I’ve mentioned before that I used to do book reviews, in the way back when. And obviously, as a PhD student, writing academic papers has been a part of my life for many years now. I’m comfortable writing non-fiction. It’s a space that I understand and it has (almost) never let me down. Fiction, however, is an entirely different animal.
Even though I’ve spent most of my life absorbing fiction in all forms, actually writing it was something that I couldn’t do. I tried on many occasions but it just wouldn’t come to me. And then I experienced the Year of the Topamax, 2007. It was a very strange year, for many reasons, and it was a very strange drug. My doctor prescribed it after my migraines became almost unbearable. I didn’t know anything about it when I started taking it. If I had, I might have said no.
For those who are unaware, Topamax is primarily prescribed for epilepsy but in the 2000s, doctors found that it had some efficacy in combating migraines. And while this is true, for those who don’t have epilepsy and take it, it feels as if your entire frontal lobe is being rewired, almost violently sometimes. I was on edge, but also listless. My brain felt like it was vibrating and so I was unable to read anything. For the first week, I laid on my bed and watched Real Housewives. I literally could not ingest anything remotely cerebral. I lost 40 pounds in 2 months, which I guess sounds great but it was a nightmare. I got so thin that the doctor began weighing me monthly but since the drug was keeping the migraines at bay, he didn’t take me off of it. I didn’t want to eat, and I couldn’t drink anything that had the least bit of carbonation. Anything carbonated tasted like poison. I also developed speech problems. It felt like a kind of aphasia, where I knew what I wanted to say but there was a disconnect between my brain and my tongue. The words were there but it would take me more than a minute sometimes to verbalize them. This is not great when you work in a call center, let me just say.
One of the weirdest effects though, was that I started writing short stories. I have no idea why but one day I was inspired to write about the end of my first marriage. All told, within six months I had written almost 20 short stories. I submitted some to magazines and journals, all of which were rejected, and that was fine. I wasn’t trying to make a name really. I was just trying to cope with the frontal-lobe electrical storms that were consuming me.
But one of those stories… the longest one, at 12,500 words, was my prize. It was my precious thing that I was so proud of. It’s a story about a girl with a goddess trapped inside her and I loved that story so much. When I was writing it it felt like I couldn’t stop, like the goddess needed me to tell her story and to do it now. The words were pulled out of me in hysterical fits and to me they were perfect. But after my life fell apart in 2008, and I went off all the drugs I was on, I put the fiction writing away and never picked it up again. I toyed with the idea of revising that story over the years but then I started back to school and put it on the back burner, always meaning to go back but never doing it.
That story has been on my mind a lot lately and so I’ve decided to finally see if I can make something of it. I had actually started working on it several days ago in order to revise and update it. I mean, it was written in 2007. The world has changed just a bit and so I had to bring it up to speed before I could begin. And then on Sunday I realized that it was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which felt like a weird synchronicity so I’ve jumped in. My goal is the default goal of 50,000 words. I’m not counting the 12,500 I had already written so we’ll see where I end up at the end. I’m at 1396 words on the morning of November 3rd and the story pulled me out of sleep at 4am so it looks like the goddess is back to her old tricks. I only hope I can finally give her the ending that I promised her 13 years ago.