Weeping while driving is perhaps not the smartest idea where safety is concerned, but sometimes is unavoidable.
While driving to drop off my aunts purse to my mothers salon, during a riff in a guitar track that usually sends my brain some serious serotonin kicks, I began crying uncontrollably.
Loneliness filled me and flooded out of my eyes from this unfillable void somewhere inside me, this void which had been widening from some unknowable deepness.
I felt like that moment in Pulp Fiction when Uma Thurman has a blood geyser gushing down her face, passed out cold in the passengers seat of the car while John Travolta is driving like a hound out of Hades to get her to his friends flat.
Half of me was an incoherent wreck dissolving by the moment, the other half was desperately trying to hold myself together, to keep me alive. As if in direct response to my impromptu vehicular weep session, “The Fragile” by Nine Inch Nails came on my mp3 player.
It was kinda like ascending to the next level griefdom.
I had never expected to be filled with such relentless sorrow after completing the major project, a novel, which I had been writing for the past year.
This was supposed to fill me, empower me, bring me joy. What the hell was going on inside me?
I’d never written any prose in the realm of this magnitude before; the greatest written endeavor I had undertaken prior was my final screenplay in film university: 190 handwritten pages in a week.
Motivated by the aimless floundering following graduating from university and spurned by the erratic emotional spray rising from some turbulent relationship tides this novel was a focus for me.
Novel? Pshwa. I can handle a novel.
I got this, no problem.
Nothing near the maddeningly tight bodied, high velocity story arc that a screenplay is required to be.
I’ll be done by the end of the year, I thought.
Fast forward over the soul smelting roller coaster of my madcap writing process, the novel was done a month shy of a year later.
All 980 handwritten pages of it.
Yet here I was feeling lonely, empty and unfulfilled.
This project, this great endeavour of love my through this art that I love; this year of my life that I converted into words had left no earth shaking happiness in its wake.
That day after deep reflection and nearly losing my shit in several instances, I was able to pinpoint the origin of that overwhelming incompleteness within me, apart from being quite lonely.
I was empty and unsatisfied because finishing the novel did not give me the sort of intense, orgasmic gratification I had thought it would. But I already knew that. I knew that the moment I finished it.
There was no shock wave of joy rippling out from my heart, shaking me in jubilant violence.
No ampage. No volts. A dead connection. An impotent period.
It was more than that.
The entire time I was writing this beast of a book something was building; rising anticipation of great ecstasy and relief when at last I penned the final FIN at the bottom of the final page.
A punctuation to end to my rigorous work schedule, and begin my smooth sailing, fun filled life extravaganza.
I would be able to relax, be free, live easy, sleep in, take it slow.
I’d lay down that period, like flipping a switch—boom!—I’d be cruisin.’
A life filled with living: late night parties in the desert, dancing till dawn, watching the stars get washed out by the coming dawn from atop a dusty old car, coffee with friends on autumn afternoons, abandoning work and running off to the mountains in the middle of the week because I felt like it.
At least life would stop being so tiring, ease on the brakes a little—I just wrote a damn novel that you could choke a horse with, surely that grants me a little reprieve.
That didn’t happen.
These things, that free life, they don’t happen when you’re striving to get somewhere in a creative career in a hurry.
That’s a hard pill for an independent creative professional workaholic to swallow, let me tell ya.’
I had assumed that the personal transformative powers of completing this megalithic undertaking would be as titanic as the time and effort I paid into it. The problem being that it was transformative in a different sense.
It firmed my life, rather than let it loose. My life got a rippling set of abs, it became functional. In order to extrude such a considerable body of work in such a short period of time, without great loss of quality, I shaped my life into something hard and controlled and restrictive. I need structure to function, but I let structure overrun everything.
To give you an idea of how strict with myself I was, I developed shingles from the stress of finishing the novel by the deadline I eventually set for myself.
Consequently, though the work was done, the lifestyle wasn’t. I had presumed the completion of the focus of my lifestyle would be the harbinger of my happiness and end its necessity. That’s just the problem.
Achievement is not happiness. Happiness is happiness. Achievement can be happiness, but they are not mutually exclusive. This was something of a revelation to me. Career goals and achievement, no matter how creative or otherwise, are not necessarily going to foster the relaxed, intrinsically spiritual and ultra-zen lifestyle that I fantasize about in my little noggin.
Only I can make life that way.
The irony being, the words I was scribbling in my book were naught but pages and pages decrying the systems that bind us, rubbing out boundaries of the mind and soul.
The act of writing itself has been one prolonged exercise in letting go and this writer’s journey has one continual battle to maintain the tenuous grip of a thread of narrative, giving it a body of supine form and elegant function without mangling the ever loving fuck out of it with hard nosed structure.
I don’t want to come across as saying the entire experience was wholly hollow, because it wasn’t, there was joy there—it simply took time to surface from below the rubble of my expectations and the looming tower of work still yet to be done—transcribing, editing and so forth.
Writing a novel is a beautifully maddening process and let no one say otherwise. You lose your mind and yourself as you balance and ride the line and it’s pure bliss.
Somehow, though, this balance and bliss never translated over to me and the rest of my life. Or perhaps I felt it was necessitated by it.
To let my creativity be reckless and raw and beautiful, I felt I had to lock the rest of me in chains of order. But that’s a hard life that one rarely prescribes to with a happy heart.
It’s time to hand myself the key to my bindings and balance both realms; relearn how to let go in life, as much as in writing.
Strike a compromise between my life and my work, even when I love my work and my work is my life—especially when my work is my life.
A slow re-integration of these two halves.
I gave myself a day off yesterday, a day of rest. I still couldn’t keep myself from writing notes off and on for articles and chapters all the way up until I slid into bed.
Some nights it doesn’t stop after the lights go out—my dream journal is half dreams, half novel notes.
It’s a start though.
The beginning of a compromise.
To chill out, let life, and the words, flow.
Like elephant journal on Facebook
Asst. Ed.: Kathleen O’Hagan/Ed: Bryonie Wise