There’s a special kind of bakedness that accompanies sleep deprivation. My 18 month old did not nap today, and was up from midnight untill 5 am this morning. I am that sleep-deprived level of baked right now, so bear with my zombie-like status and forgive any nonsensical shiz that I might drum up.
I have actually never really sat and thought about the martyr aspect of writing. I mean, I’ve definitely had moments where I feel like I have to write; I should write. I write fan fiction and, to my significant glee, have a nice little following of readers who really demand updates to my stories. It’s an amazing feeling, but I also feel guilty a lot because I don’t update as much as I wish I could. I’m not sure that I’ve ever considered myself a martyr, but I’ve definitely acted in that way, I think.
I’ll get a notification for a review to a story and read someone’s post begging me to update, or giving me compliments that literally make me blush at my computer screen. I mean, is it martyrdom that I love that feeling? I love when someone loves what I’ve written. I love feeling like I’ve given this piece of my mind to someone else so that they can escape their reality and live in the story for awhile.
That being said, I don’t play the martyr, but I would say that I am sometimes a martyr to writing. Not even just writing, but any bit of creativity. I feel so compelled to do something, to create something, and sometimes I have no idea what to do. Write? Read? Paint? (Yeah, right. I can’t paint.) Colour? I can definitely colour. I am not embarrassed to own colouring books and you shouldn’t be either. It is very relaxing and I love colours. I love vibrance and pastel and vividness and every shade of every colour. Except puce because the name is disgusting and the colour is too.
Sometimes I push out a chapter just because people keep asking for one. It won’t even be a particularly good chapter. I believe the fandom of fanfic calls it “fluff.” I write a fluff chapter just to give them something. I wish I had swarms of ideas, but sometimes I’ve got nothing. I try to think up storylines or ideas but I come up empty and then feel even more guilty, and also stupid. What kind of writer can’t write? (I’ve learned over the years: all of them.)
Have you ever heard that quote — I think it was Margaret Atwood who said that any art form is just a way of evading suicide. Elizabeth Gilbert puts it way less bleakly when she wrote, “The nightmare of artistic torment is the ethic that says that our suffering shall be our badge of honour as artists, and that our genius will ultimately destroy us.” I love this quote, I love this concept, because I agree with it completely. Gilbert goes on to say that we need to stop thinking this way, but for me, personally, I haven’t had much luck.
Introverts in general see the world differently. We feel differently. I basically always feel like some kind of alien that was dropped here as an experiment. I feel like my heart is a thousand years old and like it feels everything; I feel like I am not like other people. Seeing someone cry makes me cry. Seeing stories about dogs being abused literally ruins my day. I ugly-cried for an hour when I heard about these two asshole kids in England who beat their English bulldog so badly that she later died. God, I can’t even talk about this now. I actually really wish them dead. I know that’s fucked up or cruel or whatever, but I believe the world would be a better place without people like that in it. Suffice to say that things like that affect me heavily. I cannot ignore my artistic torment.
I see, I feel, I need to write. I need to get it out, otherwise it festers in my soul like a black hole and gnaws on me from the inside.
I love the idea of Gilbert’s where she says that there is a different path; one that says that you are neither the slave to your muse, nor the master — you are its partner. I mean, it’s a really nice idea. It’s comforting to imagine that my head/heart is not in fact a tiny devil, but is a little cherub baby, with fat cheeks and an abnormal blush about their face. (I wouldn’t want that as my partner, for the record. I’d want Lagertha or something. Someone badass but also a gem to hang out with.)
My need to write and the way I feel things and the heaviness that comes with being an introvert who feels everything has always felt like a torment. It’s never been a joy to prefer spending time in my own head rather than interact with the world. Sometimes I wish I was just “normal” and didn’t need to take a breather from other human beings because I feel like I’m about to explode. There are people who thrive on company; they need it. How do you do this? The only beings that I can spend endless amounts of time with? Dogs. Dogs all day. They’re so much better than people, and they never barge in when I’m writing and ask what I’m writing. And goddammit, do I hate when someone does that. As if it’s any of their business what I’m writing!
What if I’m writing a super sexy chapter for my fic? I’m not going to say, “Just typing out, in detail, how this guy is plowing into this woman faster than a teenager because their passion for each other is just too much.” No. Never ask me what I’m writing. I don’t come to you and ask what you’re thinking about. Because minds are private, and mine is my lifeline. It’s also, interestingly, my greatest pain.
I think. I think all the time. It’s constant and whirring and spinning and busy. It gives me everything from exhilarated lightness to crushing anxiety. When I want to go to sleep, my brain wants to know how Jell-o is made or what I’d spend lottery winnings on or why I was born to the people I was born to when they never wanted kids and spent my entire childhood fostering a negative, dark, cold, mean environment. This last one is where I reach for a Xanax and say fuck it. That’s about enough outta you, brain.
Anxiety is as much a part of my life as writing is. They’re like Simon & Garfunkel — I can’t have one without the other. I am constantly worrying about something; overthinking something; imagining something terrible happening and wondering how I’ll handle it.
So can I still answer a question about martyrdom when my need to write and my introverted personality are as heavy as they are light? Wait, that doesn’t work out…scientifically. Like that riddle about a thousand pounds of feathers or a thousand pounds of bricks.
I mean they’re as painful and dangerous and dark as they can be uplifting and joyous and hilarious. Laughing is the only way I manage. My sister and I share a dark sense of humour that has served us well over the years and turned us into vitriolic old British men. We needed to laugh to drown out the screaming and yelling and crying. I like to think my sarcastic, dry sense of humour is one of my best qualities. Actually, it probably is my best quality. I’m not offering much else aside from thoughts that are mostly acerbic and rarely affectionate. (Much like my mother — ba-dom-chhhh.) Just kidding, she’s not acerbic. She is oblivious to deep humour and can only think as far as narcissism allows her.
So. Can I get onboard the wagon to Elizabeth Gilbert’s path of not being a slave to my artistic torment? Of martyr vs trickster? Not entirely. I would like to. I’ll be the one chasing behind, trying to grab on, but mostly just falling face first in the dirt and eating a mouthful of gravel. But then I, y’know, make a joke about it, get back up and keep trying. (Plus the word ‘trickster’ just makes me think of Loki, and that dude was a real piece of shit.)