National Novel Writing Month–November, 2010. I was so happy then. From November 1st until November 17th, I wrote an entire novel. It’s hard to believe. During this busy time, I still ran at the gym nearly every day, and maintained my usual social contacts. I even had time to take care of myself and prepare meals and eat. I realized that I needed to keep my body in shape in order to write well, and eating was part of taking care of my body. Writing a tragic book about a 50-year-old woman with anorexia was perhaps one of the most difficult writing projects I have ever undertaken, and to do the entire thing in 17 days made the experience extremely intense for me. I remember all this with amazement. I did it. There was Nano, and there was the 5k I ran, almost exactly a month later, both incredible accomplishments, and sandwiched between the two was saying goodbye to a therapist I’d worked with for two difficult years, and starting up with a new one. Wow. And running, running, running. Maybe getting sick was a way to run away from it all.
Last night, I glanced back. I went to Staples yesterday afternoon and bought a new ink cartridge, in case I needed it, and some printing paper. I printed out the entire manuscript to I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul, my Nano book. This is the very, very first time I’ve even looked at my Nano book since I finished writing the final words, “And another,” on November 17th. Last night I read the book cover to cover, and loved what I saw.
I know this now: I wrote a book about a woman with anorexia with the understanding that only a sufferer knows. I saw a character, a middle-aged woman who grieves the loss the life she once knew many years ago. I watched a woman with anorexia lose a beloved pet. I saw her grieve as her sisters abandoned her. I saw her cling to a man to whom she is forced to turn when she believes he is the only ally she has left: the man who raped her. I felt her intense sorrow over the suicide of her best friend, also anorexic, and the rage at the ones who ultimately drove her friend to choose that path.
Yeah, the book needs a lot, lot, lot of work. But I am saying that because it needs work. That is, it can be worked on, and will be worked on. What I am saying is that I don’t need to chuck the book. What I am saying is that it is a decent book that is worth salvaging. It’s more than a decent book. It has a lot of potential. There was some really nice, poignant stuff in there. Much of the book made me cry. Maybe someday a lot of the book would make a lot of people cry. See, I’m going to revise it, right here right now.
So right away I signed up for an online novel revising class recommended by a Goddard grad I know. The course works well for Nano novels, it turns out. It is a five-month, intensive course. I know I can do this. My “confidence level,” as my T puts it, is 100 percent.
This is the time, and this is the place. I can write. I can concentrate. I can read. I found these things out last night. As for It, well, I can work around It. I have motivation, I have will, I have desire, I have motivation, I have skill and talent. And I have a damned good first draft.
All I have to do now is to stay out of the slammer. That means eating. Hear that?
And maybe, over the next few months, I’ll be glancing back more and more at those happy few months I spent eating and taking care of myself and doing things I loved, and asking myself what I did right, and what I could have done better, and why it all fell apart. Maybe I need to carefully examine December and January, and see what I could have done differently, so that what happened–the falling apart, the months following, the heartbreak, the loneliness, the tragedy of it all–won’t repeat itself. There are misunderstandings, sheer ignorance of what could and may happen to us–what could happen to anyone, in fact–and we do learn from our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them. Or at least if we are good, patient learners who have truly lost ourselves and don’t want to lose again, we don’t repeat our mistakes. I may be stupid, but when it comes to another, I am cautious and caring enough to know better. And in the end, when all is healed, there will be no need to apologize, as no wrong has been committed, and love and forgiveness is a given.