The Enemy Inside

”Normal people think I’m insane.”
—Karl Lagerfeld


Have you ever waged a war against yourself?

Ten days remain of NaNoWriMo and the daily word count I need to make my goal has doubled. Since I’ve averaged about 600 words an hour so far this means I’d need six hours a day of pure writing.

I can do that. But I won’t.

There’s too much else I need to do, for one. Also, my brain is fighting me.

The project I’m working on is a three-part coming-of-age story inspired by events in my own life – a fictionalized auto-biography of sorts. It is the first part of a much larger project and it has been building up inside of me for a long time. It’s a story I’m quite passionate about. But now that it is finally coming together my brain refuses to co-operate.

As soon as I try to shape my writing, my brain suggests other projects.

There’s a list of things I want to write which can be grouped into three larger projects; three themes. It seems no matter which of these I pick, another demands my attention.

The harder I try to focus, the more my brain rebels against me.

Instead of fighting back, I’m trying to trick it. I give my mind a taste of what it wants: an idea to run with, a piece of information to research, an image to describe. Then, as that starts taking form I dive in and put pen to paper on the current project. Part of my brain keeps working on the problem I gave it, and another part starts trying to figure out how my current action ties into that other project.

In letting my mind veer of course I twist it to work for me as well as against me.

Having two different things at the forefront of my mind at the same time can get confusing sometimes, but luckily I’ve had a lot of practice. I’m not sure what diagnosis I should have, if any, but my mind has always done this. I’ve always had several trains of thought running parallel, on separate tracks. Sometimes it’s been a boon, sometimes a curse.

I’m finally learning how to make that into a creative advantage rather than a hindrance.


  1. I am going to guess you are younger than I first thought. But, I could be wrong.

    That or the struggle to stick with a project affects all ages.

    I, myself, struggle with finishing one writing project and am so grateful I can plant computer seeds I can revisit later. Otherwise, my desk, my dungeon would be a big mess of papers with tape tabs. Kind of like Jim Carrey’s Post It blizzard in Bruce Almighty.

    I have a few “themes,” as well. Several projects/ideas which could be grouped into various genres. And, also like you, one project that I’ve been picking at a long time…like 20+ years, and it’s still not complete.

    As for autobiographies, I write one every 18 years so my memory doesn’t fail too much.

    I guess this Nano contest thing people keep gabbing about wasn’t/isn’t too important, after all. It’s just one more thing people chase like Black Friday specials. I don’t know about you, but when winter starts moving in, I get more creative indoors. So, there’s bound to be a few coals in the fire at once. I have one I am eager to finish before New Year’s; that’s my deadline.

    1. I’ve had the same problem all my life – I’m kind of adhd-like, but only on the inside. I usually have about 30+ tabs open in my browser and my desk (and most notebooks) are usually cluttered with little notes, scraps of paper and notebooks.

      As for me being younger than you thought…probably not by much: I’m turning forty on Monday.

      Yeah, NaNoWriMo for me is more an attempt at getting back into a writing routine than actually completing 50,000 words. I tend to drift away into very irregular schedules and irregular hours.

      1. How are you not ADHD-like on the outside? What does that mean?

        You keep 30+ tabs open at all times?? Or, do you mean your desktop has that many icons, not tabs?

        Get out. Well, happy birthday, Sagittarius with Gemini brain.

        I think NaNoWriMo might be one of those marathon things you have to train for…unless you’re a woman. It seems women here can belt out 50,000 in a week’s sleep…er, week of blog posts.

      2. Thank you =)

        Outwardly I’m calm and focused, have no problems keeping my attention on one thing for long periods of time etc – but my thoughts are always jumping around like itching squirrels keeping several tracks going at once and I often multitask because of it. Even while outwardly focusing on one thing I may be planning a piece of art, a blog post or other project, go over my day and/or plan for the rest of it and whatever else my mind is occupied with. It’s difficult to explain.

        No, I mean tabs in the browser. I think I have about 60 tabs with different webpages up, though about half are just ‘things I’ve been meaning to read/watch’ and I guess I’m only actively using about a dozen right now (two e-mails, fb, twitter, this, netflix, two articles I’m reading, an online store, my bank, and my phone company, instagram).

        For me, it’s usually a priority issue with NaNo – as long as I have the time to just sit and get myself started there’s no problem. But other stuff takes priority…

      3. When you say planning, are you actually laying down plans…or just saying “Mental note: I should ___ tomorrow/sometime today.”? Because I am great with ideas…but not so good with making that “list” and sticking to it.

        Doesn’t your computer beg for mercy with all those tabs open?? If I had that many tabs open while making a digital art piece, my computer would almost certainly freeze up and lose all my work.

        A word to the wise…or from experience of the wise… Don’t have all those personal things open at once on your PC. Don’t ask me why. Just don’t. It’s safer. One personal thing/account at a time.

        I do not see NanoWormhole a priority unless you’re getting paid or a book deal in the task. Just as you get more out of a jog around the block than you do running a marathon just to prove you can.

      4. Both mental lists and actual plans.

        Nah, it works fine with the tabs up, but if I’m doing something resource-intensive I’ll shut down the browswer.

        Yeah, I’m aware of the increased risk and I don’t always use as much of the safeguards as I should, but I have at least decent protection and I rarely combine it with sites I can actually lose money from. I also use separate browsers, and even separate systems, for separate things (and not open at the same time). But yes, I could definitely be safer (which reminds me…time to change passwords again)

        I ended up having upward of 17-18,000 words – it’s more that I let NaNo take priority over non-productive time sinks during November.

      5. Let me get this straight. You “rarely” take a chance on losing money…or account info. 😛 Uh huh. No excuses. And, I don’t know what decent protection is. Everyone claims to have it til crap happens. Don’t invest in a suit of armor and wait for the dragon to show. Use your head to stay out of harm’s way.

        Good golly. You sound as if you are running Google in your house for what? Just personal interests?

        And, that too! How many passwords can a person juggle? Honestly. Is it worth it? Do you need all those accounts?

        November is non-productive why? For me, it’s a time my creativity starts kicking in and work usually asks more of me, too.

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