel. How hard could it be?
I got to planning. I enjoyed that part, making pretty vision boards and character concepts for a couple months before patting myself on the back for a job well done.
Well, I patted myself on the back and put my feet up for two months.
The final part of the puzzle was when I saw an interview with Daniel Willcocks on Youtube and, intrigued by the fact he was a British indie author, I went to his website. I saw that he was running a NaNo Boot Camp and I decided to join (I’m pretty sure it was around three days prior to November 1st) as it seemed like a good way to, you know, actually write the thing I promised.
So, the first thing I went about figuring was what had I actually just signed up and paid for. NaNoWriMo (or “NaNo” for short) stands for National Novel Writing Month and it is an event that hundreds of thousands of writers embark on each year hoping to net their 50,000 words and bragging rights. It runs from the 1st of November to the end of the month and has recieved a less than 20% completion rate since its inception 20 years ago. There is a lot more to it than that though, including the fact it is a non-profit dedicated to helping creatives “find their voice, achieve creative goals, and build words—on and off the page.”
To find out more visit their official website: https://NaNowrimo.org/
So I had the basic gist of what lay ahead of me: I had to write 50,000 in 30 days in order to be crowned a winner…
…and I wanted that crown—not that I’m competitive…
But then I started to panic, thinking that maybe NaNo (as well as Dan’s Boot Camp I’d just signed up for) was just for professional writers.
Well, thankfully it didn’t matter. Turns out it doesn’t matter if you’ve never written a word of fiction, or if you have hundreds of books under your belt, NaNo is for everybody and, I’m happy to say, so was Dan’s Boot Camp. His attitude is very simple, do you want to write? If the answer is yes, then you’re welcome
At this point you might be thinking, “why would you pay real Earth money to participate in a challenge that is free?” and you’d be right to wonder, because it is a point I also went over and over… and over.
I’m a single mum on disability benefits, so you best believe I take where I spend my money seriously, and for me the answer was this: I know that, by myself, I will not only not hit 50,000 words, but I won’t even attempt it—I just wouldn’t.
More than that, I wanted to learn from an actual author who was doing the work, day in, day out, and who had already made it their full-time career. I also wanted to be surrounded by people who were serious enough about completing the challenge they, too, had put their money where their mouth was.
Seriously. I have the world’s largest saboteur living rent-free in my noggin, and she’s a BEAST. She will constantly ask me:
“Who do you think you are?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“You are embarrassing yourself.”
“They will all find out you are not a real writer.”
So, getting her to shut the hell up long enough for me to get the words down was tough. Oh, yeah. Andthen there’s my chronic mental health issues, including (but not limited to) acute social anxiety, so that was kind of tough for the first session…
…more on that later.
In the end, I won NaNo. Smashed it, actually. I hit my 50,000 words in 14 days, and I finished the entire first draft of the book by the end of November. I’m not saying this to brag (well, okay—7% to brag. I’m proud, okay?), but I’m saying it because it was not what I think of when I look back to last November.
The community. That’s what I remember. The camaraderie, the pure writerly joy and encouragement. Dan’s daily messages of encouragement, the long weekend sprints where we would be left cackling like maniacs. I remember the feeling of belonging, of home, and that was, without a doubt, my favourite part.
On top of everything I’ve just mentioned, being a part of the community during NaNo gave me a few things.
Firstly, incredible advice. I credit my NaNo success to Dan telling us all the night before we started to give ourselves permission to write “shit,” to not labour over each word, and to not edit as we went along—seriously, that permission had me flying.
Most importantly, it gave me the beginnings of my self-belief and confidence in my ability. I started publishing poems on my Instagram account. I started a new blog and I have a few other exciting things planned before the year is out.
It helped me find out who I was and what I was capable of.
But, lest you think I was predisposed to such things, let me assure you I was not. In fact, I have struggled my whole life with not fitting in and I can still remember the terror I felt going into that first session. I barely remember most of it, apart from me asking a question and feeling like I was talking for waaay too long. There was even a picture taken on that first day that captured my terror.
Don’t believe me?
Take a look.
See what I mean…No? Let’s go in for the close up then, shall we?
Thankfully, after I had that first session under my belt, the panic quickly subsided. I was in such a warm, welcoming group, and I started to feel very quickly like I fit there—that’s something I haven’t felt before.
Anyway, let’s move swiftly away from THAT face (although I still see it every time I blink…) and get back to NaNo.
How hard is writing 50,000 words in 30 days?
This one’s a bit trickier to answer, and the simple reason is that we are all different. Some people write like the hounds of Hell are behind them, and some people struggle more getting the words down. Some people have all the time in the world, others have day jobs and families.
The real truth is: it’s work. There is no getting around it and there will be days when the thought of writing makes you dry-heave. But I can promise you this much, if you turn up, sit your butt down, and write, then no matter how many words are on the manuscript after 30 days, you’re a winner and I will grease up and get in the ring with you to defend that point.
Before you know it, November will be over and you will be sitting on the field of victory, with the rubble of doubts lying smouldering around you, a book in your hand and, honestly, that feeling is priceless.
THIS POST IS NOT SPONSORED AND I HAVE NO AFFILIATE LINKS – I JUST SERIOUSLY LOVE THIS COMMUNITY AND WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT IT FOR TWO REASONS;
- I LOVE THIS COMMUNITY AND WANT TO SING MR WILLCOCKS’ PRAISES
- IF ANYONE WAS STILL ON THE FENCE ABOUT NANO, THIS GROUP COULD BE JUST THE TICKET
If you do want to check it out (again I gain nothing either way) then the link for the boot camp which starts TOMORROW (eek!) is this – https://www.danielwillcocks.com/nano/
until next time,
lets get creating worlds!
How Can I Create with Debilitating Mental Illness?
It’s a big question, it’s a question I found myself typing into google (because if google doesn’t know who does?) about 5/6 years ago in a really dark place of total and utter despair and I mean, end of the line darkness.
I had been working on being an actor and performing since I was 11 and now I was 29 and my mental illness, specifically my anxiety had finally wormed it’s way into even that. I had up until this point found solace and hope in the fact that my performing was special somehow and it was a place that couldn’t be touched, this had been proven wrong and all I could see in front of me was the same day on repeat until my days ran out.
You see, for me there is no greater joy than creating, whether that be through performance, craft, art, play etc and so on that day I felt very dark. Google kindly spat out some results, a mixed bag of course but it showed me a video by Jenna Moreci. THIS VIDEO.
This video saved my life. Yup, Jenna dressed up as a cowgirl complete with hobbyhorse pulled me off the ledge and the reason is two fold. Firstly it’s a funny, straight up video that offers actual help from someone who, herself suffers from mental illness. And secondly, I realised SHE SUFFERS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS, here is a bad-ass, hilarious, woman, best selling author and very successful YouTuber AND she suffers with mental illness. It made it clear to me in that moment that it could be done, I just needed to find out my path.
Then a few years later I was reading Liz Gilert’s, ‘Big Magic’ which is all about the creative process and she spoke about how creating for creatings sake is so important and also about how this romantic notion of the tortured artist is not helpful to the artist
I’m trying to dismantle a stereotype that in order to live any kind of creative life, you have to be in torment and suffering. We’re addicted to this idea because it makes for good bio pics…but I actually think it’s better to live a life where you’re constantly exploring your curiosity and creativity.Elizabeth Gilbert, ‘Big Magic’
Those two things, consumed years apart galvanised in my brain – that maybe, just maybe, I could change my fate, no create my fate. There was proof in front of me that it could be done, two incredible women who have their own battles with mental illness and yet they were doing what they loved and I decided that I could too. Moreci re-taught me the importance of laughter, honesty and self compassion and Gilbert showed me I’m not creative because of my mental illness, I’m creative despite it.
So, I started out consuming – every video Jenna Moreci had made, reading all the Liz Gilbert I could and through that I found other giants, Marie Forleo, Glennon Doyle, Tarana Burke, Dr Yaba Blay, Brene Brown, Jameela Jamil and Dr. Tererai Trent to mention a few and my resolve, my belief, my creativity grew stronger. I would draw and sing, dance and bullet journal and then last year I fell into the writing community through Daniel Willcocks’ Bootcamp (found because of Jenna Moreci) and I have not looked back since.
When I say, ‘I’ve not looked back’ I don’t mean my mental health just recovered, like – ‘Snap! all better.’ No on the contrary my mental health is just as present today as it was back on the dark day but the difference is I understand in my bones now that I get to build my own life, around my own needs and that is a beautiful and empowering thing.
I will continue to take the time when I need it but I won’t stop because I love creating and my community and that is worth everything. So, on this World Mental Health Day I hope that if you needed something to say to you, yes you can create INSPITE of your illness, that this was helpful to you and hey, stick around because I’m only just getting started and I want to prove that the path might look different for us but the path is there.
Until next time, be kind to yourself – you deserve it.
When Winter Comes: A Review
One of the things I wanted to when I started this blog, was book reviews, it has taken me some time to get around to it because… well, I’m me and as I have clearly stated I’m a warming trash can fire on tepid evening.
The first book I offer up is the deliciously dark, ‘When Winter Comes: A Collected Serial’ by Daniel Willcocks. This was originally released back in 2020 as a series of six episodes which he has now collected, re-edited and revised.
The premise of the book is this, a town called Dendridge in Alaska is hit with an insane blizzard as the northern lights turn crimson, the storm ushers in many dangers to the inhabitants of the small tow and snow, is the least of their concerns…
I’m not sure how Willcocks has managed it but the collected edition is even better than the sum of its parts…
I was once again instantly hooked with this story, the prose is so beautiful which only serves to further highlight the tension masterfully woven throughout. It’s fast paced, character driven, breath takingly gripping and always leaves you wanting to know more. There were so many moments where Willcocks’ action had me wanting to hide behind a cushion but considering I needed my eyes to read, I had to refrain. The characters are so well fleshed out it’s impossible not to feel yourself in their situation, imagine the blizzard (which is written so incredibly, it feels like a character in its own right) wrapping around you and the screams getting closer. I couldn’t help but put myself in each character’s nightmarish situation.
‘When Winter Comes’ is unyielding in its suspense, pace, questions, action and horror. Packed with the most beautiful, real dialogue, terrifying and breath snatching scenes and gorgeous description with brief moments of perfectly placed brevity that only serve to further underline the isolation and desperate situation of the people of Dendridge. I couldn’t help but feel a great unease stalking through this story alongside me.
‘When Winter Comes’ is available now.
Everything about this revision is done right, so faithful to the original series and story but tighter, faster and even more terrifying – once again I cannot recommend ‘When Winter Comes’ enough and I will watch with hawk eyes for the next work by this incredible author.
Until next time, stay warm, stay safe and watch out for the storm…
This post is NOT sponsored and there are no affiliate links, I’m sharing a book I have purchased and read, all opinions are my own.
Mental Health Judgements and Stigma’s that I have experienced –
Part 1 “You Talk Too Much”
A few years back my mental health was in an OK spot but I could feel that it was declining and so I decided to go to my GP, I was at the time un-medicated – still having the idea in my head that medication for mental illnesses was weakness, a notion I have gratefully gotten over in recent years and now consider it a point of pride to be on medication.
Anyway, back to past Sam at the GP’s. I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful Dr who listens and cares. A privilege I am aware most don’t and it is not lost n me having spent most of my years with GP’s who couldn’t get me out the door quick enough. We spoke and she decided that the medication I needed was beyond her purview so she referred be back to my local community mental health team. I was adamant at the time that I didn’t need therapy, just the meds to help stabilise my rapid mood cycles, anxiety and depression (I had yet to learn I also had CPTSD) As I say, I am much further on my journey now and not only am I proud to take meds but I also understand, with chronic mental illnesses, taking meds without dealing with the route cause is like sewing up a bad wound, it will stop bleeding externally but your still bleeding and it will cause serious damage.
The day of my assessment, I was ushered into a room by someone whom was supposed to be mental health professional, I mean she was a mental health professional if we go off of job title but her manner was anything but compassionate and understanding – a bare minimum requirement if your job requires you to speak to people who could be suicidal. She asked me to tell her why I was there, a question I loathe, because it makes it sound immediately like no prior work has gone in. Is glancing at someone’s notes really so hard? I completely understand that they desire to hear about the situation from you but a simple rephrase of, ‘I see from your notes you are here because x,y,z could you tell me a little more about that?’ would make a whole lot of difference. I tried to explain and she cut me off, telling me I was wrong and that a group education program like ‘Coping Skills’ would be more beneficial. I explained to her again this was not what I needed right now and then went it the reasons I believed at the time I did not need this. Once I had finished, she told me that I talk too much and I would never get a man that way because men can’t handle it.
I was genuinely stunned by the complete ignorance and sweeping sexism, the only other time I have been so shocked by a medical professional was when the nurse taking my smear test told me it only hurt because I wasn’t relaxing and then she proceeded to tell me, a rape victim, to lie back and think of England while she hurt me so badly my abdomen swelled to make me look six months pregnant.
So, I was stunned and completely dissociated in the meeting, which turned into her telling me all the reasons I was wrong and would be single a long time if I didn’t ‘fix’ myself. At one point I laughed when she asked if I was married and she fixed me with a death stare and asked why I laughed, I tried to explain but she once again spoke over me. This experience culminated in me being prescribed a medication for EID, after being told there was no medication for EID and when I questioned this, I was told ‘maybe it will work’ I never filled that prescription.
I am happy to report that woman no longer works for the Community Mental Health Team, she never should have but it’s the next best thing.
The reason I’m writing this series is not to scare people away from seeking help, it’s because I know I am not unique, the mental health services are woefully underfunded and everyone I’ve spoken to has a story similar to this. So I’m sharing mine because I want you to know IT ISN’T YOU. The first time I had a bad experience, I thought I must be so beyond hope and help and I had somehow done something wrong and that’s why I was being treated so poorly. But I was wrong.
I am happy to report that woman no longer works for the Community Mental Health Team, she never should have but it’s the next best thing.
If you want to share a similar experience in the comments, I would be honored to read them.
Until next remember, you matter.
Tuesday 24th August – 2:30am…
Well, it’s 2:30 am and I am wide-awake which can only mean one thing, my good friend insomnia is back, I didn’t miss her.
Today’s been a little weird, it’s been my first full day back at my laptop since having time off and I feel like I just face planted into work and my life in general-not in a mental breakdown way just in an, ‘wait hold on is this still a thing?’ Kinda way.
So it’s been a day of adjustments and the summer holidays are still raging here in the UK, it’s another two weeks of trying to juggle my kid, my brain, my dreams and the DWP. The aim is to build a career… Nay a life for my son and I, one that makes sense for me and the boy, one that works not just around but with my mental health, one means I don’t have to depend on the changing tides of the governments empathy to the chronically ill – one that I can be proud of.
In other news, Miles and I rescued a baby pigeon today-it had been abandoned by its parents and couldn’t fly so my gorgeous boy carried the chick a mile to our nearest wildlife rescue centre and we will see how they are doing in a couple of days.
Oh, and weirdly I’ve recently found I’ve become slightly obsessed with eating ice… Not sure what that’s about, are used to do it from time to time to ground me when I felt a dissociative episode coming on for the past couple of weeks I’m craving it I’m sure that’s completely fine and normal.Anyway, I’m going to use my insomnia to get things done, see if I can’t catch up a bit on life and I don’t know… sanity.
Previously in the Life of a Mastress…
Ahhhhhh insomnia, thought art a festering boil on the arse of decency.
So, I wrote a post on my main blog page a little while ago about the fact that I often feel better the day after an insomniac filled night. I hold with that all though now I know why it’s a little crappy, anyway back on point. On Monday evening I had a horrendous night and as a beautiful (sarcasm) side effect I slept through my many alarms for THREE FUCKING HOURS and my son missed his school trip. It was horrendous, I felt like the worst parent to walk the earth. He was happy because he didn’t want to go but I spent the day flogging myself and dealing with questions about my mental health and if I needed extra support or if I was coping.
See that’s one of the many perks (sarcasm 2.0) about being a known sufferer of the bad brain, no one can accept that sometimes it’s just life. No crisis, no break down just shitty fucking luck. Anyhow after that happened on Tuesday morning, I’m not risking it happening again today so I’ve just simply gotten up and I’m organising my bedroom and doing the washing because at least that way I know I’ll be up fit the school run. See it doesn’t matter how I get him there just as long as I do (SARCASM)
So, I published my blog today on mental health ‘cures’ and it was a lot of fun to do and to shoot but the reason I went for something so light-hearted today it’s because Father’s Day.
It can be quite difficult for me. I haven’t seen my dad (to speak to at least) since I was 11 so that is now 24 years ago. The last time I saw him was at my little sister’s wedding but that was from a distance and I have no desire to go up to him. It’s difficult because of the abuse and then neglect and the wilful ignorance of what was happening but it’s also difficult because there is a hole in my heart where the father, I wish I had been. I still remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird and wishing that Atticus was my father. But it’s not all doom and gloom today and the blog really helped and I’ve got a lot of exciting plans and projects coming up in the near future the medium future and the long future so yeah bit of a strange one today.
Today I feel like running. I want to walk bare foot into adventure and magic. I want to feel earth between my toes and rain on my skin. I want to run to the forest, dive off a cliff, climb a mountain but I am doing none of these things I am sat holding in tears and swallowing down sobs. I am wanting to hide from the world I want to adventure in. I am paradoxical and simple. I’m broken in new places and old. I simply want to taste viscous freedom drip on my tongue and be one with myself.
Today’s been a weird one, I’ve been having a lot of nosebleeds recently (yay summer) and I’m kinda feeling exhausted and by kinda I mean IM FEELING EXHAUSTED LINDA, GET OFF MY BACK…
Also, I’ve not been sleeping amazingly, so my mood has had more peaks and troughs than a very peaky trough-y thing and I appear to have landed on weary and teary
I’ve gotten some editing on my manuscript done, yay me, I’ve got video editing go (who is she?!) and I even cleaned my room – well I started, there’s many organised piles that I understand and that as long as they remain undisturbed … oh wait, my son just came in. Well, there go the piles and my sanity
Mental Space and Letting Myself Play
My son is away this week with his dad, what this means for me is I am child free for 9 days.
9 WHOLE DAYS.
I have the privilege of having this time at least once a year and specifically during the summer holidays. I can always tell when the time is approaching because my life feels very much like its running off without me, things fall through the cracks and I spend a lot of time beating myself up.
This year has been no exception, in fact I’d say its been worse in some ways as for the first time in years I’m really trying to build a life for myself and not just survive the one handed to me. This has meant I am at my laptop constantly, writing, scheduling, editing – all the things and its left me utterly fulfilled and exhausted, couple that with parenting a pre-teen and remembering that my needs are valid – its been a lot.
He went on Friday and honestly, I feel like just before he went I broke, like, if I was a car all my wheels just fell of, springs fell out and the engine was grinding sparks of the tarmac. I wish I could say the tire’s blew out because it sounds so much more dramatic but honestly, it was a slow grinding halt.
As a consequence yesterday felt like it didn’t happen. I did do something for myself yesterday before I slept though and that was to turn off all my alarms and just let my body rest, which is a luxury of the highest order, like keep your Ferrero Rocher’s , I’ll take feeling rested.
I woke up a couple of times during the night but mostly I just slept and at 11am (or there abouts) this morning I woke. I normally don’t enjoy a lay in, I alwyas feel like I’m on the back foot if I wake up after 6am but not today.
Today has been a dream , my brain is naturally fragmented and also laser focused. So I have so many ideas and projects that I’m either doing or want to be doing that it can often feel like I’ll die of indecision before I achieve anything and when I do focus on one thing, my brain either focuses so hard I neglect everything else or it keeps reminding me there is an everything else that needs to be seen to. So today I have given myself the permission to procrastinate and its been heavenly.
For example I was tidying my room earlier (because I’m a 13 year old) and I came across a t-shirt that I’ve been ‘meaning’ to go over the lettering on for months. I stopped what I was doing and painted the letters back on and it may have been a small thing but it was so lovely.
Also I was working on a project and the rain started and I have never sprinted to get out in the world so fast, having crippling levels of social anxiety, a lot of the time I really struggle with leaving my house – at all, so the freedom I felt running into the rain like a toddler in their brand new wellies was incredible.
The biggest luxury for me though is mental space, my brain is a wonderful bastard. It loves me one minute and is trying to kill me the next, so its not always the easiest of relationships. One of the things that really frustrate me about my brain though is how it doesn’t do, deep thinking, more accurately deep creative thinking in the presence of others. So to have this time to properly look at everything and plan feels incredible.
But not today.
Today is procrastination day, it’s following the tiny threads and running in the rain,
Until next time,
go splash in some puddles and waste time.
Art, Diary, Poems and Housekeeping
This week has been very busy and at times my brain has been making me revisit old trauma’s and my EID (Emotional Intensity Disorder) has also been having a lot of fun with my tear ducts – none of this is said to garner any other reaction than (hopefully) an understanding that this week’s post is shorter than most and mostly, house keeping.
I have added a few new pages to my website recently, in case my title was too vague, those pages are Poems, Art and a Diary. My aim is to do more than simply write articles, on here I want to also share other creative outlets that I enjoy and that quite frankly keep me alive. As it is an essential part – and often pretty telling of where I am mental health wise.
So, when I post a new poem, diary entry or piece of art (like the cover for this blog) I will post it onto my blog as well and give a little background of what inspired me. This means more content, generally – all though, just as my mental health is inconsistent, so too shall be the extra posts. I will continue to post the ‘main’ blog on a Sunday, brain permitting.
In the mean time, feel free to have a nose around whats there so far and
Until next time,
Be kind to yourselves.