Only two more days, two more sleeps, two more chapters until the end of National Novel Writing Month. I’ve had so much fun, writing alone yet in a group of hundreds of thousands, that I’ll be sad to see it end. I’ve achieved far more than I expected; heck as of today, I achieved the impossible: 70,000 words.
Actually, it isn’t just achievements that NaNoWriMo has been about for me; it’s changes too. I’ve seen my ability to write expand in terms of time and number of words. When I last wrote a book, I was able to write 2,000 words in a coherent narrative, keeping it all in my head so I don’t ramble and remember what the beginning was all about when at the end. I hadn’t kept track of my word count since then. But I had sensed that I could write for an hour straight. Whether I could do that day after day, as opposed to a few days in a week with days in between to recover — that I didn’t know. I now know I can.
It got quite difficult, and things weren’t so pleasant, but the encouragement of my fellow Wrimos, the pep talks from headquarters, and the knowledge of all eyes on me kept me going, and my brain finally decided it doesn’t need to expend quite so much energy writing for an hour. Also, after I had written 50,000 words, I cut my writing time down to 30 minutes one day, 45 most days this past week. Today, I went nuts and wrote 1 hour, 45 minutes, with a couple of brief breaks. I didn’t do much the rest of the day, but even being able to write this after doing that this morning, is quite something. My writing neurons have been lit and are firing too brightly to be extinguished.
Before the injury, my mind never shut up. I mean: IT. NEVER. SHUT. UP. I could only go to sleep by channeling thoughts, ideas, imagination into stories that would relax me. After the injury, my mind was one vast blank landscape where nary a thought tread. Well, thoughts did creep in, but slowly and often not for long periods and only with external stimulation. My imagination was gone or maybe in hiding and only revealed itself on the page when I wrote. However, fiction was a no-go. Believe me, I tried. Dreck. Total, complete non-fiction-pretending-to-be-fiction dreck. So writing this book was a challenge I wasn’t sure I was up for. I wrote an outline like for Lifeliner, but that didn’t mean I’d be able to make stuff up when it came to the details.
Today, my mind wouldn’t shut up for quite some time after I wrote my chapter. The chapter itself was a stop-and-go process, unlike my usual type till alarm goes or I finish the chapter. But writing seemed to ignite something, something that was stimulated even more by my regular Saturday Mind Alive session. After that, I wrote some more, and that’s how I got over 70,000 words total and over 3,300 for one chapter, both a milestone.
And the last thing this NaNoWriMo has done for me is something quite…well, you decide. I took piano lessons for 9 years, achieving grade 10 level. The shithead drivers took care of that achievement when they gave me a brain injury. The best I could do was one-hand playing of music from my first year of lessons, two hands of the really simple pieces. Last Sunday, I was listening to kd lang’s version of Cohen’s Hallelujah; I focused on the piano. Its resonance vibrated right into me, and I felt the urge to play. The last time I had tried, over a year ago, the G note was dead (I’m sure it was dead), and I failed miserably. Fear had kept me away (and fear is still there) — the fear of hearing a reminder of how much this injury has cost me. Still, I got up at 10:15 pm when the piece came to an end and went to the piano, lifted the lid, found my fave piece, the one I had known cold from memory for many years, opened it, sat down, and putting both hands on keys began to play. The G note wasn’t dead. I didn’t recognize the music, yet I could play with both hands. I didn’t know all the notes, but in a way one has to learn when figuring out the extreme high notes in new piece of music not in the brain-injury way of utter confusion. I played the whole piece at a steady pace. My timing though too slow didn’t vary. It was a dreadful rendition. But suddenly I went from being where I had been at 9 years of age to where I was when 15 or 16.
I’ve played it twice more since then, each time getting better, each time hearing bits of the music become familiar, and the last time seeing the notes in my head. Having to relearn how to write, still relearning how to read, meant I was beyond my capacity to also then relearn how to play the piano. Maybe, just maybe this means I won’t have to.
kd lang sings “Hallelujah” at CSHF 2006