Thursday, October 18, 2007

Emily goes all sad and pensive on your ass

If I've sounded a little cranky lately it's because things haven't been going well. No need to go into detail, but something happened recently that kind of confirmed all my worst fears. Okay maybe more insecurities than fears; the sadistic clown I occasionally see in my dreams has yet to try to knife me in the clavicle so technically my worst fears are still safely tucked away. But in the meantime my personal life is kind of shamblesque and I can't stop feeling sad.

Ever get like that? Where you can't stop feeling sad? And it hurts to wake up and you try to act happy around everybody so they won't tell you the same optimistic cliches you'd tell them in the reversed position? And all you want to do is curl up in the closet under a pile of clothes and sleep until it goes away?

Yeah, me neither. That's crazy talk.

This is about when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I always wrote since I can remember knowing how. I once tried to sell a series of books at my elementary school and started writing a biography of my life when I was 9. It was mostly about my parakeets. In seventh grade I won a state contest with a choppy story about how much my real dad sucks. I was on the newspaper staff. I jotted down poems on the phone ordering pads at the Boston Market where I worked.

I went to college to study writing. But I didn't know it, feel it in my core until I wrote a short story about my childhood.

One morning during my college years I woke up in my dorm room and suddenly remembered a traumatic event I'd repressed since early childhood. My roommate was fast asleep, as was everybody else on campus. Even the drunk guys who used to slam the stop sign below my window and cuss up at the girls who'd tell them to shut up because people were sleeping - those guys were gone. And I saw this image that used to scare the piss out of me just hanging there over my head. I got up and went to my computer - a fabulous Apple IIC with spellcheck and everything - and began to type up a memory I'd only just then found in my head, but one that had plagued me my entire life in the subconscious.

I wrote it that night, I shared it next week in my creative nonfiction class, and the fear just evaporated like water on a tanning bed. It's that feeling all plagued writers know, that something swims around in your head, tying desperately to articulate itself and escape, because if the pain becomes words on a page it's malleable. You can change the story, make the good guys win. Make the bad guys pay. At the very least you can make somebody care.

That's probably why so many stories end with little girls beating up their daddies. I remember the Rouge Wave said that she saw a ton of scripts like that, therapeutic pieces where girls were using the script to fantasize about how they'd really like an encounter with Crappy Daddy to go.

The day she posted that I put away the script where the lead character punched her dad right before learning that he was miserable without her. Therapy, yes, but sellable, no. Thanks, Wavinatrix, for pointing that out.

But not all stories are meant to be sold. Some are the conduit for your emotions. That story I wrote in the middle of the night was the first good thing I'd ever written. I've lost the story since then, but I have a picture of me reading it at a coffee house to a small, smokey but sympathetic audience and I keep that picture on the fridge to remind me that no matter what pains you, it will always be okay in the end.

But only if you write it down.

What do you do to feel better when you're sad?


  1. When I first decided to try my hand at writing I sat down and wrote a script about the year my sisters and I spent living in a car with our father who was on the run from the law. I tapped into long forgotten memories and it was more therapeutic than the four years of therapy I had to go through in high school. It helped me accept a lot of things about my childhood. I was finally able to face the reality that my father wasn’t the great man I remembered, but an actually a physically, mentally and emotionally abusive man who did more harm than good to his children.

    For the past six years I have wanted to shoot this script. Your post today really gave me something to think about. While it was great for me to put this story down on paper it’s probably not something that a whole lot of people will want to see.

    Chin up Emily. Remember it takes more energy to frown then to smile.

  2. I get a lift from others' angst.

  3. I think I started writing as a form of therapy. It eventually grew into something else. I do, however, still find issues from my past popping up now and then.

  4. I get lost in music...

  5. "Ever get like that? Where you can't stop feeling sad?"

    Oh, from about ages 12 thru 35.

    But yeah, the last couple of weeks have been mostly down. Stressful times for me.

    One of the scripts I'm working on now has a daughter getting revenge on her father. I go back & and forth about it.

    "Is this situation too cliche? Will anyone care? No one wants to read scripts about angry young girls."

    Despite my reservations, I'm going ahead with it b/c I can't keep finding excuses not to finish my scripts. I've gotten very good at that.

    If I get negative responses, so be it. I'll put it away in a drawer. At least it comes from a real, honest place.

  6. Great post Emily.

    When I'm wickedly sad I either tickle my son until he erupts in laughter or ride my bike as fast as I can until my lungs explode.

    Either way I come away smiling.

  7. I play with my four year old because his world is books, toys, and games and he loves it when Daddy plays along.

    Unconditional love is so powerful.

    Also I have taken to watching Scrubs re-runs and I have the first two seasons on DVD. The show makes me laugh a lot.


  8. I like that a couple of you get joy out of your kids. All I see these days is people talking about how annoying their kids are, which makes me really question whether or not I want to have any.

    Kids bring joy, eh? Perhaps I can borrow one and see how that works.

  9. I would definitely agree that the little kids can bring joy to your life...

    Teenagers on the other hand...

  10. I bash things.

    I have a supply of old softball bats, axe handles, closet rods, pipes, and I grab one and wander into the local woods to find a bush -- wild yaupon holly works nice -- and then I beat the holy living shit out of that bush.

    Then I go home and shower up while enjoying a cold beer.

    Bingo bango, all better.

  11. Anonymous3:08 PM

    when I am truly down I dump a whole quart of Stoli into a jug of Kool Aid, strip down to my "yeah, baby!" and lube myself up non-stop.... great personal therapy, but the security at Walmart hate when I do that

  12. I know exactly how you feel. And you articulated the need to share fears in order to heal so are an amazing writer.

    If I ever figure out the sad thing I'll let you know.


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