Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the downside of time travel


I'm having a really hard time with this book I'm trying to write. And while I think there are several reasons for this (three kids, full-time job, extremely needy house), the real problem is what I've come to call the Alternate Universe Dilemma.


Which is this...


I'm at such a nice place in my life. There's legitimate happiness and a real peace. But going back a year (or two or twenty) does unpleasant things to both my blood pressure and my sense of well-being. In short, in pisses me off, which then leaves me in a kind of funk for the rest of the day. A lot of the stuff in the past that is vital to the story I'm trying to tell is pretty painful to revisit, but it absolutely has to be done. I don't have a story without it. I try and tell myself that this is my own down and dirty version of therapy - just pour those emotions out on paper and feel cleansed at the end. Maybe.


But on the other hand, I don't want to wait to write this. Already my memory is blurred. I've had to go back to the many, many emails, journals, IMs and blog posts of the time to reconstruct what my brain is already leaving behind. If I wait much longer it may be too far gone. It's also getting increasingly difficult to hit the right mood. It needs to be written from the pain and anger of then - not the self-realization and awareness of now. And what if I wait ten years and still find that the process of looking back on all this crap is still painful - even then? Then what?


I ask myself these questions when I reluctantly leave the serenity of my 2009 life and deliberately make myself go back to 2008 or 1998 or 1990 or any one of the many years in between that were fraught with angst. I do this to myself, because I really believe that what could potentially come out of this process might be a redemption of sorts. I can see the T-shirt in my mind. I was in this marriage for twenty years and all I got out of it was this lousy book. (Or I was in this lousy marriage for twenty years and all I got out of it was this book. Your call.) I'm not being literal. I know I got more out of it than that, but right now that idea is a big motivator. The triggers that fuel this process continue to fascinate me.


Fuel being an operative word here. Because mostly I feel all fired up to get 'er done...but some days it's like going down in flames.

12 comments:

lv4921391 said...

navy fliers say it's ok to crash and burn...but look good doing it !!! the last couple posts tell me you are looking good...

Altaglow said...

My darling, remember our motto? "pain motivates". It does--it always will. Keep going! Much love!

skywind said...

Back to the Future, or come back from the future. I am confused. LOL
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Maggie May said...

I think you have a burning desire to write the book and like you say...... the memories are fresh right now.
This will be painful...... take it slowly or defer it for a year or two. You could make rough notes as reminders for the future.
You won't forget though...... it will always be there in your brain waiting for release. Writing can be that healing therapy. Go at YOUR own pace. Only you know when exactly to go ahead.

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

As the toy maker mending Woody in Toy Story says "You can't rush art" Good luck, I hope you find ways to cope with the pain.

laurie said...

i'd wait. writing is better when there's some distance. and if it agitates you to plow that ground, why do it?

Cath said...

This is a hard one to call.

Try writing in third person for now - that way the pain and angst belongs to your character, not you. You can just empathise with the character. :)

Devon said...

I had a similar experience and was shocked how at the end of the process the angst disappeared. I truly believe in the cathartic properties of getting the story out.

On an aside, I met a successful author once and she told me the thing that makes an author successful is that they write. i.e., just write it!

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

I think it is better to allow some time and distance to happen. You are not going to forget anything, believe me. If anything your feelings will become truer and more righteous. And as clear as a cloudless sky.

aims said...

I understand this one completely.

The - need - to get it written eats away at you constantly - it wiggles at the back of your brain and you can feel the anxiety building in your need to write it.

Yet when you sit down to do just that you have to be in the right frame of mind or the words don't start.

What I find helps is to put on music that touched you during that time - that means something to you now. And just listen for a bit. Let your fingers feel that time and then they will begin to tell the story once again.

When you can't write anymore and need to get back to the good times of now - play music that you love now. That way you can switch off or switch on.

In the end it is cathartic. You can put it behind you when it is all done. Until you do that I don't believe you can put it behind you completely.

Just try RC. Don't lose it - just tap into it for an hour or two a day.

Daryl said...

I wish I had some good advice ... maybe write and then go do something good/fun to relieve the stress ...

seashmore said...

Writing about painful emotions is tricky. You need to connect the narrator with the emotion while distancing yourself from it so as not to ruin your day.

Cath and aims both had good ideas.

I wish you success with writing whatever it is you're writing. From what I've read of your blog, it should be good, as you have a great gift for the craft.