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Finding your way back, part 2




Okay.


So.


If you read my last post, you’ll know that summer was a bit crap for me in terms of life events and my ability to cope with those events. Writing consistently has been equally tough. The only thing I was able to do consistently was write my morning pages.

But what happens if you can’t do that? What happens if writing


milk

bread

bog roll


is about the limit and even that feels like an effort?


How, when life has derailed your writing and your ND brain can’t keep you on an even keel, do you coax yourself back to the page?


How do you know where to begin, when the inner critic is loud, and when it feels like you are so far behind in some imagined writing race that you’re afraid you will never catch up?


How can we make plans that don’t feed straight back into the cycle of expecting too much, getting overwhelmed and sliding into dysregulation?

How do we leap back in when we’re obsessively playing sudoku or binge-watching Netflix or binge-eating pizza in order to find enough dopamine to scrape us through the day?


Self-forgiveness.


This comes first.


Self forgiveness, okay?


We’re not doing it on purpose, we aren’t bad people.


We are human beings with significant neurodevelopmental barriers, and life doesn’t discriminate when it comes to dealing duff cards.


Next, create safety.


This is so big for me. If you feel unsafe generally in the world - in your own skin even - safety has to be a priority.


How?


Choose one small thing, with the caveat that you can stop if it feels too hard.

As in “I will write for five minutes about what it felt like to prune the lavender this afternoon. I am allowed to stop at any point.” (not a random example, by the way, this was me a few weeks ago).


If it does feel too hard or too painful, then stop and put the kettle on or lay down or go for a walk or make toast. You have to make good on your word, keep the promises you have made, otherwise how can you ever trust yourself?


That is how you create safety.


Writing about lavender for five minutes helped me to drift into writing my blog.

If I’d told myself to get that bloody blog written and don’t dare do anything else until it’s done, there’s just no way I would have written anything at all that day.


When - and only when - you’ve forgiven yourself and created safety, can you start thinking about what to write…and how.


Here are some thoughts...

  • Rewrite an old story (does not have to be yours! Fairy Tales, myths and legends all work well here) - this gives you something to work with, and its low stakes and dopamine boosting.


  • Work with a prompt - the internet is replete with ideas. My favourite is to use a word generator to come up with three random words that I have to then make into a story. Feels less like writing fiction and more like solving a puzzle, which my brain loves.


  • If you want to work on a longer term project like a novel and you’re struggling…

    • take one of your characters and write about them in another setting, or at an earlier time in their lives.

    • rewrite the opening paragraph in a different tense

    • rewrite a random paragraph from a different point of view


Finally, bookend your writing…


…with another beloved activity.


I did a podcast recently about reconnecting to yourself after trauma, and that does help, it really does. So, make a quick list of things you love. Food, shows, places, colours, songs, hobbies.


Choose one, and do it. Then write. Then do something else that you love.


It doesn’t have to be big. It could be stroking your cat, eating jelly and ice-cream, or listening to opera. It doesn’t matter. The point is to love yourself thoroughly while you write.


Here’s the lavender thing.


What I needed that day was promise, and love and connectedness. That’s what I really need when I’m sad, when I want to find a shortcut for the brain chemicals I can’t seem to hold onto.


Pruning the lavender connected me to nature and the earth, inspired me to wonder if I could make homemade oil (I can!) allowed me to drift, slow down, and regulate myself. I pottered about quietly in my mind, thinking about this and that and felt able, then, to come in the house, make a brew, and create a piece of narrative non-fiction about picking lavender in the garden.


And then I read a book in the bath.


And felt calmer than I had in quite some time.


One last trick: write in a fancy font. The fancier the better. Remember your brain loves novelty and we’re less complicated than we like to think.


Sometimes Baguet Script is all it takes.



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