Monday, July 30, 2012

What does a scanner see?

Continuing my thoughts on strong feelings, today I would like to address pain. Specifically how it alters the way you look at the world. Pain is, it seems, the one thing that your brain can't get used to. This colors the world around you in that, if you have an injury like me, everything you see is a rating of how much pain it will cause you. Each step becomes an exercise in damage control instead of the thoughtless exercise most people enjoy. It is hard to make that clear to people, and can make for some very frustrating conversations. You get tired of explaining yourself, especially to people who are close to you and have dealt with you on a regular basis.

It also darkens your world view quite a bit. As an introvert who suffers from social fatigue, I have spent most  of my life in self-reflection. I have also spent my entire life battling the fugue of depression that is always lurking in the periphery of my mind. Thus my world view was darkened from the outset, but the pain compounded it more than I thought possible. In depression, you can stave it off occasionally. Through fun, distraction, success, or relaxation the depression could be kept at bay for sometimes months at a time. The same cannot be said of the pain. It never goes away entirely. Medicines give temporary easing, ice can reduce swelling, and exercise can help strengthen the muscles. But it is still there. The best thing I can hope for when I go to bed is that the next morning might hurt slightly less.

I think you can see where this is all going.

When I, or someone like me, looks out at the world it is not a pretty picture. Some would call the situation 'hopeless'. But that would disregard my next point, which is that pain can put things into perspective. It fundamentally changes the world you live in. You begin to forget small things, to be able to communicate certain needs and wants, and it can utterly consume your life if you are not paying attention.

The world becomes murky, and you begin to despair. Everything dims, and hope becomes a poisoned trap that feeds into the dark fog that gathers at the edges of your perception. As the shadows close in, the mind gets lost when it tries to look inside yourself, and no one can even tell what is happening to you. This is compounded by the opiates which disassociate you from reality and can distance you from situations that need your utmost attention and feeds the apathy that accompanies depression.

So when you are talking to someone who suffers from pain or depression, remember this: There is a darkness inside the person you care about that is deep and terrible. It cannot be forgotten about lest you find yourself blindsided by the tumultuous hell brewing just below the surface of the person you are trying to talk to. It can hurt both sides and the last thing the person feeling the pain or depression is to inflict those feelings on the people they love.

The other reason not to forgot what these feelings are doing to your loved ones is that it can be hard to see through the gloom that sits over their minds. I cannot emphasize enough how hard it can be to see through those clouds. How easy it can be to lose yourself in the haze is as hard to make other people understand as the pain and depression themselves. So I will close with a quote that helps put it in perspective

"What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me, into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly, because I can't any longer see into myself. I see only murk. I hope for everyone's sake the scanners do better. Because if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I do, then I'm cursed and cursed again. I'll only wind up dead this way, knowing very little, and getting that little fragment wrong too." -Bob Arctor A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Stars

Writing, as it has been seen by me for a long time, is therapy. Far better therapy at times than even medications because words weave their emotimancy in both directions, the receiver on the other end and, more importantly, the writer. Words, when used properly, can be crammed full of everything we are feeling. Each one becomes an evocative scent, a nascent dream, or a landmine. That is the writer's job as far as I am concerned. To tell a story, and all the levels that entails. Characters are only people so long as they are made up of all the elements that people need.

But writers have to be careful. Sometimes emotions, when we try to express them, aren't under our full control. This applies to most people. Snapped comments said in frustration. Thoughtless jokes. Painful remarks made in anger. These are all traps we are familiar with. But the writer sits, word after word, mired in a soup of emotions that, if left unchecked, will consume them. That is the trouble when dealing with pain and sadness. It eats at you even when you try and work around it, so it becomes dangerously easy to drown when you decide to dive headlong into it.

That is where my rut came from. It wasn't that I had that infamous catchall of 'writer's block', it was that I had burned out all of the feelings that I had dealing with personal crises and then trying to write personal stories dealing with the same feelings.

The same can be said of depression. It is so generally misunderstood that the very word has become synonymous with 'sad'. But it is so much deeper than that, and is another mental mire to get stuck in. To want to flail wildly at the word but not feel the energy to move your arms. You sit and see the water coming in through the holes of your world but instead of plugging it you sit down and let the water rush over you.

It isn't a sad feeling, depression. It is a hopeless one. An all consuming apathy. It is being tired, but not in the 'hard days work' or 'I'm sleepy' way. It is a fatigue akin to metal parts tearing and giving way after years of over use. Of a tire going flat as the last tread is torn from its bald surface. The shirt that finally tears along its threadbare seam.

It is a powerful force, and one that is easy to get lost in. I would like say that depression is not the opposite of happiness, but of passion. Passion is that beautiful burning flame that we all try to tame lest it consume us and depression is the near absolute snuff of that flame. It is the cavernous brazier where once our lives were filled with heat, light, and power. It moved us to greatness and filled our lives with illumination. But it cannot be relit like a campfire no more than one can relight the sun with a torch. It takes the right conditions and the compression of hydrogen and helium to ignite a star, to bend space and time around its core and project light, the fastest thing in the known universe. Without it there is no life as we understand it. There is no sight. It is one of the single most powerful things that our minds can understand.

The same is true in writing. Every syllable you type finds you dealing with the powerful forces of the human heart. Each phrase and paragraph, every page and punctuation talks to the deepest parts of us. It reaches all the way down to where the star that birthed us still resides. But like all things deep and beautiful, it is easy to get lost in.

So write your words. Let them guide and help you, and if your readers follow along then all the better. Use them to help you find that star and then let it light your path home.

It is like Sagan said: "We are made of star stuff."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Count Down to NaNoWriMo

I have been in a writing funk recently. No blogging, no short stories, novels, vignettes, not even Facebook updates. But here I am blogging again and it is all Anne's fault. Camp NaNo is looming on the horizon, ready to eat various faces come August and damned if I am ready for it. For all of the haters out there who think NaNo is a waste of time, I applaud you on finding the right way to spend time and then would invite you to kindly piss off.

This isn't for you.

This is for the people who like writing, like events, and like doing things and not feel like they are doing it alone.

NaNo rarely allows someone to spit out a new novel, shiny and fresh and ready for print. As a matter of fact, I would hazard a conservative guess that it almost never allows for it. But that is hardly the point. The point is words on the page. Whether they are electrons or hand ground ink, they are words that you are stringing together into a narrative.

That 50k mark seems like a big monolith for a lot of new writers. Hell, 50k in a month can look like a lot to even a seasoned writer. But what it does for the new writer is it tells them whether they have what it takes to get over that first hump of writing out the first paragraph of a story. It is a chance, a reason, or an excuse to try to write. It is easier for a lot of people to make time to do something if they say "I am doing it because of X."

There are some people who say 'Well if they really loved writing then people would make time for it. They wouldn't need an excuse.'

To that I say bollocks. There are innumerable things that people love doing that they put off in order to do things that are deemed more important. Like work, or raise children, or just the million tiny things that Life, in its infinite fuckery, likes to throw at you in order to sap away your energy.

NaNo is for those people. It is a chance to get the other judgmental tsk-tskers in their lives, who normally frown on what are deemed 'frivolous pursuits', off their backs by giving them something to point to. What is not needed are new people to come in and replace one group of finger waggers for another.

So this year, put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and write. Write long and hard. NaNo is for everyone, so play the game and you might just have some fun.