Eyes Unclouded: Princess Mononoke and Living with Anxiety

Note: This is not an examination of the intentions of Hayao Miyazaki or any of the other filmmakers involved in the production of Princess Mononoke. This is how it speaks to my own lived experience.

(CW: mental illness)

I live with anxiety and depression. I have been going to therapy semi-regularly since 2010, after I experienced an anxiety attack that caused me to flee my workplace. My first experiences with depression were in high school. Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand, and I’ve heard it described as a symbiotic relationship — bouts of high anxiety leading to periods of depression.

The experience of an anxiety attack, aka a “panic attack,” is like being stalked by a tiger that’s just out of sight. It’s difficult to breathe. You have to do something right now, come on, let’s go, but you don’t know what exactly needs doing. Your fight-or-flight kicks in, and either you get irritable and angry, or you panic and escape as best you can.

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The World’s Laziest Aikidoka

I’ll be back on the mat tomorrow.

I took several months off from Aikido last year. I didn’t think it would be permanent at first, just a short break while I handled an enormous project at work with a hard deadline. Well, that project slogged on for several months, then led into a sequel project (with a slightly softer deadline, but other mitigating circumstances)…

And then I got sick.

I was training for a 5K during this time (just so I could keep active somehow), but my fitness took a huge nosedive while I shook off a nasty sinus infection following a bad cold. When I was able to start running again in late December, I was starting almost from scratch.

Still, I hung onto my gis — one I received when I joined my dojo last year, another I ordered but didn’t get to use — because some part of me knew I’d be back.

Finally, after realizing how much I missed it, I restarted my membership at the dojo last week. I’ve been going over the techniques I tested on last year, doing some stretches to prepare for the rigorous workout, but I’ve backslid considerably.

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Some Thoughts on “Mold”: Sort of an Awards Eligibility Post

My short story “Mold” appeared this summer in the anthology¬†Survivor, edited by JJ Pionke and Mary Anne Mohanraj, and published by Lethe Press. I’m tremendously proud of both my story and the other outstanding works in that volume. I highly recommend the anthology as a whole for any eligible categories in 2019.

That said, I don’t know if I can write something like “Mold” again, in part to what I learned recently about my family history. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to read it again.

There will be no details, not for … let’s say a decade or two.

All I can say is that I love my mother and my stepfather very much, and I’m happy to have both in my life. I cannot say the same for my birth father.

I’ve turned off comments for this post.

NaNoWriMo 2018: a Post-Mortem

Total words: 16,507

That…didn’t go as planned.

Despite some thorough pre-writing and my best efforts, I did not reach 50,000 words during November. I didn’t anticipate coming down with an aggressive, flu-like cold. On the other hand, I did know about a crucial deadline at work, so I could have planned around that better.

Still, that’s 16K words on a story I’m thrilled about.

I’m catching up on business I put off while I was sick, but I should be back on it soon.

I’m also brainstorming a blog series to start next year, something to work out my writerly muscles and critically examine very flawed stories that I love.

Will I attempt NaNoWriMo next year? Eh. I knew it would be a challenge this year, and circumstances likely won’t change much by then. Chances are I’ll still be finishing this year’s novel. We shall see.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Days 12-18

Total word count: 16,304

So this week was terrible for getting any writing done. I was busy at work preparing for a deadline, taking care of Board of Trustees business, and dealing with some persistent fatigue. I knew I wouldn’t write much, but I skid to a halt.

I have all next week off. I just hope I feel better so I can get something, anything written.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Days 5-11

Word count: 16,018

Things are about to slow down. I’m running headlong into several unavoidable commitments this week, so my time crunch is at its crunchiest. I’m also dealing with a bit of fatigue, possibly caused by my health regimen, or perhaps minor sleep deprivation caused by the time change and driving early to Orlando on Friday for a workshop.

There’s a good chance I won’t win NaNoWriMo this year. However, I’m still confident I’ll finish my novel — just not as fast as I had expected.

My outline, despite some drift, is still serving me well. There’s one character whose fate I’m contemplating changing, but I can’t tell yet what outcome would play better until his arc is more fleshed out. My other three MCs have told me their secrets, a good sign that they’ll be “alive” on the page.

I have to keep up my momentum. If I write at least a page a day (around 250 words), the story will continue to flow, and when I get more time later I’ll be able to ramp my productivity back up.

Despite the inevitable slowdown, things are going very well.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Days 1-4

Total word count: 7,005

My “super-outline” spreadsheet — the one with too many columns — might be the key to keeping me on track this year. I had to work out every single plot beat in advance, including what POV characters to use each chapter. By sticking with the outline, I’ve been able to keep the words flowing, with minimal changes so far.

(One inspiration I forgot to mention: JK Rowling used a similar setup for her outline for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)

The real test comes next week. I’ll be at a work conference from Friday-Sunday, so I can only count on four solid evenings for writing. To make up for those lost days, I’ll have to write 3K/day Monday-Thursday. But the chapters I have outlined for next week are ready to go, so with luck I won’t get bogged down with plot issues.

Characters are close to how I envisaged them. The dialogue is tricky, as it’s one thing I didn’t work out in advance. I do know the backstories for each of my main characters, so I can ballpark the right word choices, tone, etc. from the start, and clean it up later.

Getting the pace right is tough. I guessed each chapter would be ~1.5K, but they’re coming in a little longer. At least I’ll have enough material through the end of the month, if not longer.

This rough draft feels cleaner than in years past, but that’s no indicator of actual quality. No matter what, it’ll be riddled with abrupt color changes, misspelled place names, and so on.

On to week 2!