Five-Thousand, Five-Hundred and Ninety-Eight

— The number of words I have written for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

The goal was to reach 50,000 words by the end of November. But I failed… in a bittersweet way. I knew this would happen, knowing who I am and how I work. Despite the comparatively low number, I would say that this past month did not go to waste. 

It has been a struggle for me to write anything new in the second half of the year. Dealing with issues that arose–sometimes by my own carelessness, sometimes by forces beyond my control–became my top priority that extended with time.  If I were to break down my process, it would be under two categories: “As a Person” and “As a Writer”. The former played a huge part in discovering what the latter means to me and to my work.

For this post, I will focus on my process “As a Person” because I am already working on a separate post about my artistic background, to serve as my process “As a Writer”. For me, this is how I can better understand myself, as I continue to age and with that, change my perspective on many things. It is not “overthinking” but merely finding the best words to express the internal workings of my active mind. (If I aim to be a published writer who wants to hone her craft, I should be more immersed with the effectiveness of language, right?)

At the beginning of July, I anticipated my usual spiral of emotions because the summer season invokes unkind memories of the past. As it is still difficult to articulate plainly what events transpired these unsettling feelings, I will say that it has something to do with fading connections with certain persons–leading into these winding trains of thought about the meaning of relationships and the role of “friend”. How much effort and care do we put into our relationships? How much do we get back for what we give? If there is an imbalance, is it worth trying to save it, or to admit that nothing more can be done? Also, how sincere and genuine are we with our actions and words to solidify our place in other people’s lives? — It is questions like these that spring from the depths of my mind, but can never be spoken out loud because of the fear of being told “You think too much.” 

This is what drives me crazy for the duration of the season. I feel stuck having these questions and thoughts encapsulated inside me, while everyone else gets to enjoy their season. I feel reluctant to reach out to anyone because of the temptation to have unsolicited philosophical discussions on these things, when summer is meant for letting loose and giving your brain a break from thinking too much. And, worst of all, I feel lonely because I keep to myself in this way, as if I am doing everyone a favor by not saying what I am thinking. I feel compelled to screen my thoughts with a smile and small talk, if I am lucky enough to have in-person contact during the season.

This is what I was alluding to in my previous posts from the summer. What recently transpired set me back a few steps, and I had to retreat in order to figure out why and where these intense emotions arose. It was a private battle, which made writing even more difficult to do, both on this blog and in my journals. With spiraling thoughts and intense emotions came crippling feelings of insecurity.

It does not help to listen to the news every day about the Next Big Letdown That Ruins Any Hope or Chance For a Better Future Because Evil. But it really blows when you yourself are taking self-jabs of criticism. I’m not actually good at this thing. I didn’t do squat in my four years of college to qualify for anything. I might be taller and older, but I still have the mindset of a naive child. Too many of these thoughts rose up, even as I tried to go about my daily routine–which was more or less like a regular person’s schedule. (Plainly, I am still living the NEET life. It has become my “normal” but I feel self-conscious about it sometimes…)

But it was around September that I felt a subtle turn-around with my way of thinking. I do not know how it happened, but it just did. Simply put, the “forces beyond my control” led me to finally accept my current circumstances and to recognize that they are temporary.

These “forces” were family and faith. My parents are becoming of old age, and it means so much to them that I am still around to help them out. I had been too obsessed with thinking that, for someone my age, I should be starting my own life like everyone else I know. I should be more independent and seeking Young Adult Thrills or whatever. But I had to realize that those sentiments stem from jealousy and insecurity. Practically speaking, I am nowhere near becoming independent (unless I am willing to just quit my current lifestyle and switch to “survival mode” with the bare minimum–to which I am too cowardly to even try). However, it is still possible to become independent in small ways, at short intervals, that will have long-term benefits. For example, I am learning how to prioritize things for my budget. I am adopting a “we have food at home” mentality. I am doing my best to assist with errands and keep inventory. I am making sure things run smoothly for my parents because of their health. Even if arguments and disagreements arise (which happens often now, since I am also getting older), these are small ways that I am becoming a better adult person.

My faith has always been elusive to me. Although I have always believed in a higher power, it was the practice of faith that eluded me from a young age. To keep it short (because I am also working on a separate post about this topic), I was able to better understand my faith in my own way. This came around when I became a Lector at my local parish. For several months, I had been asked to join the lay ministry, which I eventually accepted because–well, what else is keeping me from doing it?? But I found joy in reading select passages and proclaiming them during mass. Through this, I was able to study the Bible on my own, with some references to understand the full context. It made me realize that, up until this point, I was just doing what I was told, without question. But it was through Lectoring that I felt I was able to “reclaim” my faith to call it mine. This was like another step toward adulthood.

October came. I have tried to keep these things in mind during these months. But having a new mindset does not automatically make you immune to negativity, because you are still getting used to the new system, right?

Around this time, I received updates regarding possible collaborations. Without going much into detail, I had reached out beforehand regarding the status of one of my projects and had been waiting for a response. It came later than I had hoped, learning that someone else got the spot, which made me feel like I was left in the dark for a while. This almost became a total collapse in progress, and I had to withdraw again before something dangerous within me was let loose…

It was that experience that tested me on how much I have changed in the past few months. How much and how far was I going to let this affect me? What good would it do me to mull over this one thing, when I could be more productive in other things? (And this was how I ended up cleaning my room and making it more organized!) “If I have enough energy to be mad over something, then I can use that energy in other ways that would actually help me to grow and to better myself”–was the answer to my predicament. There will be other opportunities in the future–probably even better than previous ones–so I might as well improve myself for when those times come…

Which leads to November, also known as, National Novel Writing Month. It was more-or-less chill (but literally chilly), and it felt like I was able to settle down. This should have meant that I had better conditions for writing a 50,000-word novel for a month. But that did not happen, per se. Out of the 30 days, I only used 7 of them to actually write parts of my novel. (By the way, it is the same novel I have been working on since 9th grade. But it was around 2013 that I narrowed down exactly what I want the novel to be about.)

Why did I only use a week to write? What happened? — Life happened. And that is okay.

My takeaway from this year’s NaNoWriMo is that I learned to accept that things will come up and I will end up preoccupied for a time. But that does not mean I do not care about my work and therefore I should just quit if I act like it is negligible, schedule-wise. Deep down, I feel that being a writer is the way to go, for me. It is what I enjoy. It is what I am good at. And there are stories brewing within me that I cannot just keep quiet about; but these stories will slowly come out when I feel the timing is right. My current novel-in-progress, which has taken me almost 10 years to manifest, is a vision that is slowly shaping into what I want it to be. There is still time.

I also learned that there will be days where I will write like non-stop, and there will be days where I do not feel like writing but will look over my notes. Bottom line, I do not stop thinking about my work. Every little thing I do, from writing 200 words a day to watching anime (for research, I swear–and sometimes, for leisure~), builds up to the main thing. I probably would not have come to this conclusion, if what happened in the past few months did not happen.

By allowing myself to grow “As a Person”, I am able to grow “As a Writer”, which is the best course of action for me, under my current situation. Of course, the best advice that is commonly given to writers is “to write more and to read more”. But I think it is also important to focus on the self, as well. Knowing ourselves, and taking the time to know ourselves even better, can make the process easier to handle.

So I am satisfied with the 5,598 words that came out of my NaNo experience. That is more than I had to begin with, and it was written under a better version of myself.

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