ROW80, WEEK 2 CHECK-IN 2
This week I’ve been encouraged by fellow writers who’ve shared their emotional and mental health struggles, and how it effects their writing process. Jessica Spotswood, Stephanie Perkins, Sara Zarr and many more have blogged about depression and anxiety. Their vulnerability inspires me, and I thought I’d pay it forward.
I experience minor depression and social anxiety, as many writers do, but this particular week my creativity has been upstaged by my penchant for rage.
I sport an old-fashioned Irish anger. The kind where my face goes twitchy and my chest marbles into red and white splotches, and I start spouting incoherent sentences as my mind melts into a lava pit of indiscernibility.
That’s not me all the time.
That’s not me even sometimes.
But every once in a while my anxiety combines with anger to form the perfect storm for an embarrassing, crippling social interaction. We all have our trigger points: I don’t handle condescension, sarcasm, or passive-aggression very well–especially in others. 😉 I feel threatened, or get frustrated, or my pride stands up, and suddenly my flight-or-flight signals get crossed and confrontation approaches. I know it’s going to end badly before it begins, and it does.
I spend the rest of the day, evening, week, replaying the awful scene, rehashing the stupid words and the shame, and leaving no room for healthy creative expression–like writing.
The past few weeks I’ve been caught in a cycle of these interactions, in a work environment that’s not likely to change. So, I have to change instead.
Anger management classes teach the importance of responding versus reacting to a situation—the key element being to create distance from your thoughts and your emotions in order to evaluate truth within context.
It got me thinking. What we demand of humans (and ourselves) differs so greatly from what we want from fiction characters. We don’t want to read about someone who counts to ten before he graciously turns his other cheek to a belittling boss. We want to see him mouth off at the risk of losing his job, with a spouse and baby counting on his paycheck at home.
Reactionary people create wars; reactionary characters create stories. Fascinating ones.
My main character struggles with anger, too. When these bouts of helplessness and frustration overwhelm me, THAT’s the time to channel my character. Instead of letting my anger spin out of control in my brain, it’s time to equip it with a keyboard and let it wreak havoc where it belongs—in my characters, not me.
“All My Favorite People are Broken” by Over the Rhine