The Worst Part of Being a Writer

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

I’ve had stories published, and I’ve had people from all over the world read them. I’ve had people love them, hate them, and be absolutely indifferent to them. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, I even have people take valuable time out of their days to look up my address, sit down, and send me an email just to let me know how much a certain story meant to them.

See that last sentence? That’s the opposite of the title of this blog post. That’s the best part of being a writer. Having someone (not your mom) write you to tell you how a story moved them? That’s like Heisenberg-brand Sky Blue right there. (All the benefits of crystal meth, but you get to keep your teeth.)

Everything in my life is filtered through the lens of me, Terrie, the writer.

Not that I go into situations mining them for story. I don’t. Not usually.

Okay, I sometimes do. I admit to taking more than my fair share of stupid risks just to know how something was done or what it felt like to do it.

But most of the time, no, I’m not living with my eye on writing a story about whatever experience I might be having. Instead, I try to live as close to the heart and gut as possible. I want to live honestly. Some experiences are pure joy while others are utter hell. And of course, there is everything in between.

The stories that seem to resonate with the most people are the ones where I’ve really dug deep and dredged up some emotional shit, tried to make sense of it even.

Okay, here’s where I get to the worst part of being a writer.

When I’m writing – especially when I’m writing full-on (up to eight hours a day, recently) – I can’t turn off the tap, so to speak. When I’m cutting as deep as I can go to get to feelings and emotions that I want to express as authentically as I can, I’m there, and I just can’t stand up, stretch my back and walk away from the page and be “okay”, and in some even-keeled mindset again.

Does that make sense?

I’m emotional and drained and weepy and maybe, if it’s a happy tale, I’m elated and weepy in a better way. Basically, I’m wrecked. I haven’t moved in eight hours and I’m exhausted.

The worst part of being a writer is not the horribly aching back, stiff shoulders, blurry eyes, oatmeal brain, no money, and no social life. The worst part of being a writer is the part when I unintentionally hurt my friends.

I hurt them because I can’t pull out of the story or the emotions that I’m exploring while writing it. I do step away from the computer to email, Skype, and chat with them, but I’m afraid I’m an emotional mess.

Sometimes I need the solace of a good friend to comfort me. Sometimes I’m so beaten up inside my head and my heart that all I want to do (in lieu of a hug) is curl up in a fetal position at a friend’s feet and ask them to please pet me on the head, to please kneel down and whisper in my ear, “It’ll be okay. I’m here. It’ll be okay.”

But right here in the grind of it, I can’t help feeling that this “asking” is asking too much. Over and over again, that I am draining those closest to me, and that is horribly unfair to them. That right there, that last sentence, that is something I just can’t bear.

But the thing is, when I’m done, when I’m in a stronger place, I hope that I’m also a stronger person for having made that little emotional journey, having created a story that never existed before, that only exists because of me. And I hope that because of that, I can give something back to those friends who were there for me. Because I want to give back. I want to give back more than they gave me even.

At the moment it doesn’t seem fair. And I’m finding it very hard not to beat myself up about it.

Paraphrasing Epictetus:

The inferior man blames others.

The regular man blames himself.

The superior man knows there is no one to blame. He looks at life with clearer, more objective eyes.

Until very recently I blamed myself for everything that went wrong around me, whether it was my fault or not. Hell, whether it involved me or not. Recently, though, I’m trying to look with clearer eyes, more objective eyes.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

I don’t want to apologize for that. I don’t want to change that. It’s important to me that I do this. Flaying yourself and examining your emotions is a part of being human, no? Don’t we all do it? Or is it just my warped understanding of life? I think it’s okay to hurt, to despair, to be jealous, to seethe, to desire, to know these emotions, but figure out a way not to be ruled by them.

In the end, it’s even more important to love, be kind, help others, and nurture. This is what I want to do. It’s the goal. I love my friends and my family with every fiber of my being.

The worst part of being a writer is when the balance is off. When I hurt my friends, the people I love. It’s when I need too much from them, expect too much from them, and hurt them because I’m reeling from emotions I’ve been wrestling with all day. All those times when it feels like I have nothing to bring to the table.

But this is who I am.

I can’t say enough how thankful and grateful I am for the friends who understand and accept this ‘me’, as difficult and draining as I know I am at times. When I’m this much of a mess, it’s you who gets me through the day, you who are there, leaning over and patting me on the head and scratching behind my ears and whispering down: “It’ll be okay. I’m here. It’ll be okay.”

What I really want them all to know is that I will give back again, I will love, and be kind, and support, and nurture again. But for now, while I’m in the heat of it and can’t step away from this emotional tempest,  I just want to say this: I appreciate you. I respect you. I admire you. I’d take a freaking bullet for you. Please know if it wasn’t for you I couldn’t bear any of this. I love you.

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  4 comments for “The Worst Part of Being a Writer

  1. July 18, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    As one of your friends, I never feel slighted or hurt by your ’emotional’ days. I’m actually comforted by them. It lets me know that there is at least one more person out there who has difficult days and can at times be the emotional equivalent of a yo-yo. It’s reassuring to know that when I have the inevitable emotionally draining day and I’m a wreck, you’ll be there for me. You’ll pat me on the head and say, “It’s all right, kid. I’ve been where you are and it gets better.” That’s what friends do. They stand by each other in the bad times, as well as the good. Keep up the great work!

    • Thersa Matsuura
      July 18, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      You’re so very kind. Thank you! My goal is to get my level of spaziness somewhere up to your level of stoic cool headedness. You teach me a lot, sensei. I imagine you as more of the emotional equivalent of that hydroplaning skateboard from back to the future.

  2. July 18, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    I’m the inferior person. 🙂
    Let me reassure you and say it is not just writers who face these struggles. When I worked ay a camp for abused kids, I always needed some decompression afterwards. Some very good friends couldn’t empathize; that was tough.
    Stay the course, Miss Terrie.

    • Thersa Matsuura
      July 21, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Erik, I didn’t know that you had done that kind of work. I can’t even imagine… *That* is what it’s about. Writing is nothing in comparison.

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