where the writers are
Hello, I'm Jessica

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.

Jessica

Comments
15 Comment count
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DON'T pathologize your creativity!!!!

A fascinating book on hyergraphic disorder came out a few years ago, The Midnight Disease by Alice Flaherty, a neurologist whose hypergraphia was triggered by post-partum depression. Despite the scary sounding title, I found this a fascinating look not ONLY at "hypergraphia" (which I, alas, only manifest in spurts) but at writer's block, creative process, inspiration, etc... all those topics which, as a writer and as a writing consultant, endlessly intrigue me. If you send me your address (offline!!!) I'm happy to lend it to you. I mean it. It's already made the rounds with a couple of other writers I know.

Flaherty talks about the happiness and joy writing brings her and says this:

"The scientist in me worries that my happiness is nothing more than a symptom of bipolar disease, hypergraphia from a postpartum disorder. The rest of me thinks that artificially splitting off of the scientist in me for the writer in me is actually a kind of cultural bipolar disorder, one that too many of us have. The scientist asks how I can call my writing avocation and not addiction. I no longer see why I have to make that distinction. I am addicted to breathing the same way. I write because when I don't, it is suffocating. I write because something much larger than myself comes into me that suffuses the page, the world, with meaning. Although I constantly fear that what I am writing teeters at the edge of being false, this force that drives me cannot be anything but real, or nothing will ever be real for me again.

This resounds deeply for me.

Jessica, I Iove how you are waiting patiently (perhaps even a little past curfew) for your story to come home. It will. How could it not? You feed it so well. (Ummm.... gingerbread.)

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Thank you, Ericka

I would love to read that book, and do remember reading about it when it came out.

Apparently, I may also be a compulsive blogger, but I was really writing about that joy that comes when writing a story.  Thank you for suggesting I feel happy about my creative wait.

Time for coffee, you and I, I think.

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Oh, I shouldn't

have labelled you with "graphomania" when I didn't know it was some form of pathological behavior. I meant it humorously. I just received a picture book, written by a Harvard neurologist who, I was informed by the illustrator, had graphomania. I would take it as an honor if I had graphomania. I am lazy about my writing so I wish I had the compulsion to write. And you replied you work in spurts.

And I think Hammond Gutherie meant well. He wasn't pointing fingers at you. He was just making a comment. Your blogs are the opposite of boring to readers. I'll have to ask Hammond to clarify what sounds hurtful.

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I am being sensitive

I tell you, Belle, it's been a day.  I am taking it all personally!  But I do insist that people should read what they don't want to read.  The things that hurt or bore or irritate.  Don't  click!  Don't touch that dial.  Move on.

Maybe I should go sit on a mountain and meditate.

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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When I heard about graphomania

I thought, how cool, to be so compulsive one writes even on toilet paper ;) I wish I could rub elbows that neuorlogist and catch this fine bug.

If you didn't take it personally, you wouldn't be writing the strong posts, causing me to embarrass myself by blurting out, "J'adore Jessica!" Unless you are more of a technical or science writer, I think you need "thinner skin" like yours, mine and Ericka's in order to respond to our environment.

Hammond, is a very sensitive, talented artist and poet. I hope he'll be posting something new soon.

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Thinner skin

Thin skin does let things come in, and sometimes, it hurts!  Yikes!  But I appreciate your comments and blogs, and I hope Hammond posts soon, too.  I like reading us all.

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I don't spend much time

with the THICK SKINNED ones. Thick-skinned people are the politicians and the abusive. I guess "thin-skinned" is good by my definition.

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Addiction

Compulsive Blogging is not a condition - it's just plain boring.

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Ouch?

Don't read what bores you, I venture to say.

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Maya Angelou said it best

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

The great thing about you, Jessica, is that you bear those untold stories, and then you tell them. All people bear stories, but most people don't tell them: they're told their stories don't matter, or they don't think they have the talent, or haven't felt they have a forum. Red Room aims to change all that. The wonderful fact that you're helping make that happen by sharing your books and by blogging so steadily and so well is your strength, not your weakness.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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I have enjoyed

it so much here, and I don't want Belle's teasing to suggest I truly believe I have a condition.  I've enjoyed sharing my ideas and feelings, to few (actually none until today!)complaints and many agreements with the folk here.  I haven't felt negativity or rudeness, but that would be part of a community as well.  As with any community, we have to learn to navigate our way in it.

Thank you.

Jessica

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Hammond

Hammond Guthrie

 

Jessica....

I woke up very cranky today and didn't intend to take it out on anyone...

Nonetheless - I guess I did... on Blogging.

my comment wasn't clear - nor was my brain.

Apologies for any discomfort I might have caused..

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I hear you

and thank you for your note.  But it gave me pause for thought.  And that can be a good thing.

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Addicted to normalcy

  I think the major problem of modern society is that we try to pathologise EVERYTHING that doesn't fit in a box.  Witness the proliferation of "special needs" programs in the public schools.  We prescribe ritalin for perfectly normal "ants-in-the-pants."  We create communities for "little people."  Good gravy....when I was in junior high, there was a dwarf in our class (a term he used proudly, by the way), who was an absolute RIOT to play basketball with.  And he was GOOD at it, too.  He would have been insulted to be put in some kind of "special ed" class.

    To extrapolate this a bit......I don't think I'd want to read a book (at least a novel) either ABOUT or BY a perfectly well-adjusted person.  Writers are oddballs, and we can either use it or lose it.

   IMHO....

eric

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I agree

I am not into normal, whatever that is!

Pathologizing this or that is a way to label, a way to understand, so I think that's why we do it.  We try to feel like we have control.

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com