I have absolutely no clue how I had the endurance to manage it.
But I did it.
I set a goal of 20,000 words for CampNaNoWriMo this April and just passed it this afternoon, three days early.
Why this is amazing to me is because of the state I am in at present. The pandemic and the complete bumbling of the vaccine rollout in my province, along with living in an unaltered lockdown mode since March 2020 have walloped my mental health into another dimension. Because I am disabled and a higher-risk person for COVID-19, I have had to live in a protected way so as not to catch the virus at all. And in 2020, my brain burnt out. I could barely write a word. I even had to take an editing hiatus because I couldn’t concentrate on the written word. I couldn’t even read for pleasure.
Slowly in the fall of 2020, I began to regain my ability to read and edit again, and took on some work. But in March 2021, I felt another hiatus was needed, as my fatigue levels were off the chart, even for a fibromyalgia person. My mental health was in the toilet. The only thing I knew that could help me recover was rest…
I mean, after all, I did write The Stealth Lovers during a period when I suffered panic attacks even in my sleep. Writing those zany lizard-men warriors had comforted me, made me laugh, and took me to another place. Writing was self-care.
Writing is self-care for me. And so, I realized this year, I would take my editing hiatus right before CampNaNoWriMo. I thought, Welp, I’m wiped out, but I really want to work on Iris and the Crew, so maybe a smaller goal? I mean, I can stop any time, if it’s too much for me.
That’s a big rule for me about these NaNos. Don’t do them at the expense of my health.
So, I figured 20,000 words meant 667 words a day. That shouldn’t be too-too bad.
And then a thing happened. Amid all the eugenics-based messages of 13 months and counting, when disabled and chronically ill people like me have been told in so many words that we don’t matter enough to be protected from COVID-19 or kept alive during a triage situation, I dived into Iris and the Crew‘s world-building. This cast of characters are assigned aboard a science and tech vessel where being disabled, Deaf, neurodivergent, Blind, mentally ill—all these things—don’t present a problem. All accommodations are met. The ship is fully accessible. They have med-tech units, physical therapy, mental wellness centres, all the assistive tech you can eat. (Maybe don’t eat your assistive tech though.) And this culture goes beyond the ship. Planetary and lunar civilizations offer accommodations as a natural part of life. They’re not an “inconvenient” add-on. The world of Iris and the Crew is my dream-space. There are no eugenics. You can be as you are and be an admiral of a fleet, a head of security, a communications officer, chief engineer, second-in-command, and a captain. You’re not set off to the side. How you are is respected and your supports are met. And if you are autistic, nobody is speaking over you or expecting you to become neurotypical.
This is where I need to live right now. I need to exist in a place where people like me matter.
Because that’s the message that’s getting missed right here on Earth.
It’s no wonder I wrote 20,000 words. I was starved for a life where I matter, so I had to create a safe space.
The book is not finished yet, but the groove I have established with writing a little each day, sometimes skipping a day here and there, could mean that this is the summer when I have a first draft written.
While I am super excited that Renaissance has already accepted my pitch, earning me a chance to submit Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space for review by the Acquisitions Committee, one thing has been made really clear to me.
I’m writing this book to soothe myself, to imagine a place where disability is never a societal big deal, and where someone like me can soar among the stars.
Writing this book is definitely self-care.
And my plan is to finish it in hopes that I can invite others along for the ride so we can all tear through space!
Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to be wise and think of others as we battle COVID-19!
Cait is also the author of humorous space opera novels Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers, and she is the co-editor of the Prix Aurora Award nominated anthology Nothing Without Us. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. Her latest new adventure is hosting the In the ’Cosm podcast, which is really an excuse to gush over authors she admires.