My Top Writing Experiences 5 – Disadvantage to Advantage

This is it, the final post detailing memorable writing experiences that were also significant moments in my writing growth. October is here so maybe these will inspire and motivate others, especially anyone considering NaNoWriMo this November. Thus far:

  • My September Motivation Series (Intro & Background)
  • Short Story Explosion (2015)
  • Character Connection (2017)
  • The Sequel Opening (2018)
  • The Impossible (2019)

Like the posts that came before it, this one is a case of success coming on the heels of disaster. Quite simply, at the height of the 2020 pandemic, and at the moment my creativity was kicking into overdrive, my computer crashed. Almost exactly one year ago.

*Tragically, at present, we’re presently setting new records, this time around with Delta.

I’ve never treated my mental health issues as something I should be ashamed of and speak proudly of overcoming my limitations. It’s all the more challenging because I can’t take medication. Instead, I employ methods I’ve posted for myself for when crisis scatters my thoughts. Beyond that are my maintenance methods, those employed daily. Primary among them are meditation, mindfulness, walking, and yoga.

Courtesy: Pixabay

In this case, it was mindfulness that initially saved me…

Let’s briefly travel back to 2019 and Protecting the Pneuma Key. As I mentioned last week, near the end of the novel a minor character was introduced. Talma Loyal. Talma was supposed to die. In one of those fateful decisions, I spared her. My writing insight kept whispering she had a bigger part to play. What part? I had no idea. Thus, I set her aside and moved on.

Fast forward to the summer of 2020 and my first time editing Pneuma Key. It was August and a realization the size of an extinction event stopped me cold. Ever since developing Pannulus, I’d dreamed of a noir, Jazz Age story there. Suddenly, there was a vision of Talma in a 1920s era auto…

Just like that, I had it. Talma, seeking redemption and revenge, tracks the doctor who tortured her in foggy Duskspell, a city known for crime, nightclubs, and those who suffer from the same addiction she possesses. Part of her backing includes a penthouse apartment and gorgeous car. Financial backing, though, doesn’t solve the trauma’s that trail her. On the other hand, she’s armed with unique knowledge and insight concerning the doctor.

Despite the above, I resisted the idea beyond making notes. I had Riparia’s Bk4 to write (even though inspiration was elusive). On September 23rd, though, I gave in and setup a Scrivener project for the novel, Case of the Deadly Stroll, transferred some of my notes, began researching, and then—

Disaster.

All I understand about what happened is that it was security update gone wrong coupled with a virus that was already present and so on and so on. The reality of it, on the morning of September 25th, was discovering the Deadly Stroll project gutted and the computer becoming more sluggish by the minute.

My first thought: I’m moments from having a panic attack.

Before initiating self-care, my hands already shaking so badly I could barely type, I transferred some info to the cloud. Scrivener projects wouldn’t do me any good there since my ancient laptop wouldn’t be able to run them. I do, though, have a backup hooked to the computer.

I then shutdown the computer and went back to bed. I managed a walk later in the day, but cried through half of it, my thoughts a mess. I spent the rest of that day and all of the next in bed sleeping as much as possible. Meanwhile, all around me and my damaged lungs, Missoula was setting Covid records.

After emerging from bed, I hibernated on my couch for three days reading books and watching movies. I didn’t get dressed. I refused to think about the obliterated story. Would I ultimately have to replace the computer? I was willing, but not thrilled given I hadn’t worked since the March before. Through it all, I continued meditation and yoga.

As September closed, I found someone willing to take the computer in for (hopefully) repair since my health was vulnerable. The catch was, she was suffering from the flu and couldn’t do so for a week.

October 1st brought an epiphany. The story wasn’t lost, it was still in my clearing head.

My passion for the story reignited. I went on a mad scramble locating my handwritten notes. My desk had become a trigger, so I created a nest on the couch. I set up snack trays within reach. I had a stack of paper, colored pens, and my aging laptop I hoped was up to the task. It was.

1925 Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost Piccadilly Roadster (the same as Talma Loyal’s, except hers is cherry red) Author:Michel Curi, https://www.flickr.com/photos/119886413@N05/24046256528/

Thus commenced the most unique two-week writing experience I’d ever had. As fast as possible, I summoned all that I’d lost and was shocked at my recall. I listened to endless jazz since it was a centerpiece of the story. What did I know about jazz? Nothing. So, I immersed myself in it and that spilled over into Postmodern Jukebox on YouTube.

It became mania! I found Talma’s car, a 1927 Silver Ghost in Cherry Red. I discovered her camera, a Leica I 35mm from 1925. The 1920s were full of innovations and I adapted them all to Ontyre magic and worldbuilding. I made a Duskspell map, established its economy, and even listed its tallest buildings. I produced over 20 pages of handwritten diagrams, maps, and notes. On the laptop was file after file of character sketches, and plotting. A mind-controlling serial killer? Great, throw it in. Pannulus yoga called ilyana pneuma? Throw that in, too.

I can not begin to convey what an exhilarating time it was. I’d wake early, and settle onto the couch in my yoga pose, sip coffee, and off I’d go. I set a new worldbuilding standard for myself, and all the while there was jazz. I was there, in Duskspell.

On October 15th I got my computer back and the madness transferred to creating a new Deadly Stroll project and transferring all I’d done into it. I’d produced so much that days before NaNo I was ready to write.

Yes, my moment—my best moment—wasn’t drafting, but instead planning. Oh, the horror! some may be saying. That’s fine. It wasn’t dry outlining, but instead pure inspiration. I even spent countless hours learning about Art Deco, turning it into Tyde Deco, and decorating Talma’s beautiful flat. There are a multitude of hidden puzzles in the story, most notable the number nine.

As I’ve said before, each of these five moments represent not giving up, but learning to compensate, adapt. They’re about the resulting growth. In this instance, I first managed, then adapted, and lastly thrived. Meanwhile, introverted Talma, saddled with PTSD, recovering from addiction, and hindered by ghost legs, struggles to keep up with a brilliant killer who’s always one step ahead and taunting her every step of the way.

Oh yeah, it was one of the best times of my life, the few weeks in the middle of a pandemic when I turned disadvantage into advantage.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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