Unfortunately, I have experience with a family member and addiction. I've seen the pull, the long black claw of need pulling on someone's neck. I've watched a loved one spiral down until there was nowhere left to spiral to. The view is horrible to watch, and yet, you have to allow that person to fall as far as possible until one day, your loved one stands up from the latest fall. This was the worst fall, the farthest yet, and yet, it wasn't too far, too awful because he or she is still alive. One more millimeter and it would have all be over. Hitting bottom is no joke, no exaggeration, no cliché. It happens and it's ugly. But necessary.
There are smaller addictions, little compulsions, tiny obsessions, though, that keep people running. Things that we find ourselves doing because we want to, have to, need to, must.
I am here to out myself right now. Hello, I'm Jessica, and I'm addicted to writing.
Belle Yang has already told me I have a form of writing compulsion. Graphomania. I looked up that word, and the definition is relatively scary. Webster's calls it simply a passion or urge to write. Well, okay, then. But search a little further, and you will find that graphomania is a mania to write books and see one's name in print, to have unknown readers, and that the illness afflicts entire societies. The illness occurs when we have time to do "useless" activities. The very activity of writing, so say these definers, keeps us all isolated and instead of creating community, creates more isolation. Our word produces almost 1 million titles a year, each at a few to many thousands of copies.
Okay, so this was depressing research. I thought about all the trees needed to produced those volumes. I thought about all those people producing all those books, to probably few readers, really. There is an argument out there that we publish too many books in order to snare that one best selling book, when, in fact, we should simply publish fewer, better quality books. The other side of the argument suggests that is elitist crap, and that we all--despite our professions and educational levels--have the potential for a story, a tale, a book within us. The proliferation and expansion of print-on-demand companies and self-published books suggest that we do need to have our books out there, but it's likely not because we have graphomania but simply a story to tell. And now there are more of us roaming the planet and it is all some mathematical problem.
Anyway, though Dr. Belle does have some evidence to suggest I have a problem, I don't have a need to see my name on the cover of a book. What I like to do, what I do need to have, is a story.
And as I wrote earlier, I don't have one yet.
What I do have is a novel that is told in parts. The first part occurs in 1977 and the protagonist is 15. The second part is set in 2002, 25 years later. Invariably, readers disliked the second half of the story. But the first part to them was lovely and strong and powerful. For a few years now, I've been meaning to go back and cut off that second part and finish the first part. I haven't. Not for years, even though The August Garden calls to me, cries out in a little voice.
It was my story once. My own true love of a story. But I'm wanting that other thing, that thing I am addicted to, that story as it unfolds in my head and onto the page. I have to wait for it to show up, to come to me, to sink down and make itself known. If I try to rush the story into being, it's not the story I really want to to write. It's not my true love of a story. It's a bad blind date of a story. It's my true love of a story's evil twin.
So I jones. I truly jones. I jones and read other people's novels and essays and poems. I work harder on my classes, probably too hard. I am sure my students wish I would get a story and fast. The good news is that finals are around the corner, and I will need to be focused.
But I'm lonely for my story. I want it to come to me. I miss it terribly and will be at the porch, holding the light when it shows up. I will feed it soup and hand it a blanket and then make it talk to me late into the night and then for weeks and weeks, maybe months,maybe a year. I will watch it grow fat and happy. And I will miss it when it packs up its bag and leaves, closing the door behind it.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org