NaNoWriMo and my mental health

Hi everyone!

We’re in December now, which means that another National Novel Writing Month has come to a close. For me it was the second NaNoWriMo in a row, an a second one that I have won as well.

What does that mean to you? Did you participate this year? How did it go? Please let me know in the comment section below!

It’s my second NaNo, so obviously I couldn’t escape comparing my performance this year from the previous one.

I have to admit that I didn’t do as well as I wish I have. But still, I’m happy I did participate.

And now you’re probably asking yourself “what does any of this have to do with mental health?”.

Fret not, for I’m going to tell you exactly what I mean by that.

When I registered to do NaNoWriMo last month, I wasn’t in the best place ever. I have just started by first ever job, the new situation kept me really anxious, and at the same time I had to go to a couple classes a week, which might not seem as taxing, but put it together with already existing depression and physical disability and you’ll see that I could’ve felt a lot better at that time.

The decision to do NaNo came to me two days before November 2017 started. I had nothing but a slightly vague idea for a story, and this thought in my head that maybe I could do this. What I knew for sure was that I was definitely going to try.

And it wasn’t easy, oh no. Looking back, there was a total of nine days in those thirty days of November when I didn’t write a single word. The guilt was almost crushing.

Why do something so emotionally taxing, then?

Well, here’s actually the gist of why I think participating in NaNoWriMo is an amazing thing to do.

You see, nobody is forcing you to participate. Registering to do it is free. If you win you don’t get any prizes. You can get some winner’s merch, but you have to pay for it yourself.

There are seemingly no reasons to do it. You’ll need to bust out 50000 words in a month and get nothing for it?! That’s impossible! No way!

And yet… It kinda works.

Because you see, you could end November with just ten, a thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand, or, who knows, maybe fifty thousand words or even more.

But no matter how many words you write, they are going to be words that didn’t exist before. Starting to write is making a promise to nobody else but YOURSELF, that you are going to follow through with your goal for as long as it’s possible for you. Nobody is going to stand next to you and force you to write. Well, unless you actually ask someone to do that. But otherwise, it’s just you and your writing.

I knew that I could’ve failed both times I already took on the challenge so far. I knew it could’ve happened, and yet it didn’t. Every time there was a moment when I decided to open that Word document and write those words. And after them came some more.

And then, when I finally hit that 50000, when Word was crashing every three minutes because it never had to carry a document that big before, what I felt back then was like nothing I’ve felt ever before in my life. I felt genuinely proud of myself. So often my depression, my anxiety and my impostor syndrome would take my little and big victories alike away from me, but not this time. Because this time I have done something right, and it was big, and I had proof of it right in front of my face. I have done it.

In a way I felt like I have kicked my own ass when I succeeded. But really, I just kicked by depression’s ass. And not just once, because a year later, when I have made the decision to leave the job I have just started back then, I got up and did it again. And next year, hopefully, I am going to do it once again. And again, and again, and again.

It’s possible that NaNoWriMo is going to be the first challenge in your life to write something of such length when you aren’t really required to do it. You don’t have to hand it anywhere, nobody is going to read what you wrote unless you share is deliberately, you won’t get judged or graded for your writing in any way. The only thing that is important for the system is your word count. Whatever the words are, and whatever is the quality of your writing, is not of its concern. And really, if you want to make it in time, it’s best that you don’t pay much attention to those either. Just write. Editing is why December was created.

Oh, right, how is everyone’s editing going? Mine not so well, still. But I’ll get there. I just want to give myself a proper pat on the back for following through with it. It’s important to celebrate your success.

And it’s important to start. I hope that last month you did start something as well, and that you’re going to get through with it.

Until next week!

NaNoWriMo 2018 – last days

Here we are guys! NaNoWriMo is due to end on Friday night.

Are you amongst those that the above instilled terror in?

Or are you happy about your progress and very relaxed and confident about meeting your goal this month?

Perhaps you have given up on writing those 50000 words and are just going about your life as if nothing happened?

Or perhaps you have already met your goal and are now basking in the glory of being a NaNoWriMo winner?

Whatever your writing situation is right now, I want you to know that I am proud of you. And I hope that whether you have written 300, 50000 or 100000 words this month, you can and should be proud too. Because you have made a decision and went through with it, and no matter at which moment you ended up on your way to the finish line, you deserve to feel good about your progress. Not everyone would want to tackle writing 50000 words in one month, but you did, and no matter your actual progress, the decision to do it is a great success in itself.

Next week prepare for a post-NaNo summary of the month. I would love to hear your stories from this month’s writing adventure!

Until next time!

NaNoWriMo 2018 – The Third Half

Welcome on the 21st day of NaNoWriMo of the year 2018! In just two days from now we are going to be exactly a week away from the official end of the challenge.

How are your books coming along so far?

Personally I can say that I’m having more trouble with writing my book this year than I thought I would have. Doubts about the content I’m writing are constantly haunting me, and thus, they lead me to procrastinating writing.

I hope you are doing better than me. Remember that what you write this month might not meet the desired word count, but it’s still words that wouldn’t be there if you didn’t take your time to write them down. No matter if you get to 50000 words this year or not, the most important thing is that you tried.

And that is very vital information, because if you tried tackling such a big challenge, it means that you have this power and ambition in you. Even if you won’t meet the word count this year, there is always next year.

Good luck!

NaNoWriMo 2018

Hello everyone!

First of all, you can probably see that the last time I have posted anything of substance was a long, long time ago. For that I do apologize. As I have mentioned in my previous post, my computer had to get repaired, and after it came back, I found it incredibly hard to get back to the funk of writing.

That is, until November came by, and with it, the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I have to say I’m not doing as well as I would like to, although I did manage to write every single day so far, which to me is quite incredible.

My novel this year is titled The Extraordinary Adventures of Princess Marion. It’s mostly adventure and romance, set in a fictional world. If you would like to become buddies on the NaNoWriMo website, my username is AlicjaM. I’m looking forward to connecting with you all ^_^

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo before, in essence, the main idea of it is to write 50000 words throughout the month of November. Sounds impossible? Maybe. But it really is not.

It’s true that if you have never written anything of such length it can be tiring to try and meet the goal at the end of the month, but there is just something about it that makes you not want to stop. Once you start updating your word count, you can see it go up, but the date on which you will approximately meet you goal is in June of the next year, you kind of still want to go through with it. You don’t want to give up. And that’s the magic of it.

You might not get any rewards for meeting your goal, but the feeling alone, the sense of accomplishment and pride when you do write the 50000th word and add it to your word count… It’s beautiful. And it’s definitely worth to at least give it a try once in your life, if you feel like you would like to express yourself in a creative way, but you don’t know where to start. You might as well start with NaNo, and see there it takes you. How about it?

You can find the all information about NaNoWriMo here.

I hope we can connect, and that if you haven’t thought about doing something like it before, right now you will feel at least a bit more compelled to give it a shot. Who knows, maybe if you try, you’ll realize you’re good at it and you’ll become the next big thing in literature? You won’t know unless you try!

Absence notice

Hello lovely people!

I’m sorry for the radio silence on my side. I had suffered unforseen trouble with my laptop, which for now prevents me from writing as decent pieces as I would like to give all of you. Until I get my computer back, I would love some feedback regarding the pieces you would like to read on my blog – would you be interested in reviews of more recent popcultural stuff, or maybe analysis of older films, books, etc?

Until next time!

Unraveling the villain – Megamind

Hello everyone! With today’s entry, I would like to start a recurring series that you’ll be sure to catch on my blog from time to time – “Unraveling the villain”. In this series I am going to tackle the pop-culture villains of my choice and briefly analyze them – their motivations, their story, their growth. Please let me know what you think!

The following text contains spoilers to the film Megamind.

Amongst all of the animated features that Dreamworks has birthed, my absolute favourite to this day is the 2010’s Megamind. With a boom of superhero films these days, I would like to turn the tables and look at the big-headed, mould-breaking super villain that is the alien Megamind.

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It’s safe to say that Megamind was too early to the party – today hardly anyone seems to remember it as much as it deserves to be. But let’s start from the very beginning.

Megamind is sent away from his home planet when it’s headed on the course towards inevitable destruction in a black hole. Just as he’s leaving in a fun-sized spaceship, we notice another alien child from another planet – a Superman-type, with shiny, dark hair.

The two of them end up on Earth, in a fictional Metro City. The black-haired boy is adopted by a wealthy, childless couple, and Megamind grows up in a prison. A couple of years later they meet at school, and thus the real part of their rivalry begins.

Megamind is a production that shatters the fourth wall in a more subtle way than many other films do – instead of directly pointing out that they’re in a film, the characters constantly use the hero-villain antagonism however they please. Well, mostly Megamind himself does that. Because the black-haired kid grew up to become Metroman, a homage to the city that took him in. he is treated like a god. The citizens idolize him, and they hate Megamind who he’s constantly fighting with.

We should probably put aside the reason why both of them seem to age similarly to humans since both of them come from other planets, since as weird and illogical it may be, I would be way too tempted to write this whole piece about this aspect of the film only.

Their continuos fighting lasts for twenty-ish years. They go back and forth, time and time again – Megamind kidnaps Roxanne Ritchie, a successful journalist and Metroman’s sweetheart, then Metroman comes to save her and defeats Megamind everytime. Eventually Metroman himself feels stuck in a rut, which leads him to faking his own death as a means to free himself from the pressure and responsibility of being a hero.

Consider this – if the two aliens ended up on a planet that had no concept of superheroes, or even of good and evil, would they still end up fighting?

It’s possible that the answer to that is no. We never hear of any superheroes or villains other than Metroman, Megamind and Titan, that’s true. Might be that no other people or aliens in the world have such power as they do. And yet I think that it’s the culture they grew up in that shaped their relationship the way it is when we meet them.

Like I said, they could’ve ended up on a planet that has no fixed idea of good and evil. But the community they joined on Earth does. And here, Megamind is actually a victim of discrimination at first. Metroman looks very human, it’s just his powers that make him stand out. But Megamind on the other hand, with his blue body, big head and intensely green eyes does everything other than fit in. He does make an effort though, at least at the beginning, but eventually comes to a conclusion that he’s going to embrace the villainous part of his personality.

Then, something interesting happens – when it seems like Megamind has finally killed Metroman, the villain has no one to fight with anymore. He sure goes through a short-lived high of power when he trashes the city with his sidekick Minion, but then his mood suddenly drops, and he starts feeling empty, having no opponent. Smells like One Punch Man, doesn’t it?

That’s right – both productions follow a mighty person who defeats their nemesis and become depressed due to the lack of stimulation. Because, as Megamind himself put it, he has no purpose. If you cannot advance any more in the skills you have, what is the point? So, he takes the matter in his own hands, and… Things go awry to say the least. The “nice guy” he injects with a hero-making serum starts to feel all too powerful for his own good, and he eventually terrorizes the city. It’s when Megamind needs to step in and become the hero Metrocity so desperately needs.

As it turns out, fate can play great tricks on people and villains alike. Megamind himself entered the “villain” box, and it had to take someone not only powerful, but even more evil than him, to make him realize how great of a hero he could be. It seems that he missed out on many things simply because he failed to see himself in a position other than of “the bad one”. It becomes very clear when he starts opening up to Roxanne about his life, even if he’s speaking as Renard, the librarian. For a moment we can see that the things he went through at school left a mark, whether it healed or not. Eventually, when he did win the fight, get the girl and have people idolize him in the end, there is something important happening that is not really addressed – a start of healing. There is hope that with the right support system, with people acknowledging his value not only for his intelligence and his ability to build complicated machines, but just for him as a whole, for Megamind who chose to do the right thing and protected the city from a bad guy – he can overcome his fear of letting people in and will finally learn to trust others.

This story always seemed so much more to me than it looked at first. It’s not just switching the hero-villain dynamic. It’s about letting people see you for who you are, about finding your true purpose, and about learning to do the right thing even if it seems wrong at first. Plus, there is a very nicely played out romantic storyline, which for me is one of the best ones I’ve seen in an animated feature to date.

If you give Megamind an hour and a half of your attention, you just might find something in there that will resonate with you. There are so many important lessons hidden in the story. Will you unravel them all?

Welcome + K-ON!

Hello! If you’re reading these words, it means that I graduated recently. With a lot less stress and more time on my hands, I wanted to create a place to collect my thoughts on various cultural creations I have found on my way through life. First off – K-ON!an anime series that reached it’s peak popularity few years ago. I hope you enjoy, and I’ll see you next Monday!

There have been many anime and manga series featuring high school students as their protagonists. Oh, so many. And the first series I want to review on this blog is one of them.
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K-On! Is an anime series set in an all-girls high school. There, at the very beginning, we follow Hirasawa Yui, a freshman you would never think is a good fit for a music club, or any club at all for that matter. As much as you could definitely call her adorable and kind, she has never had experiences that could help her decide what she wants to do in her life. So, when during the first week at a new school she is handed countless flyers from the clubs she can find at her school, she only grows more and more confused.

Her life intertwines with those of Tainaka Ritsu, Akiyama Mio and Kotobuki Tsumugi, when the first two, or rather Ritsu accompanied Mio who is forced to join her, decide to revive the school’s light music club. Which proves to be not an easy task, even though the number of members needed to keep the club from closing down is just four students. First joins them Mugi. Together, the three girls draw posters that they hang up at the school’s bulletin board, trying to convince other girls to join.

In stumbles Yui, who was not only late with declaring her club membership at this point, but still wasn’t very convinced which one she would like to join. Nevertheless, when she sees one of the posters, her next stop is the light music club.

The series itself is often criticized for the fact that it contains a lot of moe elements. Which in short means, that this series is nothing more than simple, boring misadventures of cute, young girls, doing cute, girly things. However, there is a reason I would like to argue with that.

Being a tired twenty-something that I am, I already get slightly nostalgic when watching shows that feature young people full of life and energy to pursue their passion. That enthusiasm, where does it come from, where does it go? Where did you come from, Cotton Eye Joe? To me, watching K-On! felt like relieving a part of my adolescence that is never coming back. It was like feeling a gentle, warm breeze on my face on the first sunny day of spring. And even though the story and the characters are fictional, it still feels so real, like I caught a glimpse of someone else’s actual life, or a version of it at least.

Let’s think about something else: K-On!­ is a series about a band. Is it a musical though?

I wouldn’t say it is. It’s not the story of young musicians reaching stardom before graduating high school. Sure, they are very ambitious, they definitely dream big sometimes, but music isn’t the only thing that’s important in their lives. They are in school after all – they have classes, exams, school trips, festivals, and all the other things that their peers do.

I think that’s actually the quintessence of what I love about this show the most – it proves that you don’t have to do one thing to be happy, it shows that to live a full life you need it all – knowledge, passion, friends and time to unwind.

Of course, this series could easily turn into one about an amateur band’s road to glory and fame, if it wasn’t for the fact, that:

  1. Yui is a complete layman when it comes to playing the guitar at the beginning, and has to learn everything from the basics before she’s actually good at it,
  2. More often than not, band rehearsals turn into an afterschool tea time instead of actually, you know, playing the instruments, singing, doing… music stuff, anything?

And even though this seems to be one of the most often repeated criticism of the series, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. As I said, this isn’t really a musical series. Much rather, it’s a slice of life piece, showing how through a shared passion a group of girls found friendship and meaning in their afterschool activities.

Even though it’s as modern a story as can be, I can’t help but think of it as a series that in tone reminds me of ukiyo-e, or the traditional Japanese art form, its name often translated to “a picture of the flowing world”. We keep the girls company until their graduation, which makes for three years in their lives in total. Because of that the series is somewhat episodic, an episode rarely picks up the plot directly from the moment the previous one ended. And this makes the story feel even more life-like – because it shows only certain moments, some important, some funny, some special for another reason. Think about it this way – no matter what your life looked like in high school or before, not every single day was worth noting. You’ve probably already forgotten what you were doing each day of the school year. But still some situations stuck to your mind, creating memories that you might treasure to this day.

And, in hindsight, isn’t it what this series is about? What adolescence as a period in life is about? To try new things and meet people you feel best with, to discover who you are and who you want to be, and to possibly inspire others to do the same?

I think it is.

So, why don’t we make some memories?