Sunday, December 1, 2013

Binge Friending, Binge Gaming, Binge Writing: My Weekend of Compulsive Completion

I took a four-day weekend over the Thanksgiving holiday, and each day was singularly devoted to one activity. Running around during my work week multi-tasking like a madwoman and fitting in leisure activities helter-skelter has caused me to forget the pleasures of clearing my schedule, calming the chaos in my mind, and letting a day be entirely focused only one thing.

On Thanksgiving, I went to my friends’ house. She had graciously allowed me to invite another friend, too—someone I had been wanting her to meet for a long time. I was a little nervous, introducing two very close friends from different eras of my life on the basis of intuition alone. But I just had a feeling they’d like each other, and bam! They hit it off instantly. I’m happy that they each have a new friend now, but mostly I was selfishly happy because I have been feeling alone lately, and had been looking forward to this Thanksgiving a lot. I had a deep longing to bring my tribe together, and this was my way of engineering that. It’s important for to me to affirm that I have a family here, and by getting everyone together in the same room to share food and companionship, I felt safe, affirmed, and connected. Feelings of safety, affirmation and connection have never been a given in my life—I’ve always had to fight long and hard to find them. I’m envious of people who can take those things for granted, who have simply never known the lack of them. For me, they are precious things that once garnered, I must nurture and protect.

We had a great time cooking, eating, talking and laughing into the evening. The luxury of being able to devote an entire day to simply being with “my” people felt deeply satisfying. Growing up in a military family, I've never taken friendship for granted. I have never taken it as a given that a community will be there for me, or that people will stay in my life forever. So to have one day of being able to bask in the companionship of good friends and a shared connection from the past was a real gift.

Video games are something I’ve always used to calm my overwrought brain, and I have been going non-stop at work for months now, to the point that I'm close to burnout. I’ve always had excellent concentration once I get into the “zone” and get my focus onto something. But my job entails multiple interruptions, mini-crisis’s, and  constant disruptions to my brain flow which, as an introvert, I find exhausting. I’ve adapted, but it takes a toll. Having recently discovered Neverwinter Nights, I decided to try binge-gaming on Friday, and played for eight hours straight It felt completely blissful to lose myself in a singular activity, with no pressure to do or accomplish anything else and no interruptions. I got my feisty little Rogue up to level 30 and I beat the crap out of the pirate king, then I ran out of bag space and gave up. It was fun and I don’t feel the least bit guilty for blowing an entire day on a D&D-based video game I am way too old for.

Yesterday, I decided to clean up my act and spend the entire day working on my novel as an homage to the last day of National Novel Writing Month. I’ve discovered that it’s not a good idea to try to write a novel in a month. It’s just discouraging. I wrote for almost six hours straight on Saturday, and I feel like I barely put a dent in. At least when I’m pecking away at it a few pages at a time, it feels like slow but steady progress. But I wrote until my fingers hurt yesterday, and all I could see was how little difference my massive effort made in the overall completion of the first draft. I can’t fathom how anyone can possibly write one novel after another like it’s just nothing. I’ve focused my writing almost exclusively on the novel this month, and it’s not even half done. But the good thing is, writing for a long stretch of time really helped me get into my character’s head. I am committing the unpardonable sin of writing it in first person present, so my character’s voice is all I really have to carry the novel through. She’s a very flawed person—a blustery bully, scattered, delusional, loud, and given to excess, but she also possesses a ferocious artistic genius and a huge heart—it just takes a while to drill down to it. She gives me courage and she makes me laugh at myself, which are too qualities I am in usually in short supply of.

--Kristen McHenry

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