Cancer and countdowns

Okay, that’s a gloomy heading, and perhaps a bit more dramatic than warranted, but the past few weeks have been more full on than expected.

I’ll start with the cancer. After my last blog post, I went to a skin specialist to have my freckles and moles checked (a necessity when living in Queensland), and discovered that a spot on my back had been misdiagnosed as benign six years ago. A sizeable excision was taken from my back (it now looks like a baby shark decided to take a bite), and the results came back as an aggressive BCC (basal cell carcinoma). While it’s the ‘safest’ type of skin cancer you can get, mine had been squatting there for six years and had grown deep, and is expected to recur. I’m a little bummed by this, as I wasn’t expecting to have skin cancer at 37 years old (or technically at 31), but I’m also pale, freckled and burn rather than tan. Wear sunblock, people!

Day 1 of PDT

Day 1 of PDT: swelling, oozing and pain!

Five days ago, I also underwent PDT (photodynamic therapy) to deal with any cancerous and pre-cancerous cells on my nose and cheeks. It involved having my face sandpapered, a cream put on and left to seep in for three hours, and then being baked under a red light for about 10mins. The heat from the light was so intense I could feel my skin shrivelling, hardening and cracking liky a crusty loaf of bread. It was alarming and super painful even with nerve blockers.

 

My face is now bright red, tender, itchy, oozing and peeling. I won’t know how successful the treatment has been for a few months, and it’s likely I’ll need to go another round, particularly for my scorched nose. In the meantime, I’m hiding in the house because there’s only so much pointing and staring a woman can take.

I’ll say it one more time:

Wear. Sunblock.

As for the countdown…I’m talking about the goal of 1 million words in 2019.

The whole business with my skin has been a bit of a distraction, so I’m feeling a little doubtful about reaching it. That said, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the type of woman I need to be in order to write a million words.

Being someone who writes regularly and a lot is a given, but I don’t think that a million words is possible (or healthy) without coming from a place of enjoyment, capability, and self belief. Like so many writers, I write not because I want to, but because I need to. I feel hollowed out and sad if I don’t write for an extended period of time. Life would be easier if the stories weren’t calling me.

But a million words is the other end of the spectrum. It demands a lot of time and energy and willpower. Setbacks feel big and impossible to overcome (just like the goal itself). And if I approach the goal wrong, it’ll cause burnout. In truth, I’ve spent decades feeling miserable and full of doubt because of my writing. There have been long periods where I forgot how to love being a writer. Some of my bleakest moments have stemmed from the guilt, shame and doubt that burbles up when I sit in front of the laptop. It doesn’t matter that I’ve published three books. I’m very familiar with feeling like a self-indulgent fraud.

So my writing the past few weeks has been around light topics, like poems about my dog and word prompts from one of my favourite books: Theasaurus of the Senses by Linda Hart. I open it to a random page and then write a paragraph, short story or scene involving whatever word leaps out at me.

None of this writing will see the light of day. There’s a lot of pressure on writers to be ‘productive’. Fanciful stories about the coarseness of sand and poetic puffery about dogs kinda misses the mark. But I’ve had fun.

While the next K K Ness book is moving forward and will be out at the end of next month (eep!), reminding myself that I love writing has been the biggest progress toward a million words so far.

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Wandering back

It’s been almost two years since I wrote on this site. Where have I been? Generally making a mess of things over on the website I use for my pen name K K Ness. I’ve published three books under wee Nessie, and I’m excited about the ones that are coming.

So why am I back here?

I think one of the downsides of having a blog under a pen name is that I struggle to be authentic and show the floundering, disasterous, ‘I’ll never get this book done’ side of me. And I miss being honest about my writing journey.

So here I am. And I brought baggage.

I’ll start with what many folk shared at the start of the year – my goal for 2019. It’s a biggie, and it kinda makes my belly go to liquid…

I will write 1 million words in 2019.

In truth, I kinda decided on this goal only yesterday, so that’s when my countdown started. It means I need to write 2900 words a day. Every day. Which is achieveable for anyone…if you’re not drowning in self doubt (most days, I’m soooooo drowning). But I figure if I continually strive for my 1 million words target, no matter what, I’ll have gotten some BIG things done in 2019.

Oh, and to be clear, that’s 1 million words of fiction. Blogging, plotting and journalling don’t count. But redrafting does, because I have a habit of basically throwing out the first draft and starting over. It might be why I hate first drafts, because I bleed all over the page and then toss it in the bin. An 80K book actually takes me 160K words to write. It’s my process, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ll give regular updates on how the goal is progressing, along with what’s going on in my writerly life. It’ll be messy because, even though I’ve published a few books, I still don’t know what I’m doing.

Kel

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re going to be okay

No, really, you are. If you’re looking back at 2015 and thinking about how you could have used your writing time better, and are now staring down the barrel of 2016 with the determination that things will be different—good. The reality is things will be different. You have an entire year’s worth of more knowledge, experience and personal truth to back up your writing.

Let me share with you my path. I’ve been writing since I was twelve. I wrote my first book when I was sixteen. Then I wrote another book. I studied writing at university and then spent close to a decade in various marketing and editing roles. I started and stopped writing perhaps thirty books of varying lengths between 10,000 and 50,000 words. In 2014, I turned my back on a successful marketing career in order to write full time. I wrote another book. At the start of 2015, I moved interstate to live with family so that I could actually afford to write full time. I worked furiously on the redraft. A few months after that, I had to go back to work because, well, money. The writing stopped. Then I decided to return to university—not because the giant plunge into writing full time was a failure, but because I knew the knowledge and experience of a new path will enrich my writing. And it already has. Now that uni is done for the year, I am back full circle to writing like crazy.

The point is, who I was at the start of 2015 is different to who I am now. If you look back on 2015, you’ll find change and growth, too. And you’ll find more success with your writing than you give yourself credit for.

But if you’re anything like me and focus sharply on the lost opportunities, missteps and writing massacres, maybe a little bit of time in 2016 needs to be spent filling up a writing jar.

The Writing Jar

happiness jar

The concept is no different to a happiness jar, only that you fill the jar with your writing joys and successes. Get yourself some coloured scraps of paper (I love the 2.5cm x 2.5cm multi-coloured stickynotes), and each time you have a positive moment with your writing, you mark the date, describe the moment, and pop it in the jar.

Perhaps you have a breakthrough with a troublesome character—in it goes. Maybe it’s been a week since you last wrote and you scraped in 15mins during your lunchbreak—that success deserves to go in, too. The time spent skyping a friend so that you could work on your writing projects together even though you live in different cities—it needs acknowledging. Each moment, day, week and month of writing merits recognition. Because writing is hard and lonely work, and it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come.

Before you know it, you’ll have a jar brimming with success and writing happiness. You can look at those notes when the bleak days inevitably arise. They’ll be your inspiration and solace.

And perhaps you’ll realise that if you’d started taking notes earlier, you’d have a jar of writing happiness for 2015, too.