When It’s All Over but the Crying

Look at me.  Three years old, and I already knew what I wanted to do in life.  My family, no doubt, had other hopes.  Nurse, secretary, happy wife and mother.  Productive, conventional, practical goals.  They wanted to see me as a sweet-tempered compliant child, and there, too, they were disappointed.  I was willful, disobedient, and often sneaky.  I learned to write my name quite early and scrawled it on any available surface.  I had imaginary friends who were appalling influences.  I made up stories and told them to everyone who would listen (I loved an audience, even when I was doing something bad).  I was jealously possessive of my books.  In short, I was a writer, and my family couldn’t have been more baffled if a werewolf had been born to them.

Gads of us are born with a creative gene sparking and burning in the DNA dark.  The fire gets stamped out in a lot of us, sometimes by our families, sometimes by circumstance, and sometimes it just fizzles because we form other loves that get fed more fuel.  But for those of us who stay afire…well, the urge, the need, to create (whether we are writers, painters, sculptors, etc.) is a force like hunger.  To deny it is to starve.

So why aren’t all of us creative types successful?  Why, nearly four decades after this photo of me was taken, am I still struggling with my brand of creativity?  Oh, the answers are myriad, and mostly valid, but in the end unimportant.  The important thing is that I still wrestle with my writing.  That may seem cold comfort, when writers everywhere are trying to grasp the brass ring of publication and enough earning power to live on.  But I have experienced the doldrums, and I don’t mean garden variety writer’s block or a frustrating dry spell.  I mean complete becalmed Hell.  Silence.  The muse has left the building.  For seven long years.  It was like the loss of a sense or a limb.  I could remember the spark, feel the phantom of it, but IT was gone – that blazing pool at the center of me that I had taken for granted.   I thought my crippling was permanent.

So, yes, the fire can be painful, demanding, and even crazy-making.  It can bring a writer to her knees, howling for mercy.  But that is so much better than numbness and cold ashes.  I’m ablaze again, thank all the gods, and embracing the agony of it this time.  It’s part of who I am and I don’t want to cut it out.  If it makes me unhappy, it also brings me wild joy.  Fellow writers, accept your own immolation and burn bright.  It’s a done deal, anyway, and you probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

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6 thoughts on “When It’s All Over but the Crying

  1. And look at me… the scientist. Graviton indeed. LOL! I meant Gravatar. Silly me. A side hobby of mine is particle physics. Dry stuff but it interests me to see how mother nature works behind the scenes. Graviton’s on the brain.
    -j

  2. Elizabeth,
    You know… I was just looking at your RSS (Posts and Comments) Feed at the top right of your screen. I noticed what appears to be a larger and more proportional version of your Graviton image. Just neck up but a much clearer image. I love the pose and the look which is especially enriched just be being in black and white. Nice nice image! Movie star?
    -j

    1. That was what I cropped from the full image that I use for my gravatar. I don’t know how the full image happened actually, because I meant to use the cropped image. I have trouble with tech. I’m glad you like it, it’s the only good photo of me in existence. I am NOT photogenic.

  3. Elizabeth,

    Pretty amazing to see how industrious you were at age three! Most children would be doodling or playing with crayons, but clearly you were writing (and have the “Writing Tablet” to prove it!!!).

    I did not write at that age, but I did draw. I loved to draw and did so for many years. I was in every art class and art club throughout high school. I was a very good artist. I remember the passion and the pleasure I felt when I’d draw with pencil, or would work with pen and ink, or worked in color by painting, or would dust my fingers when doing charcoal work. I even sculpted with clay and practiced the fine art of copper enameling. Much later as the computer world evolved, I became a digital artist.

    I’m mentioning this because I’m amazed that I no longer express my creativity in that way! And I have no desire to be creative in that way. I really don’t understand the change but I know I’m not saddened by it. Even though it remains a mystery, I feel no emptiness in its omission. I have no desire to rekindle my art work.

    Perhaps becoming a programmer channeled my creativity into a different arena? If true, then I may have discovered that any form of creativity can satisfy the inner heart and soul. So long as it finds real expression.

    As usual, your writing has stirred up my thinking process.

    Brother John
    Lansdowne, Pennsylvania USA

    1. John, I think you may have a valid point about channeling creativity into different arenas. Programming apparently satisfies you in ways your other artistic pursuits used to do. You have been fortunate to find the twin, so to speak, of your first love. I loved to draw as a child, too. And I painted for many years, although I can honestly say that I was not gifted. Adequate, yes. And I enjoyed it. But I haven’t found a twin to writing, yet. Maybe someday you’ll pick up a brush or a pencil and begin to paint or draw again. But I’m glad you found the thing that fulfills you in programming. Creativity is so unpredictable, tough and fragile, insistent and quiet.

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