Michael also has an excellent blog, filled with much goodness.
Michael also has an excellent blog, filled with much goodness.
I’ve struggled with depression for years. It started with my multiple sclerosis and was the first symptom spotted. Coincidentally, I restarted writing.
My family always tells me I’m the creative one, the one who thinks oddly, out of the box (though I would argue my older brother is also gifted in this area – and my kids are wildly so). I know that, during my brief career in management, I was often on a completely different page than many. This led to feelings of failure and isolation and utter hopelessness…
So, now, I’m having a bad bout with the MS – blurred vision, muscle spasms, pain, confusion, the whole package. And depression. And I feel at these times, any challenge is beyond me, AND, at the same time, my life is meaningless if I don’t do something important. It’s a tough place to be stuck. So I decide to quit everything I am doing and try new things in a flurry of trying to succeed at anything, anywhere.
Along comes Maria Popova’s excellent Brain Pickings today: Creativity and Mental illness. Sometimes, at my most paranoid, I think she secretly knows me, her postings are so appropriate for the day…
And suddenly I don’t feel so alone. There are many others here in the murk (with occasional northern lights and lightning) here with me.
Now all I have to do is decide. Do I quit the writing game? Or do I listen to my chafing neurons and continue?
I know I am by no means the first to cheer this wonderful book about writing and life and joy and jealousy and competitiveness and outgrowing that and love and loss. It’s one of the MUST READ books in any writer’s (or person’s) collection.
But I had it out last night for some inspiration and came across the lines below and they made me laugh out loud. She’s commenting about how she takes index cards with her everywhere to note down things since she (like me and many of us) forgets them unless she does. I know I travel with piles of little notebooks to write down little phrases and such. (I hear you can also do it on Evernote but my battery runs down with astonishing regularity and there’s nothing to beat a pencil and paper in the rain.) She’s figured out how to fold the cards and her pencil so she doesn’t look bulky, even.
But here’s what she says about this need to write things down:
I think that if you have the kind of mind that retains important and creative thoughts – that is, if your mind still works – you’re very lucky and you should not be surprised if the rest of us do not want to be around you. I actually have one writer friend - whom I think I will probably be getting rid of soon – who said to me recently that if you don’t remember it when you get home, it probably wasn’t that important. And I felt eight years old again, with something important to say that had suddenly hopped down one of the rabbit holes in my mind…
Emphasis mine. How wonderfully witchy of her!
That’s the thing about writing. Because no one really KNOWS how it’s done, we’re all out here in the wilderness stumbling along, and the slightest little thing can make us feel eight again and hushed up again and told to stop that talking and shouldn’t you be doing something constructive? again.
Reading Anne Lamott brings me back. I may be only eight with little to say, but at least I have a friend here, and perhaps we can play with our word blocks together.
Come join us, if you haven’t already. Anne Lamott also writes great books on faith and life and so forth – depending on your religious stance, these may or may not be for you – but in all things she comes across as a gal I’d love to have a lemonade with and laugh til our stomachs ached.
And then we’d write. And write. And write.
Don’t you just love it when you open a fresh new book and, especially if you are the very first one to get it from the library and it has that scent of new adventure all over it, and you turn to the first page and realize the author is a friend you just haven’t met yet?
I’m on page EIGHT, for heaven’s sake and already I see the rest of the day before me, curled up with Ms. Lesser and a cup of tea and wallowing in her excellent writing and wisdom.
She starts off addressing the readers of her book, something she says she’s not done before, as usually she writes what she writes and hopes people like it at the end (apparently they do, judging from her publication list). This time is different, she says:
But with this book – perhaps because it so often contemplates the very relationship between writer and reader, speaker and spoken to in the works of literature I have loved – I find myself wondering about who you are? Are you a young person…, or are you an older person…? Do you come from a background similar to mine, or are we completely unlike in all sorts of ways? I would hope that the answer might be “all of the above”, and perhaps it can be, for the written word, at least as embodied in the English language, allows “you” to be both singular and plural. It’s not only the writer who can say, with Walt Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes”. That truth applies to readers as well. (p.8)
I think I may just take my multitudes for a gentle stroll through this book for an hour or two before I start my writing day. I can already see tea with Ms. Lesser is going to be interesting, comfortable, and stimulating. How I love meeting a new literary friend!
Gawd. I am losing it, and so, apparently, is the rest of the world. Everyone is fighting one another, my sodding first-born is still not speaking to me with extreme prejudice, journalists are being kidnapped and women everywhere are being killed and raped and abused and by golly jinkums, I am just about ready to lose it and go postal on the entire place. And don’t get me started on the mess that is this Canadian government, else I shall shoot coffee out of my nose and burn you with the effluent.
It’s hard being cheerful in such a world. I find it almost impossible. Why just the other day I thought, quite seriously, about driving my car into a tree. What’s it all FOR, anyway? We don’t seem to be progressing, we dwell in hatred and anger and the urge (ever larger) to cling to the almighty penny rather than share a wee bit with anyone else.
What the hell is wrong with us all.
Oh yeah, and I’m writing crap. For my course. Which means I will have to send it to someone I respect and feel her frustration and watch the edits mount up online. Which of course is the worst thing of all the above…
Just kidding. The world sucketh anon. But if it weren’t for people like Helen Humphreys and Roald Dahl and Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett and Stella Gibbons and Bronwyn Wallace and Norton Juster and A.A.Milne and Edward Gorey and Jose Saramago and Donna Morrissey and PG Wodehouse and Nancy Mitford and Kermit, it would sucketh more, much much more.
And so off I toil, in the hope that somewhere in all this random verbiage, a flicker of magic may occur that makes some of this soul-sucking world make sense, even for a moment.
Interesting blog, well worth a follow (I did) but this article particularly good for writers who have trouble naming their characters. All of my characters’ names tend to start with M, for example.
In “the Secret Life of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4″, by the hilarious Sue Townsend, Adrian’s class is on a field trip when the bus driver, driven to the ends of his nerves, submits to motorway madness. All of the kids arrive home safely, but shaken, and the bus driver gets a well-deserved rest.
We’ve all been there, right? In the car, with howling kids? My oldest son just about lost his hearing thanks to the endless screaming by the middle one. I’ve felt that madness slip over me. (My sister still tells the story of me putting them out of the car.)
Well, today a different madness came over me. I started submitting things to publishers and journals. All sorts of things. Stories that have lain fallow for months, little ditty poems that struck my fancy, shorter or longer versions of other works in progress (called WIPs by the trendy Humber).
It’s not strictly speaking a sane process. I mean, I could work on these stories longer, could probably edit them for another few years, but there’s something about being in this crazy Humber program that makes me want to take it all seriously, start sending things about. It’s been a while since I was published, except in our local grass-roots poetry journal, OHForgery (which I love).
Oh, I’ve sent things in for competitions, sure. Won a few. Placed in a few others. But going for the publication thing – hesitant. See, in a contest, you can always argue there were so many competitors that you couldn’t possibly be expected to win. So when you don’t, that’s cool. No self-abuse required.
But when a journal writes back, no sorry, this isn’t for us, well, it chews a bit of your soul away. Immediately you start the inner walk of shame.
So today, I’m sending out submissions like I used to send out flirts in online dating. Send out lots, you don’t notice the no replies as much. Someone usually replies pleasantly…
Of course, if I don’t, I’ve got some lovely Writers Tears to drown my sorrows…
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