This was mostly originally posted in 2017 on No Pithy Phrase, but it’s writing related and immediately applicable, so I’m cannibalizing my own earlier work (with a few slight edits).
It’s been difficult getting the stories straight in my brainpan lately. I don’t know anyone else who has a couple of witches, a banshee, a giant eagle, a djinn, and Death all pissed off at once in their heads. <sigh> Look, I can’t help it that Death had a chicken episode…HE’S THE ONE WHO LOST THE BET. But that’s a tale for another day. He’s going to have to wait in line behind the noisier Folk. At this moment an Eagle who eats bits of a god every day has been pecking at me. She’s found a way out.
I hoard words.
When I’m unwell, when the darkness descends and I can’t reach my characters anymore, I lock my words in a musty mental trunk and pile distractions on the lid. I talk only about the most mundane and shallow topics. I write only grocery lists and technical documentation for my day job at an insurance company. I become a makeshift Pandora, barricading myself in the dark with magazines and Netflix binges, because chancing the loss of the light is unfathomable.
Those few who know the signs give occasional gentle nudges, entreaties, or quiet “maybe you should write a little” comments. One consistently braves bloody retribution with bald reminders that I’m full of bitchcraft when I’m not writing, and would I please go kill something (on paper of course) so I feel better.
My writing group has dwindled over the past years to a single lovely voice reminding me to stop watching YouTube videos and just fucking WRITE.
But my words are hoarded. I am Gollum guarding my precious: woe to anyone who forces the lid open before I’m ready.
Woe to the characters locked away; it gets crowded in there.
A polite knock from inside the trunk prompts a gentle conversational poke from my conscience about books requiring attention. It’s irritating. I ignore them both and watch Fallon videos on YouTube.
A more insistent pounding jiggles the trunk’s lid. My writing group gives me a deadline for pieces they can critique. It’s grating. I finally read the non-fiction ancient history book I’d promised to review months ago.
The prisoners lose their polite patience; a small army of angry dwarves with pickaxes strikes constant blows from beneath the lid. My head is full and I’m cranky.
Eventually my bravest beloved gives me the LOOK, with a heavy knowing sigh, and reminds me that I NEED to write to be well, because stewing is somewhere south of favorable for all of us. It’s infuriating, and I watch terrible horror movies.
Eventually, no matter how far I withdraw from the world and myself, I return. I find a smidgen of energy. I shut off the TV. I set the junk food books aside. My stubborn streak subsides enough to let sense take over, and I hear their commentary, inside and out. I open the box, careful not to damage the lock: no doubt I’ll need it again.
The emotional sludge is fetid, a backup that needs lancing in order to let characters out. I write for my own escape, for that painful release that only comes with a pressure valve’s opening. A tirade of furious handwriting in a half-full journal, words gallop out of their prison in illegible ink. Pages fill with garbage that’s been swirling inside for weeks, and I sigh when my hand cramps around the pen: the constant buzzing finally goes quiet in my head.
Some people worry their secret lives will come to light after their death. Pacts are made: promises given to delete or burn anything a loved one might find distressful. I fear Death will come get me for the chicken thing before I’m finished letting everyone out, and that anyone reading my journals without knowing my writing cycle would assume I’m constantly miserable. In truth, journals are the key to opening the trunk of clamoring tales waiting impatiently for their turn to escape my head and slip out into the world.
Writing is the way I become well, and remain myself through the cycles of exhausted apathy. Under the onslaught of random plots announcing themselves at inopportune moments, my notebooks fill with the new inspirations and I have enough to stay busy until the next bout of darkness.
Now. Where are my notes on That Damned Bird.