[This blog may use we/us and I/me pronouns interchangeably]
We used to write fiction for fun. We wrote a humorous novel. It took us, like, twelve years to finish it. Maybe longer. We worked diligently on it for the last five or six years. It was among our primary hobbies and consumed many a weekend. When we finished, we had friends of ours–a smart, married couple–read and critique the draft. We then used some of their insights to revise into a “final” draft.
That final draft sits in the friends’ drawer and has sat there for more than two years. We’re not interested in seeing it. Will we ever be? Who knows. Literally, it’s so unimportant to us that it doesn’t even make the “top 1,000 concerns” depth chart (if there was such a thing).
We have started and gotten not very far on two or three other novels, one of which has a nifty, supernatural plot that we hope to develop at some point. Another has some potential, and we gave up on it before it got going.
Within the past week or so, we started an apocalyptic novel. Our brain is not happy. We will probably have to give up writing novels and stick to short poems and the occasional blog post. Why? What is going wrong?
Dissociation is going wrong.
The reason the first novel took so many fucking years to write is that we cannot remember things–such as what is happening in a novel we are writing (even with an outline, even with a mind map, even if we write every day). So how did we even finish the novel? By essentially rereading a substantial portion of the novel each time we sat down to write so that we knew what was happening in the book, what each character was like, etc.
Exhausting? Yes. Worth it? Apparently not, since we are ready to give up again.
Some of our me’s must not like the vulnerability associated with not being able to remember (sorry, AJ). We know who inside is a perfectionist (we’re talking to you, OCD–wink). And we know that our Little ones and maybe teens are getting confused about what is real now (versus fiction, versus the reality of their abuse). They have always been confused, which is why they are me’s instead our being a unified “I.” Adding this layer of immersion into fiction writing is dissociating us into a state we cannot tolerate.
We are dizzy frequently, as storytellers try to keep track of the plot even when we are not writing and as OCD tries to perfect passages already written. We tried to be present for a lovely stroll through the park with Spouse yesterday, and all the buzzing in our head–me’s all doing their own things and not all being focused on the Now–created a dissociative nightmare.
Isn’t dissociation always a nightmare? No!
Dissociation can be an essential escape when we are overwhelmed with stress or PTSD hyperarousal. We are in a high-stress period right now, though most times seem high stress to us. Spouse was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes two days ago. Our energetic boundaries are being challenged. We feel so worried for her and about her.
And a day or two prior to her diagnosis, our most vulnerable insider finally came forward and cried in therapy–oh, this Little one howled and bawled. Little said that no one cared. No one cared about the pain and fear. Therapist comforted Little. Therapist is good.
So there is some context.
Is there ever a time that this book may be able to be written? Not if we want to feel well. Here is how fractious we are today:
We were hanging laundry to dry and kept dropping the hangers, could not get the clothes to fit on the hanger chosen (not all hangers have the same proportions, apparently), and still kept dropping hangers. We asked me’s to focus and hang the laundry. Still, we kept fumbling, dropping, groping, and rewriting the book in our head! The writing became a compulsion, even though we knew we needed a break.
We tried to wash a second load of laundry, and realized we still had clothes in the dryer (from the first load). So we put down the dirty laundry; took the clean, dry laundry out of the dryer; and put the dirty laundry into the dryer!
We did realize this was not the proper sequence. This also tells us that our Little is probably prominent. This Little one doesn’t know how to do laundry. Can someone help Little? Yes, we have some memory of how to do laundry. Here is some help.
Littles shouldn’t read about the Apocalypse. We would typically ask the Little ones to go to the safe place or go play inside and away from zombies. This is not effective when Littles are prominent, running the show, driving the bus, or co-driving. They let us write some because they are shy, and like most Littles, they get squirrely: Are we there yet?
So maybe we can write sometimes when Littles are not prominent or are playing somewhere else. And then it will take x hours to reread the book in order to learn what it’s about, who’s in it, etc. Sound like a lot of work for a “hobby”?
Good God! At that pace, you’d be lucky to write a few sentences a day–and that’s if OCD will let you just read what has already been written. Instead, OCD will require changes with each rereading so that this book gets rewritten every time the author(s) sits down to write!
It’s a good lesson in the importance of internal cooperation for a dissociative system. It’s a good marker that we have room to grow. It’s helpful to judge selves less and to stay on a course for improved health before returning to novel writing as a hobby. We’ll stick with birdwatching and making nature videos and posting here.
We saw and heard a Great-horned Owl from home last evening. This evening we are going with Older Child to look for a very special bird, one we have seen only once in our lives and that was in July many, many, many miles and hours away from our home. This one, if we find it, will be closer to home.
We are driving less and less these days because with Little ones prominent, we are driving like absolute trash: swerving out of our lane, sightseeing while driving, getting lost. When we “came to” on the way home from therapy last week, we were 10 miles north and east of therapy; we live 15 miles straight west of therapy.
So we took a leisurely drive along the Mississippi River, saw some geese, drove by a fish hatchery we didn’t know existed, and tried to be an explore and not a panicked mental patient lost in one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.
So Older Child has been driving to and from our birdwatching excursions. Younger Child has learner’s permit and will hopefully be licensed to drive before next school year. Reason number 6,451 to have children: built-in chauffeurs! Even a teenage driver is preferable to giving the keys to a toddler; trust us!
Wish us luck on our nature endeavors. We’re going out at dusk, so we’re not sure that a photo will be possible, and if we get one, we’ll post it anyway! Here is the Great-horned Owl from dusk last night. It’s dark, and you can still tell it’s an owl, right?