22 February 2013

The Hopelessly Romantic Writer (Emphasis on the "Hopeless" Part): A Micro Rant On Love, Loss, and Getting Through February Without Having a Complete Mental Breakdown

by Jody Aberdeen

All aboard the Bitter Train, with whistle-stops at Singlesville, Lonesome Prairie, and, you guessed it, the Heartbreak Hotel. Get your tickets out and hold on tight: this ride's gonna suck and we don't serve peanuts. (Wait, they do serve peanuts on trains, right? No? Well, they do now.)

I've never been a fan of February even before it became the unofficial "Love Month" after about a decade of chocolate hearts and exchanging Valentine's cards at school ("You Choo-Choo Choose Me", in keeping with the train theme). Even when I was in my relationship, the lead up to February 14th and even the rest of the month was just one giant bubble of peer pressure to out-romance the other couples in our networks.

Then, when I became single, and those couples disowned me (as couples tend to do when le divorce strikes their comrades), the new challenge became fending off the artificial pressure to find someone so I could have this perfect "Valentine's" moment, along with balancing my own feelings of loneliness.

Well, fie to all of that. Fie, I say!

Now, these aren't uncommon complaints, but as it happens, I am a writer and a creative person, and at the risk of sounding like a stereotype, my skin is thinner than most people, despite my best efforts at swagger and confidence when I'm out at parties or at my day job in retail.

And so having a holiday about love, sex, and romance that's grown, amoeba-like, from the 14th of the month into the month itself, I think I could be forgiven if it opens up a few things that I normally keep locked up under my bed the rest of the year.

Write For Catharsis

My first book, Convergence, is a science fiction romance, consisting of about 1/3 an old idea about soulmates and alternate dimensions, but 2/3 catharsis as I worked some psychological damage control after my marriage ended three years ago. As such, I have a track record of successfully processing out heavy emotions involving love and loss into a great piece of writing.

To that end, I've started an erotic sci-fi/horror story, hopefully finished by the end of next week, that will hopefully capture these feelings, honour them, and then put them somewhere safe and half-way productive, kind of like a carbon sequestration for the soul.

If the bad feels lead into a great story and get me a writing credit to boot, then it's almost worth it. Almost....

Sex Transmutation, Winter, and the Kobayashi Maru of Positive Thinking

Thing is, I'm not completely satisfied with writing catharsis, because around this time of year, the feelings run on this spin cycle, like a Superstorm Sandy of confluences between the winter weather outside (I read somewhere that NASA astronauts on long duration missions would experience similar emotions to SAD because of the lack of the colour green in their experience) and all of these feelings that Love Month drums up for me. Everything just swirls around until the spring, and the sky may be bright and blue one day, but get cloudy and sleeting the next.

Writing is indeed my One Thing that I'm going to be doing the rest of my life, regardless of pay and benefits, but when it becomes almost exclusively a tool for emotional stability rather than a creative outlet, it stops being fun, and then I just don't feel like doing it. That short story will probably miss its deadline unless I have some kind of turnaround on the inside.

But I'm also tired of my personal development practices that tell me to be positive all the time just like that: to me, that's a dishonouring of my authenticity. Sure, I'll get back there, but I have to process first.

Yet still, I have to be careful not to start re-ingesting the crap I've been venting out (sorry for the image, but it's the only way to describe it accurately), which then just feeds the cycle.

The whole thing is a little like the Kobayashi Maru (watch Star Trek II or even the J.J. Abrams movie if you don't get the reference). Nothing really to do but keep going. That's the key: persistence.

Interestingly, our fearless leader Carrie Bailey recently mentioned Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. There's a chapter on "Persistence" that I read over and over again when I'm on my upswing. Check it out if you haven't, as well as the chapter called "The Mystery of Sex Transmutation", which I recently blogged about on my site and which is in keeping with Love Month.

Life vs Fiction

(Audible sigh). I guess I don't know how to end this mini rant. At one of my writer's guild meetings before Christmas, we had a deep conversation about if many writers become torn between creating interesting characters and becoming them. Hemingway is the chief archetype of this idea, but you look at the lives of most writers in the English language, and you see this Bohemian blend, contrasting stripes of tragedy, emotional instability, privilege and poverty, and almost always a touch of otherwordly inspiration: all traits that themselves are worthy of novels.

Yesterday, I saw The Words starring Dennis Quaid and Bradley Cooper, one of the finest and accurate (and devastating) movies made in recent years about the reality of becoming a career author. Near the end, someone says the following line: 'You have to choose between life and fiction. The two are very close, but almost never touch."

More than most, Love Month makes me highly self conscious, which hurts my ability to write about anything else other than my own life, one that isn't nearly as interesting or as relevant as Hemingway's, I'll admit (though it would make a fantastic comedy of errors, I'll admit, perhaps starring George Lopez as my older, wiser self).

As always, though, I have my vocation to get me through the winter, at times like these I can't help but think about the improvements I need to make in my life, especially in the romance department: putting myself out there again, taking down that ten foot wall around my heart or at least expediting the search for the girl with an eleven foot ladder cleverly concealed in her deceptively small purse. Or, possibly just dropping the pursuit altogether and seeing what else I can do to fulfil myself.

I'll be fine come the spring, honestly, but for now, I do what I was born to do, and write my present truth in fiction.

(This is the part where I'm supposed to refer back to the train metaphor I started with, but I'll leave my fellow Peevish citizens to do that...what do you guys think?  Try to make it end on a high note: this is admittedly a downer post).

1 comment:

  1. Jody - I think you meant it humorously, that you read the chapter on Persistence over and over again when you're on your upswing in Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. But I can't tell... I feel you in this post. I am hearing you and I agree that the idea that the entire month be dedicated to love is a bit absurd when you think about the fact that many marriages sadly end in divorce. Love is not an illusion, but sometimes it feels like fiction. I have no train metaphor other than to borrow from Watty Piper's The Little Engine that Could and remind you to keep going and never give up. Love yourself first... then let it come down on you like a grand piano. (For some reason, I think of Looney Toons when Valentine's Day is on the menu.)