10/19/10

Overwhelmed - Writing Your Life Can Be "Too Much Birthday"

I'm doing THIS again.

I'm spending way too much time inner-monologuing about how it's totally fine that I'm spending my Thanksgiving weekend at a Star Trek convention and jetting off to spend three days filming a webisode series based on theme parks and playing about an hour a day of Arkham Asylum, even though I definitely don't have the time to do any of those things.

I'm getting defensive and grumpy. With myself. This happens when I get really stressed out, and stress is just a natural part of every day life, but it becomes overbearing sometimes in graduate school. I'm in the home stretch with my thesis...I have five months to polish my book, lots of reviews to put it through, criticism to take, editing to do, and it's just really really hard right now for some reason. Maybe because I'm a Nonfiction writer, so I'm sifting through these really emotional life memories every day. They say that if you are a writer, that you should write the book you need to write first, the one you are just burning to tell...and there's some reason why I need to write this. I think I need to sort through my own childhood before I have children of my own, but that's all beside the point. (Writers sure can whine, can't we?)

True story...that's me.
When I was a kid, I was notorious for shutting down. I would zip myself into a closed sleeping bag and just lay in the middle of the living room floor in broad daylight and just try to disappear when I was worried or nervous. This happened often around holidays, when the suspense of knowing that soon it was going to be candy heaven or that Christmas would finally arrive simply became too much to bear. Yes, I can even get myself stressed out about the good things in life. I was notorious for weeping uncontrollably as a child on happy occasions and holidays, too overcome with emotion to function.  I spent my entire third birthday with my head in my hands at Chuck E. Cheese, crying over my vanilla cake and ice cream, scared of the animatronic gorilla and feeling a general combination of that Berenstein Bears, "Too Much Birthday" stress and twinges of guilt over everyone having to come together to celebrate my existence.

I was the Woody Allen of 1980's childhood.

Who am I kidding, I'm the Woody Allen of my late twenties. My point is, I worry. A lot. If worrying were a public service, I'd be a saint by now. But worrying is also terrible for my creativity. It sucks the life out of me. Stops me in my tracks during the re-drafting process of my book. I worry, am I getting it right? Will anyone be mad at me for what I'm writing? Whose feelings will I hurt? These are all terrible pitfalls of writing memoir.



But write a memoir I must. Write a memoir, I have. My first draft is finished. And now it's time to get on with it and finish it. Cut, rebuild, redraft, add, take away...just finish the dang thing. I'm staying off of Facebook, blogging less I'm sure you've noticed...doing everything I can to put my energy where it belongs. Not into clever status updates or cute lists of things or magazine articles or my carefully sculpted geek internet persona. (Which is authentic, but still...I blog about Star Wars, not my "writerly" ennui or what I ate for breakfast...that's a deliberate marketing choice.)

My energy is going into this book that I need to write to feel right with my life, with the world, with my future. Because I'm doing anything I can to distract myself. Because writing memoir is painful. It means writing out all the death and sadness and anger from your life. But I'm taking a page from the author Cathy Day, who also writes a lot about life in Indiana, and Haven Kimmel too...I'm writing "toward hope". Mining the good. I've had a great life, and I intend for the book to show that right alongside the pain. I hope it's funny. I hope I'm clever. I hope people like it, and me, and I'd be a big fat liar if I said I didn't care. After all, writers write to be read, don't they?

But weeping and cocoons are not really a practical way of dealing with stress for me anymore. (Not very socially acceptable either to lay on your office floor in a zipped up sleeping bag, crying uncontrollably.)

So what's an emotionally challenged geek gal to do at such a busy and challenging time of life?  What are your options when you're so overwhelmed, even with good things and work that you're grateful for, that your work begins to suffer ever so slightly?

Turn to Mary Poppins for life coach advice, naturally. "Find the fun, and snap, the job's a game!"



Cheeky indeed...someone tell me how to make a game out of redrafting a memoir and they'll get a billion dollar contract from Hasbro.

I guess it's back to the drawing board for me, maybe some private crying sessions...and I'd kill for a piece of vanilla cake right about now. (Hold the animatronic gorilla.)

1 comment:

Jake Williams said...

Would it be OK if I came along for that vanilla cake? I'd be real quiet and I'd beat away the animatronic gorilla if need be. Great piece. You've put your stress into words and even though I hate seeing your stressed out, I love reading about it.