04 November, 2010

Wherein I Admit I Am a Lily-Livered Coward

There are moments, when I'm watching or reading something, where the story leaves me hyperventilating.  Shivering, shaking, aching, breaking, flying apart in fragments.  Crying, yes, because strong emotion of any kind has this tendency to sting the eyes, stun the brain, leave a person feeling like they've shaken hands with the third rail while breaking the fourth wall.

First time I saw Fellowship of the Ring was like that.  Reading Sandman was like that, only worse.  Seeing the final episode of House season six did it again.  Oops.

And it's in those moments that I realize I am a coward.  I am terrified.  Terrorized, possibly traumatized, by my own fucking writing.  You see, I don't like to admit that I have it in me to do such things to other people.  Make them laugh until their bellies rupture, cry until their sinuses close, punch out a wall, scream with joy or agony.  Make them love, hate, suffer, live and die on a page.  I sometimes like to believe I can't do it.  It's easier that way.  Less responsibility, more time for relationships.  Be a better friend, maybe get a degree and a decent job, enjoy the world while I'm still healthy enough to do it. Life would be a lot easier if I could just keep running scared.  I could be the person I've never wanted to be, that person other people don't consider mentally ill or gifted or both.

But then come the moments when everything starts shaking, Force Twelve, 9 on the Richter Scale (which has been replaced by the moment magnitude scale, but who outside of seismologists gives a shit, right?).  These moments, wherein I realize, I'm gonna have to face it, I have got it in me to do this to people.  I've got the characters.  I've got the stories.  I've got the world.  I've quite possibly got the talent, and even if I don't, that can be convincingly faked given enough ambition.  And I want to do this.  Terrified of doing it.  Anything would be easier.  I'm a coward for wanting to run away from it.  But because I'm a godsdamned motherfucking lily-livered coward, I'm too scared to walk away, much less run.

So.  Much as I've questioned the fact lately, much as I've tried to excuse myself from it and tried to find other ways to occupy my time, put it off for some safely future date, the fact remains that I am a writer, and I am going to write a book that will rip my heart out through my nose, take my guts along with it, and quite possibly drive a few of my more delicate readers to suicide if I do the job too well, and I am going to do that fucking job because there is nothing else I can do.  I will dedicate further years of my life, potentially sacrifice friendships, and definitely sacrifice any possibility of a romantic relationship and a normal life in order to make myself a stressed-out, driven, obsessive, neurotic, miserable yet ecstatic human being, because the only thing that terrifies me worse than doing this is not doing it.

Writers in the audience will understand what this post is about.  Non-writers won't.  And that's okay.  I don't expect you to. 

I can't wait to get started on terrorizing myself.*

*Just as soon as I've finished the next-to-last book of the Wheel of Time, that is.  Writers in the audience will understand that's actually work.  Non-writers won't.  That's okay.  I don't expect them to.


george.w said...

Any artist will understand what you're talking about, Dana. So will people who find themselves having forsaken art for survival early in their lives and discovered that rut can be taller than their roofline.

Paul Sunstone said...

I have to agree with George. Lots of people sacrifice art for survival, but does anyone get away with it?

I'm sure I once heard Joseph Campbell tell you to "follow your bliss", Dana. :D

Paul Sunstone said...

Dana, I have taken the liberty of commenting on your post here.