Thursday, January 19, 2012

On resembling a maudlin poet

I don't believe in stereotypes about writers. We aren't alll chain smoke (I just quit, thank you very much), job hopping (stably employed), tattooed (I only have 3), moody (Ok, you got me there), morose, wanderers dressed in black, despite what many a movie and most of the beatnicks might tell you. If being a part of the writing blog community has taught me anything, its that today's writers are the most diverse, dedicated, and supportive group of people I can imagine.

But I am working on a project that has me resembling a beat poet more and more (you know, save the drugs).

Even before my mom died, she and I talked about me writing a story about caring for someone with cancer, but not in the traditional way. I never wanted to write- nor did she want to read- an uplifting, you-can-do-it cancer story. We never discussed a morose, woe-is-me tale either, but looked at the book as the not-so-simple truth about what it is like to watch someone you love that much slowly die.

And since her death a year and a half ago, I have attempted so many times to sit down and outline. Normally, I am good at beginnings-- I can begin a story all day. But this one, well, the words wouldn't come. And finally right before Christmas I decided to tell a story about cancer through the eyes of someone very much like me. We'll call it inspired fiction. Clearly, this story will be heavily influenced by my own experiences, but I have very much fictionalized it, partially because there were so many moments during my mother's illness that are mine and I don't want to share, and partially to respect the privacy of everyone else who was so heavily involved in her illness.

And here is where the stereotype comes in: writing this has had such a profound impact on my mood.

I have to write this book for reasons I cannot begin to explain to myself, and yet I feel like I just survived a war and immediately diving back into the conflict. I think about waiting, and then realize that the details of my experience that are so crucial to defining the experience of my narrator are softening. The visceral and raw emotion behind caring for a cancer patient are vital to this story. In fact, without them, there is no story.

Nonetheless, this is reliving everything, and I know the perceptible change in my mood is there. I'm back to talking about Mom more and more, as much as I did shortly after her death, because it is all at the forefront of my mind. I see people around me subtly react when I bring her illness up again and yet I cannot keep the words in. I had finally moved past daily sobbing, and yet here it is again because it is all being dredged back up.

And so, here is the warning that blogs to come for the next several months may border on the maudlin. My biggest hope is that I can keep away from the damned cigarettes that I got hooked on while living the ordeal in the first place.

Here goes nothing...

1 comment:

  1. I don't smoke. Never did. I have one tattoo. Of Thumper. On my butt. Not exactly terrifying. Yep, I get moody. And my favorite pants to write in are my black (with bleach stain) yoga pants.

    Wow, you are dealing with a tough project, especially since you've experience it. Good luck with it!