The Dark Side of Writing

This is about to get really real. Maybe too real. “Over-sharing”. But it’s been inside me for a long time and needs to get out. And maybe someone else needs to hear it. Maybe we aren’t alone, after all.

Sometimes, my dreams of getting published seem hopeless. And not because “so many people are trying, why should I succeed?” or “I’m just not good enough.” Maybe a little of the fear comes from the second, but not for the obvious reason that I think my writing is crap. Semi-objectively, my writing is decent. I’ve written some brilliant things I’m super proud of, and some really awful things that make me cringe just thinking about, but most of my writing falls into the category of “good enough” to be published. I notice weak writing — recognize my own short-comings — in published books all the time, so why not me?

No, I’m hopeless because I hit these blocks that are so much more than “writer’s block” the way I understand it. I don’t know how other writers experience it, so maybe I’m not as alone as it feels. The term “writer’s block” seems so benign. Like “eek, I’m stuck, time to brainstorm” or “wrote myself into a corner” or “let’s take a walk to clear my mind and come back fresh.”

That’s not me.

When I hit a block, words desert me and I tumble face-first into a rock-strewn canyon. It’s dark and frigid and lonely, even walking hand-in-hand with my lover in the sunshine. A revelation smothers me, replacing the marrow in my bones with a certainty that I am nothing and will never amount to much more.

It’s not so much that no one will care what I have to say. That fear is quiet and constant, like a cat sleeping at my feet, occasionally hopping onto the table to flick my nose with its tail.

No, the writing depression is darker, more personal. It assures me that I do have a story worth telling; it encourages me that someone — maybe even just one person — needs what I have inside me, but I’ll never find the words to tell it. I am my own worst enemy and the only thing standing in the way of greatness.

If only I could shed the weaker parts of me. If only my brain could leave my damaged heart and trembling fingers for a stronger body. Or maybe it’s my heart — tender and full — that needs to escape the dictator in my brain, unfeeling and inconsiderate of the words trying to bleed freely. Maybe my skin is trapping the story, pressing it against muscle and bone instead of allowing it to burst into the world. If only I’d been born someone else, I wouldn’t have this problem. My imagination inside a stronger vessel would find its purpose.

In this dark place, I sit on the cold ground, my back pressed to the ravine wall, staring at characters I love more than life. Apologies whisper past my lips: “You should be real,” I tell them, “not me.” It isn’t fair — they have words to share, but a worthless creator who can’t hear them.

The hopeless void stretches in front of me, with no end in sight. I read other people’s words and know I could have said it better, if only my brain worked harder, if only my heart felt more (felt less?), if my hands held the pen with more authority, if my soul didn’t smother my words.

My chest aches, dull and hollow, like an empty mussel on the beach at low tide, picked over and baked. I hunker down to wait it out, desperately clinging to the fragile hope that — someday — words will return, and it will feel as if I could never fail.

I’ll ride that high as long as I can, until, inevitably, I tumble to the ground again. I could walk away from writing, but in the words of Anne Shirley: “I can’t help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It’s as glorious as soaring through a sunset… almost pays for the thud.”

 

A Too-Public Apology

I’ve gotten carried away on Facebook. This election was ugly and contentious and it stirred up a lot of “yuck” on both sides. After the shocking results (or not so shocking, if you’re that one professor who’s always right about presidential elections), everything came to a head.

Going into Election Night, I knew a lot of friends and family voted differently than me–and that was okay. One person — whom I love more than my own life, and who did not vote my way — posted her “I voted” sticker to Facebook, and someone else commented “I hope for the right one!” Now, this could have been a statement of solidarity, like “so did I and I hope we made the right choice.” But I saw red. I almost typed back something along the lines of “who are you to judge if someone’s choice is right or wrong? She voted for the right person for her and that’s all that matters here.” I was ready to throw down, all in defense of someone who basically canceled out my vote, because I loved her more than a stupid vote or a stupid four years or eight years or whatever it will be. (Instead, I raged to my husband and settled in to watch Hillary #crushit). And then I lost sight of that completely.

I’ve always known I’m very competitive and not the best loser, but this was not some game I could shake off the way I should have. I’ve written before my reasons that I personally could never support Trump; I didn’t realize until he won just how much my own understanding of my immediate world was wrapped up in this election. Suddenly, I didn’t see family, I just saw betrayal. I felt confused — probably because I never took the time to sit down beforehand and explain face-to-face with people what it is that drives my thinking, and therefore how I believe they must think, too. I was — and am — terrified of what this can mean for a country already so divided.

I lashed out on social media, in a defiant show of love behind a veneer of anonymity, a soapbox once-removed. And I hurt people with some of the things I’ve “liked”, some of the posts I’ve shared. I didn’t take the time to put into my own words my terror and my angst and my confusion. I won’t apologize for fearing for my country, or for feeling hurt or betrayed or confused, because this is how I feel, and I am allowed to process this in my own way.

But I do sincerely ask forgiveness for the hurt I’ve caused through a careless, too-public post, or the words I’ve endorsed without explanation or attempt to make them my own. Because I’d like to think that while I shared some of the same sentiments, my own words could have held more love and less accusations. It’s too easy, when one is hurt and scrolling through a newsfeed, to say “yeah!!” and just click ‘share’ rather than sit and think and scribble out her heart. It’s vulnerable and difficult, especially when that heart is already bleeding from wounds others don’t realize they’ve made. Wounds that might have been avoided, if we’d shared our hearts sooner.

Because the people I love — those who want to Make America Great Again and those who were #WithHer and those who chose neither — they feel the same as me. They fear for America, they want what’s best and they didn’t intend to hurt me anymore than I wanted to hurt them personally.

And maybe this whole post shouldn’t be public, either. Maybe it would be better served individually, but a public harming deserves a public acknowledgement that while I’ve been screaming about “love” for almost a week, I haven’t done a good job of connecting through love with those I care about. And maybe I’ve hurt someone without even realizing it, and I want them to know I’m sorry for that, too. Love is not a weapon, but a shield we should use to defend what’s precious against a ravenous world. I lost sight of that, and I’m sorry.

I love you.