Time and Novel(ty)

I’m on the upswing, and hope it’s for the better. Lithium is my friend, even though it does make my hands shake, my muscles weak, my depth perception non-existent, and my brain even foggier than it normally is. I’m counting on you, Lithium, to keep me between the ditches here. I just don’t want to end up in one of those horrid mixed states, where everything feels horrible all over, body, mind, soul, everything. I had a nasty one of those recently, I think about two months ago. You see, when these things come upon me, even time goes out the window. I have to count empty medicine bottles to see how many refills of Seroquel I’ve had, to know how many months this has been going on. Two, I’m pretty sure. I’m weaning down on the Seroquel now, and my body is wanting less of it. My shrink tells me I’m the best judge of what to take and when. It’s kind of annoying. I’d really like someone to just KNOW what to do about this stuff, and TELL me what I should do. And yet he’s right. He doesn’t know how I feel. Only I do. And that’s why I’ve kept him on my team for over ten years.

Now. It’s about this novel. It’s November. That means I’m in NaNoWriMo mode. National Novel Writing Month, where thousands of similarly obsessed individuals band together to support each other in writing a 50,000 word novel in 31 days. This is my second time through it. Last year I got to 20,000 words and had to bail out to move from Jerusalem to North Carolina to help my parents.

This year I’m IN North Carolina, and I’ve started my novel.

My life is so full of dramatic stories, they crowd and jostle each other for attention. I’ve written hundreds of them down, have a memoir in progress, and yet have never published anything except for one article in The Jewish Press that I sent in as a letter to the editor and they decided to publish it on the front page.

But fiction? My life has been so full of drama, what need have I had for dreaming up fiction? My life, if published just as it is, would rival any made-up story.

So yesterday, November 1st, I took a bunch of my life’s stories, shook them up together, threw them up in the air, and began to write. Heavens! The things that came out! Bits from here attached themselves to bits from there. I wrote frantically to get them onto the screen as fast as they were falling out of the air.

And two hours later, I came to a halt. I looked at the screen. It was the end of a chapter. Chapter one.

Today I started anew. Oh my goodness, things that have been bothering me for years and years, injustices and incongruities, working themselves out as if by magic on the screen! This is interesting, not even trying to “create,” but letting the stories tell themselves in their own terms.

Certainly this will have to become “work” at some point. I can’t expect to just throw things up in the air and let them come down into print for twenty-nine more days without a hitch. We shall see.

And in the meantime, pray that my brain behaves itself.

Leave a comment


  1. D'Alta

     /  November 3, 2011

    Praying for your brain!

  2. Peter Baum

     /  November 3, 2011

    If I only had a brain………
    (I am the scarecrow, up and down on the post in the cornfield, waiting for Dorothy to show up.)

  3. As to the first paragraph, I agree with you and your shrink about you being the best judge, being the only one living inside of you.

    As far as NaNoWriMo, this year is actually the first I’ve heard of it, and I already know of at least three people participating. I used to do a great deal of creative writing, but about two years ago I had ECT, which completely fried my brain, especially the creative part. I have to believe I’ll get it back if I just work at it hard enough, though.

    All my very best to you on this endeavor, with prayers for your brain, and good thoughts and positive energy headed your way to help you along.

    • Whoa. Thank you so much for your well-wishes, and whoa. I’m sorry to hear about the ECT brain-frying. I refused to do it for that reason, back when the shrinkerators didn’t know what else to do with me and that was all they seemed to have to offer. I ended up going to Canada for high-energy rTMS, which helped immensely. I’m grateful for that, but the fact is that I’ve had to go back twice more for a total of 90 treatments, and although I credit it with my survival, my brain just isn’t the same brain it once was. I mourn for the bright creative brain I once had. And I know that that was the same brain that wanted me dead. So it’s a delicate dance we do, and the question: WHY? is unanswerable, at least by me.

      But you, Ruby, how do you feel about how you feel post-ECT as compared to pre-? Was it worth it, from a survival point of view? I need to talk to as many ECT survivors as I can, because if my brain decompensates again that’s probably going to be on my plate. How is your day to day function now?

      However it has shaken down for us, our brains are our brains now, and our job is to learn to work with them. From my tiny observation, I see that you are an excellent writer. You know how to package an idea and get it out there in a cogent way that feels good to the reader, very satisfying, like eating something that has exactly the taste and texture that it should have, for whatever it is. I hope I’m making sense here, trying to express something that’s a little….what’s that word? Brain not working. Oh well. I guess what I really want to say here is that even though your brain is not the same brain it used to be before ECT, it’s still a very alive and creative and expressive one, so why not give it a whirl and see what happens with it, if you feel like jumping into NaNo or just for the heck of it, having a whack at writing something just for fun.

      Excuse my ramblings, my brain has not managed to really wake up today and I apologize if it makes no sense.

      Be well! Thank you!

  4. ‘My life is so full of dramatic stories, they crowd and jostle each other for attention.’
    Yes, yes, exactly like that! I’m no writer. What with my aphasia, my constant tiredness, my inability to focus, I’m surprised I can write at all. I have snippets of stories that never will be written. There will not be time. I think, for me, only the writing process itself is important.
    My legacy is in the snippets that remain. I thank God that at least my kids will have the memory of me. Nabokov, in his last and never completed novel, laments his inability to defeat death. And he himself dies, an unfinished man.
    I have only the moment. Enjoy! Write! Live!

    [Who was that masked man?]


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