“Write What You Know”

My internet is being slow and I have to leave for work soon, but my stomach hurts. My stomach always hurts right before this shift. My head always starts spinning. I think it has something to do with the Sunday night. The fear of the coming week.

I’ve picked up one more shift for this week and hopefully I can find more–I don’t want to be unoccupied. I won’t see my therapist until next week–there was a real fiasco so I haven’t seen her for a while, nor have I seen my psychiatrist, who’s newest prescription I simply just haven’t been taking.

I’m writing a novel, and I know it will be hard, but then again I have a lot of faith in it. I attempt a new novel every year as a part of National Novel Writing Month. This marks my 7th year of NaNoWriMo since I began as an 8th grader. That is an amazing accomplishment. My 1st year was through the youth website. After that, I have won twice during my 2nd and 3rd years, and never again since. I can’t imagine the joy I would feel to be able to write 50,000 words in a month. I can’t imagine how I actually did that as a freshman in high school. Those stories I wrote are pretty terrible looking back, but what craziness.

The best writing advice I have ever heard was from the author DJ MacHale, who wrote the Pendragon series which had a huge impact on my life when I read it in middle school. It was “write what you know.” I didn’t have much of an idea going into this. Okay, so I had ideas for novels but they were all mixed up and complicated and grand and I wasn’t ready for it. For whatever reason, I knew I wanted a character named Cassidy, and that was about it.

In the cult classic running book “Once A Runner” and it’s follow up “Again to Carthage” by John L Parker, the main character’s name is Cassidy. To me, those books are written in such a beautifully rustic, unique way. You can’t quite always find a plot or point to it all but Parker manages to make it work. While I was reading Again to Carthage, I was talking to a girl in my Ceramics class who’s name is Cassidy, and I said “I’m reading a book where the main character’s name is Cassidy.” She told me that Cassidy was generally a boys name, but I liked it on her. Then I decided I liked the  name Cassidy. Then, I decided I wanted to create a character, a girl, named Cassidy.

My main characters have always been male. I don’t know why. Now that I look back I wonder, “am I writing the male perspective correctly anyway?” I don’t know why I never wrote from a female view but here it goes. Maybe it will be easier.

ANYWAY, so I had my MC, and no story, but the advice of “writing what I knew.” I know depression and heartbreak, so that was shitty. I don’t really want to write about depression per say and definitely not about heartbreak because I will trigger myself. I went through so many of my old things trying to figure out what I know, but I couldn’t come up with anything. I felt stupid. Nothing was real and worth writing about.

Eventually though, it came to me: nature.

Last year, I went on a trip with the National Outdoor Leadership School, a nonprofit educational organization that leads expeditions in wilderness areas and teaches leadership skills. I had no idea what I was getting into at all. I basically just watched Catching Fire and wanted to throw things and survive in the jungle and be badass. This was before I came to my current college, and I didn’t want to go back to school at all at the time, but I knew it was probably inevitable. I typed into Google, almost in a desperate attempt “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE WHAT SHOULD I DO INSTEAD” and came across the Gap Year Fair website. From there, I found NOLS, and applied for a month long backpacking trip in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains.

Holy shit, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was the weakest and the smallest. I wanted to leave on the third day. I was always tired and hungry and hurting and scarred. I hated hiking. I couldn’t carry my weight. I couldn’t even make myself eat. I wasn’t sure if I fit in. I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

It wasn’t until halfway through, when I almost lost my life falling down a skee, it occurred to me that I was supposed to be here. From then on I got stronger, more determined, and enjoyed the whole thing more. I think of my NOLS trip every single day. I feel sad that I didn’t survive the real world afterward or continue the things I achieved there. I want to go back so much. Those are the experiences that I know and remember vividly.

The hard part is, during all of those things, I was still recovering from my heartbreak, and all those moments have memories of that which can go alongside of it. So, although it may be hard, here is a bit of an intro of what it is about. I can’t call it a synopsis, because I honestly don’t know how to write those.

Cassidy can no longer remember a time without having a broken heart. After 4 long years, she is deep in depression, struggling to move past her young love relationship with Reagan and make peace with the loved ones in her life. But when Reagan goes missing, Cassidy can’t turn the other cheek. After the investigation starts running cold, Eric, Reagan’s estranged older sibling, thinks he knows where his brother may be. Cassidy, along with a friend who she’s just barely met, agrees to follow Eric into the cold Colorado mountains in search of Reagan. But has Eric taken them on a futile chase, or will Cassidy be the one to rescue her love?


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