It’s been a while since I’ve put together a PT post, and this seems about the right time. Why? Because after the last week I’ve had, wallowing in self-loathing and lamenting my state of affairs, I realized there was something I desperately needed.
A swift kick in the ass.
Going through transitions in life can be taxing. Changing job descriptions, if not entire careers; moving from one domicile to another; cutting back on utilities or luxuries; getting by on basic foodstuffs as much as possible just to stretch out one’s currency. Any of these things can take a toll on a person, and having to deal with more than one at once can be harsh. A lot of negative feelings can arise from such a predicament, but those feelings are not all that different from others that you can use.
As a matter of fact, here’s a rehash of what I discussed previously in terms of using negative emotions.
I know I’ve covered using your anger previously, but invoking a Star Wars reference never gets old. Still, if something is making you furious, with fists and teeth clenched regardless of how other people are telling you how to react (doesn’t the words “Oh, you’re over-reacting” make you want to punch someone in the face?) you need to expend that energy, and preferably without damage to property or invoking personal injury lawsuits. If you’re a writer, what do you do?
Write a fight scene.
Get into the headspace of a person involved in a barroom brawl. Hell, write about someone starting said brawl. Did someone say something to a significant other you didn’t like? Is someone chatting up a friend of yours without permission? Not enough booze in your drink? Write about how it makes you feel, how the fury wells up inside you and how the sensation of wheeling around and letting someone have it right in the face touches off the kind of chair-breaking bottle-throwing grand melee unseen since the days of John Wayne.
You’ll probably feel a bit better, and nobody will be suing you.
Let’s face it. We’re all afraid of something. It could be bugs, rejection, alienation of friends, cars, bacteria, being laughed at, loneliness… I could go on. The bottom line is, sooner or later your fear is going to grab hold of you. Grab hold of it right back and go dancing.
Try a ghost story.
Something goes bump in the night. You catch an unfamiliar or unexpected motion in the corner of your eyes. The lights go out, and the shadows seem to grow to fill the empty space. Do you start sweating? Does your hand start to shake? How fast is your heart pounding? What voices do you hear? What do you imagine is lurking there in the darkness? It could just be the cat. It might be your spouse in the next room unaware that you’ve hit the light switch. Or it could be a phantasmal fiend from beyond the grave. Write it out and see where your fear takes you.
More than likely, it’s not a place as frightening as you thought it might be.
Despair, anxiety, paranoia… they’re all cut from the same cloth. “Should I have said that?” quickly becomes “I shouldn’t have said that,” which leads to “I’m an idiot for having said that.” Sure, sometimes you make a legitimate mistake and need to clean the egg from your face. Other times, something with good intentions turns out getting tossed under a steamroller paving the road to Hell. Whatever the cause, you’re left with this cloying feeling of inner doubt and depression, and you need to do something about it, otherwise it’s going to consume you.
Time to write a walk through the rain.
Rain is an evocative weather condition. The sky’s the color of gunmetal, the sun or stars hidden from view, the rain cold and relentless on the weary traveler and the wind makes sure that every surface of the body is wet. Yet people walk through it, alone with their thoughts. “What if I’m wrong? What could I have done to keep this from happening? How much have I lost, and can any of it be rescued? And what the hell am I going to do now?” Write through the thought process. Describe the rain drops, the thunder, the looks of people cozy in their warm homes or places of business, the way others are ignorant of your inner conflict. Work with the emotions. Coax them out of the shadows and into your hands where you can change them from a disability to an advantage.
Those, to me, seem to be the big three negative emotions that can come out of daily life’s trials and tribulations. My point is no less sapient now than it was then, at least in my humble opinion: When you’re wrestling with a negative emotion, the temptation can be to put off writing while you deal with ‘important’ stuff even if there’s no way you can further your cause. You’ve made phone calls, written checks and begged for ways to avoid filing for bankruptcy or shopping the local dumpsters for usable cardboard boxes that’d make fine apartments for you and your family. What are you going to do in the meantime, wallow in your self-loathing? Play more games you’ve already beaten? Pick your nose? It’s better to try and do something useful. Even if nobody else is going to see it, even if it’s just to get something off of your chest, if you are a writer then you need to write. Stay in practice. Put words on paper. Write.
It can be tough and this is advice that more often than not I need to follow myself. But it bears repeating which is why I’ve essentially repeated myself here.
But, really, what the hell else am I going to do?
March 23, 2010 at 11:37 am
great post Josh. I agree. Hope things get better for you man.