Two whole Tuesdays ago I addressed my relationship with regards to my writing because, shockingly enough, many people speculate that what is happening in my poems is happening in real life. This means that if I write about adultery, either I’m committing it or my husband is.
Similarly, when I write about suicide, depression, or other dark, potential taboo topics it does not mean I am in that place. But, for some reason, this is harder to convince people of. Even if they know me in real life.
Rest assured, I’m fine. I’m a writer which means I have some quirks…but I am fine.
Believe it or not, I can understand where the concern comes from and many times I appreciate it. Especially if it’s coming from someone I might not see often, in real life, or that I’m open with. In that case, I think it’s a very smart idea to reach out and check in on people.
However, people seeing the joy in my life along with the pattern of the type of work I write will confront me with the “truth” that I am depressed, suicidal, and need to be happy.
Don’t worry this isn’t a personal rant. But I’m sure that many of you poets and horror writers might encounter similar reactions.
To those of you who hae experienced this… don’t worry! You’re not alone.
And to the concerned parties out there, let me help you out.
First things first, let’s get it in our heads that not every single writer is a depressed alcoholic who stays up all night looking in the stars for answers. I know that we’re a weird bunch. And we certainly like to model characters after people. And we eavesdrop so we don’t suck at writing conversations. And yes, I do know we are weird. But that doesn’t mean that we fit all the stereotypes. Sure. A great number of writers are depressed or have faced depression. There are a lot who are alcoholic two. But you don’t have to be those things because you’re a writer.
Coming into a conversation with the preconceived notion that every writer is a depressed drunk sets up a whole list of worries for you to fret over. If a person is depressed and drinking, clearly the poem about suicide is a desperate cry for help! Except, what if they aren’t drinking? Aren’t depressed? What then?
Each writer is different. Being friends with writers is tricky. We’re passionate, secluded, and very introspective. At least, some of us are. And it can be really confusing to figure out if what you’re reading is fact or fiction.
That brings me to point two. It’s not your business. If you know someone who seems 100% okay but their writing is twisted and warped, let it go. Writing is very cathartic and many of us do use it as a way to express our emotions. It might not be something that happened today, it might be ten years ago, but our ability to process things lies in our words. A lot of the time at least.
Constantly asking someone what their work means and if they’re okay and if they’re sure begins a process of restriction. If I’m weaving my emotions into a piece and someone keeps attacking my state of mind for it, I’m not going to show them anymore. In fact, I’ll distance myself from that person as much as I can because how I feel when I write something is personal.
You are here to read the story. If it’s not your speed, don’t read it. If you’ll only see invisible strings tied to the writer’s life…don’t read it. That’s not why they wrote it.
Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if every single time you went to do something at work people would ask you questions about your life even if it doesn’t relate. You drop a stapler and cuss. Someone pops by “Is that because you were beaten as a child?” You would think they were crazy!
It’s not comfortable to constantly face a barrage of questions especially as a writer who doesn’t cover very normal things. If I write about rape, I ask if I’ve been raped. If I write about suicide, I get asked if I’ve been suicidal. If I write about incest, I get asked if my family molested me. If I write about sadness, I get told I must be sad.
Now listen, this is nasty. It’s extremely rude to confront someone like that. Even if they had ben raped, suicidal, molested, or sad that does not mean you ask about it. Would you want to be asked about something like that? Again, writing is cathartic and it processes a lot of things but unless it’s title “non-fiction” you don’t have any business assuming that it’s about reality.
And you certainly have no business confronting them about it.
So, let’s look at a piece I wrote.
I feel monstrous, ugly like the bugs inside tarnished wood. Sickly like the tar seeping from the thoughts of this house.
It’s the devil inside me! The ram’s head. The horns. The womb making me fertile as the green earth beneath my feet. That’s what makes my lungs fill and empty with wonderous madness.
Still, the breath burns at my edges, ruining my complexion like the curled, ashen corners of a photograph. It undulates beneath crawling skin. It’s a fire burning wet like waves within.
From my destroyed lips pour grievances in the form of laughless joy. What a beautiful day to live in dying eyes!
That post, from my Instagram, was not about anything self-hatred related. Though I’m not sure everyone would believe me.
Honestly, this post contains bits and pieces from my PMDD. Aha! It does come from reality. Well…no.
To dissect this, really dissect it, we have to be honest with one another, okay?
My brain was in a wandering, creative mood. Seeing an old cobweb on one of the logs kicked off the entire first paragraph. There was no tar (or the symbolic negativity) oozing from the floorboards. But how cool would that be?? Evil Dead style. Which…I had watched the night that picture was taken.
The second paragraph is about PMDD and how it can make me feel. At the moment of the photo and the time I wrote this piece I was fine…just on my period. So, of course, my brain was thinking about PMDD. This piece is how traditionally years and years ago many women were demonized, maybe even considered witches or sinners because of their anatomy. You look at the uterus, the ovaries, blah blah and you can see a ram’s head with curled horns. Kinda cool right?
I guess I always found that fascinating. To bleed, for me, is a symbol of fertility the lines after the imagery of the ram are a kind of reconciliation with suffering because the idea that I am capable of supporting life (I think) brings me to a place of balance. I’m not throwing my hands up and saying all my suffering is worth it but I am finding a comfortable middle ground where I can recognize they balance out, for me.
Then, I thought about the fire. I thought about when the flames are gone the red heat moves through the logs like water. You can see it through the bark. You can see it moved by the wind like waves. It gave me pause to realize how similar the two opposing elements are.
The final paragraph is up to you.
Removed from me, the author…what do you think it means? What does it mean to you?