Graduate school. It’s killer.
Unfortunately and fortunately, graduate school is everything I was told it would be. Stress and anxiety are overwhelming, your research builds up to the point that you feel like you can never finish it, and the teaching/coursework load is a force to be reckoned with all on its own. All of this has left me with very little time to write. Truth to be told, I’ve written two poems and two blog posts since the middle of September, and hardly had time for those. I’ve stopped submitting my literary work (thank goodness I got so much done this summer!), haven’t had a chance to read more than two books since August, and my writing project with my brother has fallen off the edge of my mental map. When there’s hardly time to sleep or cook, something has to give – and your health, mental or physical, shouldn’t be it.
I hope that I’m ‘honoring my reality’, as Pereira would say. I hope I’m not just making excuses to not write – I certainly don’t feel like I am. I have projects I’m interested in, books stacked up ready to be read, and blog post and poem ideas gathering dust on my Habitica. And, perhaps the thing that I am saddest about missing this year – NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month, for those of you not as into the writing world, where you write 50,000 words in 30 days (the entire month of November). It sounds impossible, but the time I completed it, it was the most rewarding writing moment of my life.
The only novel I ever finished was during NaNoWriMo my senior year of high school, November 2011. Together with two other young NaNoers, I drove to the library each Saturday and wrote for three hours in the glass atrium listening to Black Veil Brides, Honkytonk, and Classical Strings (depending on who was controlling the music for the hour). The book, with all of its horrible plot holes and sad attempts at character development, seemed like magic to me; it seemed to write itself. Something about that environment – the sun shining through the glass, the lack of any other responsibilities for those three hours, the hot cocoa machine down the hall where I could throw in some quarters and get a dreamy, hot cup of chocolate to complement the cool, NY fall days – made me feel a sort of freedom with writing I’ve never been able to replicate since.
I was hoping to get to write again for this year’s NaNoWriMo – perhaps foolishly. I moved to a new city, started a new and stressful job, and am struggling with the myriad of ‘adult life’ problems for the first time. In addition, the stresses placed on me by others as I try to help them sort out their own problems are beginning to erode my own emotional capacitance – we each have only so much stability and positivity to give. We are all struggling, the first years in my grad program; we are all struggling, my peers of the millenial generation; we are all struggling, America after this horrific election season. I feel the burdens of these groups weighing on me, making my heart race – not good when my own work is already giving me anxiety.
In the midst of this, I want to write. This post, despite its length, flew from my fingers because they’re itching to be let loose, even as my mind tells me it can’t handle the idea of another project, another way to split and divide my attention. My relationship with my writing is suffering; we are falling away from one another as the distance grows. And part of that missing is this five year long ache to NaNo again – I want back the confidence in my writing ability that it gave me, the freedom from the world I felt during those weekend hours, the love I developed for the plot and the characters. It has been far too long and yet it feels like my reality is always preventing me from achieving this dream; I’m struggling to determine if it’s my reality, my insecurities, or my excuses.
For those of you who are writers and have never NaNo’d, I highly recommend it; for those of you that are currently NaNo-ing, awesome! You’re almost there – I hope you made your goal! Great things are in store for you and, hopefully next year, for me too.