NaNo Time: Revisiting My Illness & My Creativity

So, I’m a creative kind of girl. English and art were always my two top courses in school. You know- school newspaper staff and president of the art club…

November 1st (tomorrow) begins the 2017 NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. For those that haven’t heard of this AMAZING event, the brief description is: a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 Days. I won’t go into the whole history of NaNo (easier than typing out NaNoWriMo every time), but feel free to check out the website (and participate if you feel the urge)!

NaNo definitely snuck up on me this year. Recovering from the oh- so-never ending mania that gripped my life by the neck this summer left me tired and not even remotely thinking about this year’s impending writing spree. I am going to be up front and say I am SO not ready this year. It is 10:34 on October 31st. I have NOTHING ready. No plot. No characters developed. Not even a setting for my currently nonexistent storyline. I have a base that I finally decided on today. My goal has never been to make the 50,000 words, but to beat my word count from the year before. That makes things a little less anxiety provoking going in.

Creativity and mental illness, for some, go hand in hand. There have been plenty of examples over time- Vincent Van Gogh, Vivian Leigh, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson…

For me, creativity has become an outlet.

My art therapy journal (my own entry topics as well as assignments from my therapist) has become a mainstay in my wellness. Art, as a whole, has been a constant in my life. I’ve painted ceramics for as long as I can remember. Grandma Lucy had a kiln in her basement (from when she owned her ceramic store), so my sisters and I started painting them at a young age. She taught me to use the kiln, which paints/brushes were the best, and techniques to use on my pieces. My cousin Kim was an art major in college and encouraged me- buying me art tapes and supplies, taking me to our local art club meetings (I was the only one under 18), and making our annual pilgrimage to the Murray Hill Art Walk. In my Horticulture class I loved the floral design and landscape design lessons the most.

While art journaling has been an integral part of my wellness, art in general comes and goes. There have been times in my past where I could pump out sketch upon sketch without a break. I have done one true sketch in at least four years and that was just within the past six months. I will do crafts with my nieces and nephews, but it is my belief that there is a difference between crafts and art. My therapist has even questioned me on my lack of artwork as well as the difference in what I do in my art journal and some of the pieces I have shown her. She has said that some of the concepts on my journal pages should be developed into larger pieces. A lot of it has to do with my incessant need for everything to be perfect. I get flustered and agitated when a drawing doesn’t look the way I want or the colors don’t blend as planned in a painting.

Writing has taken the same direction as my art. Its journey just started earlier. I don’t remember the “plot” of my first story, but I know it was written in second grade for Ms. Konet’s class. It was something she did every year- she’d have her class write the stories and then he would laminate and bind them for us to be taken home. I remember it was something about a butterfly. I was published in a fanfiction magazine at the age of 15, was one of 30 high school students accepted to a week long writing camp at Bowling Green University my sophomore year, was on my school newspaper (as I said up top), and one of the reasons my sisters got through English during their high chocolate career (my one sister told an English teacher she couldn’t do her homework because I didn’t come home from school over the weekend). As in my art, I would go through phases where I could have pages filled in the blink of an eye. Then: nothing. Looking at the blank pages… I’d want to cry when not having the words come to me. So… I stopped writing.

Sort of a side note: Hypomania is great! That, I think, is when I am most creatively productive. For a long time I would fight about taking my medicine because I feel it dulls my creativity. A friend told me that I’m already far more creative than most and that the meds just brings me down a little closer to others. There are times I want to take applications for a new voice of reason when she says things like that.

I miss art. I miss writing.

NaNo is coming at the perfect time this year (even if I’m not ready for it, ha ha). The past few weeks I have had moments where my mind is… It feels like it’s overflowing- like a sink with nowhere for the water to go. Or like it’s locked in a cage and can’t get out. Does that make sense? I hope it does. When these moments happen- and they are lasting longer and longer each time- I slightly twitch and am literally uncomfortable. It is an energy I don’t know what to do with. I see my therapist next Tuesday and hope to have a journal page done for her on it…

So… NaNo coming… I am hoping with each word that gets put down the unease of my mind will lessen. The past 4 days or so I have questioned as to whether or not I was going to participate this year. As I admitted, I am NOT ready by any stretch of the imagination. I made a deal with myself that if I didn’t take part that I would spend the month working on two children’s stories that I had written and forgot about. I found them when going through a box. This NaNo year has already brought new connections. Virtual, but connections all the same. I was led to a local Facebook page for NaNo participants. A place to support each other throughout the month.

There are two quotes about creativity that I love:

The first is by one of my favorite artists:

“Creativity takes courage.” -Henry Matisse

In creating you are putting a piece of yourself out there for everyone to see. It’s a scary proposition. The willingness to make mistakes and have to erase… that’s the scariest part for me. My OCD rarely lets those mistakes go. Even after they’ve been wiped out of existence. That is a demon I know that I will face this month in the attempt of my new “masterpiece.”

The second comes from being a proud Ravenclaw:

“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” -J.K Rowling

Art and writing requires a sharp mind. One that can see vividly what others see and what they don’t. The little nuances that make a poem flow or a photo pop. Wit is the drug that a creative mind lives on.

It is now 12:05am and officially the start of NaNoWriMo 2017. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this NaNo season my drug will feed my courage.

3 thoughts on “NaNo Time: Revisiting My Illness & My Creativity

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  1. You’re so right, with creativity and mental illness going hand in hand. I’m stuck at the moment though, creativity wise. Hopefully my blog and just writing (I tend to write more inpatient than at home) will spark something again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get being stuck. I’ve taken a hiatus from this blog for the past few weeks because I just couldn’t write. The past week or so I have felt this incessant need to create. NaNo tends to reinvigorate my want-to when it comes to the written word. My art… I’m working on that.

      Liked by 1 person

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