Amber Michelle (myaru) wrote,
Amber Michelle

I don't remember how to write.

A search on “writing and grief” turns up some interesting stuff. Not the “how to write grief in your novel” stuff, which is all cookie-cutter and boring, but the links here and there about using writing to work through the experience of grief. The New York Times turned up a conversation between Joyce Carol Oates and Meghan O’Rourke about their respective memoirs on their own grief, and how they came to be written, which was pretty interesting, but also out of my area of expertise. (This journal excepted, I have no plans whatsoever to do autobiographical work. DW is just a place for me to whine, not an attempt at memoir.) I only perused the first search page, because I’m the embodiment of typical consumer behavior as researched by marketing firms, which insists that worship of the SEO gods is the only way to get read--i.e. get your link to appear on the first page of search results. Which...yeah, it’s true sometimes.

So anyway, some writers use writing to deal with tragedy. Many of the writers I know say they started writing for reasons like that. I feel like an alien for not doing that. I know that I’m not; lots of us wanted to be princesses or space commanders (or both at the same time), and started writing to make those dreams come true. Only, it seems like most people eventually get over the urge to write that and start trying to express deeper emotions or issues in their stories, and I never did.

So basically, all I’m good for writing is Mary Sue.

There might be some trauma behind that. Someday I’ll give in and start seeing a therapist, and those sessions will reveal that I write Mary Sues because I felt powerless when I was younger, and needed a way to deal with it or get away. Or--something like that. I’m not a therapist, so who knows.

It’s possible writing is my way of dealing with emotions and situations I didn’t fully know how to handle. Maybe it still counts. I can’t pick up my emotional ball-and-chain and use it to produce work, though--or even journal entries meant to clear my mind. Some things can’t be cleared out or dealt with that easily. If I sit down and think, today I’m going to write about so-and-so’s death, or today I’m going to talk about what it was like to do this hospice thing, it’s not going to happen. Nothing will come out. When I sat on the couch to watch my mother-in-law, just in case she woke up and needed water, morphine, whatever, I could not write. When I got home at the end of my “shift,” I couldn’t write. Had no desire to write, in fact. I didn’t write when she was in the hospital and we weren’t sure what the outcome would be; I didn’t write when we brought her home to start hospice care; I didn’t write when she died, or after, for a very long time. All I could think about when I tried was the sound of the oxygen unit, with that rhythm we all agreed was the perfect nightmare fuel. And the fact that she wasn’t here anymore. Two years later there are still moments it doesn’t feel real.

Everything stops when someone is going to die. During the six weeks we cared for Dash, I read twenty books because I couldn’t stand to think, but stopped listening to music, stopped talking to people, and did not write a single word. We didn’t watch anything, go anywhere. The silence got to the point where turning a page sounded as loud as ripping up a cardboard box or dropping a pan in the kitchen--a phenomenon I had always thought was a shortcut to writing these exact feelings in a way that “shows” instead of “tells,” only now I know it’s real. The sound of my pen on paper stopped me before anything like writing happened. Not that this made a difference, because there was nothing to say. “Yesterday was better. Today he won’t eat. Last night we discovered he couldn’t see when he tried to reach the water fountain.“

Even writing that much hurts. I don’t know how to use it to work through the emotion; I don’t need help crying about this. Normally I don’t cry, but rules are temporarily suspended, and it’s hard to stop.

I used to call this feeling writer’s block. It’s hard or impossible to write; no ideas, no words, hard to string sentences together in an aesthetically pleasing way. No desire to do so.

But this isn’t a block. Writing more doesn’t help the words flow, and my feelings aren’t blocking them. I just don’t want to write. Why should I write when someone important to me just died? Fuck writing. I don’t want to escape from it and I don’t need a story or journal to understand how I feel; I want to remember this person, this cat, and feel the hole their passing just created in my life, and learn to live with it. I need to cry my way through two boxes of kleenex.

After about a week I made myself start writing again every day. It isn’t hard, in the sense that I have ideas. I don’t feel “blocked” in that way. I often wonder if I have any future in this field because ideas I can turn into stories are hard to come by, or feel like they are, but that isn’t abnormal, or a sign of grief or block. I’m just not great at stories, and when I feel like this, staring out the window is much more appealing than trying to write one, and it isn’t necessarily an imperative to overcome that and start typing.

I’ve been forced before to learn, the hard way, that sometimes writing isn’t always the answer, no matter what Goldberg or whoever might say. Everyone is different. Sometimes it’s better to stop for a while. Feel things. Stare at things. If not for that time, I wouldn’t have realized how silent my world became when Dash was sick, and how that felt, how it was echoed by my feelings, and how that might be useful if I’m dumb enough to try to write about the experience later.

To be honest, writing feels pointless and unimportant right now, but it’s what I do, supposedly, so it’s getting done.

This entry was originally posted at Discuss here or there as you prefer.

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