Why oh why does writing feel less like a creative process sometimes and more like a home exorcism? There are days when I wonder if I should just haul myself on down to the nearest mental health facility because I am literally chased, haunted, and pestered by the words in my head.
Please tell me this happens to other people. No, wait. Don’t. Never mind. I don’t want to know…
Imagine the feeling you get when you are about to get a cold: scratchy throat, slightly congested head, all around feeling of malaise. As the night wears on, the sore throat usually gets worse and by morning, you are the proud owner of two nostrils that no longer function and a voice that sounds like it belongs to someone who swigs gin from the bottle and smokes 8 packs a day.
The production of an essay or a story is like that for me except without the physical symptoms. Last night was a case in point: it started in the afternoon with the words “Letter to Lorgill” floating in my head. Now, the fact that these words carried a lot of emotional baggage for me doesn’t really matter because it could be an essay about a raccoon in the tree outside my window just as easily. In fact, that’s coming later. The words multiply like those little furry creatures on an old episode of “Star Trek” – Tribbles? Soon, my head is roaring and pounding. For some reason, I resist. I try to do mundane chores to escape but this often makes it worse. I could be in mid-laundry sort when I am assaulted by a particularly good turn of phrase; I run from the basement to write it down and BAM! no one has any clean underwear.
Which leads me to another problem. I can NOT write in public. When I am being chased, haunted, and pestered by the words in my head, I no doubt resemble someone who should be committed with all due haste. I mutter, I pace, I pound the keyboard and exclaim in frustration. I perspire and I tear at my hair. I bite my nails. I do everything but froth at the mouth (although if I’m drinking a latte, it might appear that I do that too). Sometimes, I bleed. This happens if the words assault me when I am in the shower shaving my legs.
I could not write in public; I would be arrested. My husband might bail me out the first time but he would tire of it fairly quickly, I’m sure. My children would lose friends. We would have to move.
Once the essay, story or whatever has been put down in some semi-coherent form, I am free. I spring from my chair, sometimes with a tear-stained face, and feel released from my chains…until the next torrent of words comes pouring in. Now, about that baby raccoon…