I've heard of writers being depressed for a while after finishing a novel. ‘Depressed’ sounds to me like a low-level downer. ‘Depressed’ sounds lovely compared to this emotional uproar, barely surpressed howling and puddle-on-the-floor crying jags. Compared to this cauldron full of roiling pain and suffering.
I didn’t immediately understand what happened to me but as soon as I did, I knew I had to act. (No ‘victim energy’ here, as my real live friend Cecily would say if I ever let on to her which I’m not likely to do because she’d start playing therapist on my head.)
The source and cause of my pitiful state, put succinctly, is that five people who have been with me for years and years, have all left my life at once, causing a total abandonment melt-down.
Yes, I know that I could commandeer all of them back into my life but I have a horror of sequels. And of writers who re-cycle. Still, maybe it would help to have just one last quick encounter with four of them…
Why not all five? Why not Mara, too? Especially since the sad truth is that I do indeed miss having Mara to think about. But that’s perverse, that is. (I suppose everything about this condition is perverse. You strive to complete the work, drive yourself to finish and be done with it, and when it’s finally over, you go into grief and mourning.) Anyway, there’s no point in calling back Mara or can you perhaps imagine her bringing me solace and offering a kindly embrace?
I did, however, call back the other four and told them, quite simply, about my condition. I give you the result.
Alicia wants to know what I can be complaining about? Here, finally, the day when the birth – overdue, at that – was over with and I’m not dragging all that weight around any more and my moods can go back to being my own – post partum depression? Alicia raises both eyebrows in lieu of something worse, like a sneer, and dismisses the entire complaint. I console myself with revenge: just wait, dear Alicia, until you give birth. Not to a bouncing baby girl, apple of your eye but to, say, a story you’ve written, mood and sweat and all, which barely finishes emerging when it’s gone. Zip. Leaving you empty and confused, and in tatters, like an old dish rag.
There. That shut up Alicia. For now.
I expected better from Lena the level headed but compassionate, the thinker.
Lena tells me she enjoys that aftermath of a big work. Enjoys feeling empty and clear and dormant, with the promise of a new idea, new excitement, waiting just out of sight. And why don’t I try enjoying the fallow period as the fecund soil – blahblahblah.
To my surprise, it’s Ted who comes closest to “getting it”, as they say. He’s been there, ‘nothing happening’ music-wise, nothing even bubbling inside except his own horrible witch’s brew, burning holes in his gut. But, thanks to the Great Trickster: that is never going to happen to him again.
I almost asked him how he could be sure of that. But that’s not fair. I have to let him be. Just as if he was a flesh-and-blood friend. (By the way, do you know why no flesh-and-blood friend can take the place of those you’ve created yourself? Because you can’t, if there’s something about your fleshy friend you don’t like – you can’t just give him an epiphany and have him change for you. If you see what I mean. You can’t tinker with flesh-and-blood friends.)
Bear says ‘tinkering’ is a hobby. Creating something new is a way of life. And then you have to take the good with the bad.
He doesn’t say ‘ and not belly-ache about any of it because you’re damned lucky, when all is said and done, that this here ‘bereft condition’ is your worst pain and suffering.
I’m not at all sure I like my characters to be smarter than I am, but in that I don’t seem to have a choice.
Okay then, all five of you: piss off.
- Lilly Barnes, author of Journey (Inanna, 2014)