The Truth About Plots and Prose: Penning Hope

 For four years, I've been dedicating time to writing. It's been literally a labor of love, as someone who struggles with depression. The highs and lows of being a writer and attempting to navigate a profession with a unique set of barriers like querying, repeated rejection, and imposter syndrome can be tenuous. This is especially true when dealing with mental health issues.

 But it was after a specific event that reignited the flame of writing. Before Losing my mother, I had written short stories and started novels for years—twenty, to be exact. The fact my mother took the time in her last moments to tell me to write my book hit home for many reasons. While she was teetering between this world and the next, it was important to her to tell me that. At that moment, I knew it should be as important to me. I didn't act on this immediately. Grief racked my brain for years, until one day, I thought of her and those words. "Write your book." Last year I restructured my life so that I could write more.

Until then, I had allowed the daily grind to block my creativity and the memory of the pure joy of writing and creating stories. Two other nurses and I formed a new writer's support group, the Night Ink Gals. Get it? We had to give a little respect to dear old Florence. Without her, the Gals and I may have never met.
Now, I've written four fast drafts, the first of which is in final revisions. I've added words to make the others novel length. I got into a pattern. In November, I would use NaNoWriMo to start a new manuscript, and in June, I would use Camp NaNoWriMo to add at least 30,000 words to make it novel length. I got a bit of ridicule for doing this. They said I was jumping from project to project. But for me, it meant focusing on forward progression. I had seven book ideas locked in my brain. I have gotten at least four plots out of my head and onto paper.

In the beginning, like most new writers, I felt like I had no direction. My true north was only getting the words on the page. So, I took classes, trying to avoid the predatory courses meant to fleece new hopefuls out of their hard earned cash. Each class helped me push past the anxiety of being judged. But many times, no matter how hard I tried, depression would derail me. My depression has always had a pattern. November through December. January always greeted me with renewed enthusiasm for life and honing my writing until this year. January turned into February, and February into March. Writing grounded me. It gave me structure. I continued to revise my work in progress.

For the first time, I have a mentor reviewing my work with a fine-tooth comb, and I'm grateful for her years of experience. But when you tend towards depression, anything can kick you out of the game. A constant onslaught of critique messes with your confidence. Even though my feedback has been great, the pressure of reading each email can cause me to crawl into my shell, only coming out for necessary functions. Hello, my name is Kitt, and I am a functional depressive. The increased interaction triggers burnout and fugue, as I am on the spectrum. As I get older, it is harder to mask. Because as you age, you don't care how people see you or if they see you. As a nurse, I must mask not for the patients but for coworkers. I connect well with my patients; they feel seen and heard, or so they tell me.

So, instead of backing off, of course, I doubled down and entered the querying trenches, which is such a wonderfully safe place for a person with a mood disorder—just kidding. But with the support of my family, March started with a bang—a good one. I've learned to steel myself for critiques. Writing is a beautiful gift. I know people call it hard. I don't think it is hard. Put away the torches and pitchforks. For me, the word hard denotes an insurmountable task void of joy. I love the challenge of finding that perfect phrase or word for a story, even if it takes an entire bag of Twizzlers to achieve. The solace of writing keeps me focused even through burnout or down times. I'm grateful to the universe and my mom for helping me to realize I needed a creative outlet that feeds my soul and helps me move through those times.

So, what is the truth about plots and prose? They can help bring focus and light back into your life, bridging you from bone-aching sadness to hope. Writing can anchor you to reality through creativity, even when you are on a slippery slope. It turns out that breathing life into your characters can help you value yourself and your life. Embrace your craft, embrace your creativity, and embrace your life.



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