I’ve been working this week on a story I started about a month ago (exactly a month ago, actually), the first draft of which is here. After I wrote that draft for the Trifecta Challenge, I realized there is something more here to explore, something I’ve been trying to write about for years and years: my grandmother’s cancer.
Okay, okay. The world is full of cancer narratives. I’m not saying it’s something that the market is lacking. But it’s something I’ve needed to get out of me ever since she passed away when I was eleven. And that’s the great thing about writing. I can do whatever I want. I tried to write about her passing twice before: once, as an obligatory (and mandatory) personal narrative in my seventh grade communications class; the other, when Husband’s cat passed away and I was angsty so I compared the death of a cat to the death of my grandmother in a not-very-good poem that will never see the light of day again (not the most ready comparison, I know, but I’m not sorry about it). So my track record of trying to write about this (and, for that matter, all other personal subjects) was not good.
But immediately after I posted that Trifecta draft, I knew there was something missing, and I’ve been rolling it around in my head for a month, trying to figure out how to pull this off without sounding like a whiny baby. This past Wednesday, I was slated to give a public reading as part of a graduate reading series at Miami, and because of the looming deadline and having nothing else, really, to share, I set my sights on finishing this story.
What that required me to do was to put myself into this sort of head space that shut out rational thought. I had to capture the rawness of the emotion, the details of my own experience that I had never shared with anyone. And that was brutal on my psyche. There are things that I haven’t told anyone about that experience, not even Husband, and there must be a reason for that. So what did I do? I wrote them down. And then I read them to a room full of people.
The result of this attempted catharsis was interesting, and not at all what a catharsis should be. All week, I’ve felt like an elephant is sitting on my chest — and some idiot keeps feeding the elephant, so it keeps getting heavier and denser. And it hasn’t gotten better yet. Still trying to push it off.
I even ranted out a tumblr post before realizing that it was way too angsty to actually publish, so I think it will stay in my “drafts” box for a while until I delete it. You’re welcome, Internet. But here’s a snippet from that:
I really am going to make a fool out of myself at this public reading tonight. I’m reading a piece that I wrote about my grandmother’s fight with cancer, and it’s pretty raw (to me at least). Maybe the truest thing I’ve ever written. If I cry in public I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do.
My main question: Is sadness a learned thing? Is it a socially acceptable response and so that’s why we feel this way?
I think I finally understand why writers drink the way they do. To write this kind of stuff is to put yourself in a head space that mentally fucks with you. Time for a glass of hard cider.
Yeah, asking the big questions. You see my angst. Be glad I didn’t copypasta the whole thing on here.
So yeah. That was my week. I’m going to try to find someplace that will take that story, so I won’t put the whole thing up here, but believe me, if it gets published I will be crowing from rafters and all that proverbial nonsense.
How about you, dear Readers? Have you ever written a story or a poem that put you in a weird place for a while? I would love to talk about it — there’s power in solidarity.