The Distance from the Familiar

It’s almost impossible for me to comprehend that it’s been two years since 22 Scars was published. At times it feels like yesterday, and others an eternity. The process, the writing, the stress and honing and making it as perfect as it could be, and then releasing it into the world and waiting anxiously for the readers to tell me what they thought … it’s a feeling I never thought I’d achieve, having spent over 12 years prior trying to actually write the damn thing.

And the places it took me, the feelings and emotions and utter despair that filled every page … they filled me too, inescapable and overpowering, day after day. It’s an odd paradox that to write authentically about depression I need to be depressed, which leads to me not writing at all. When I started in January of 2017 to concertedly sit down and write chapter after chapter, I started with energy and enthusiasm, which soon turned to depression and misery.

Yet somehow I plowed through it, made it to the end, got it edited, trimmed, re-edited and published. And the feeling of relief, of satisfaction, of pride when you see your work go out into the world; all of it made every moment of it worth it.

And here I am, back at it again, this time with a new story called The Broken. And I find myself struggling again to write, to come up with coherent ideas, to make it realistic and believable, personal and reflective. I want to write, I want to get words down, but sometimes it’s just so. Damn. Hard.

And through it all, I feel almost … distanced from 22 Scars. As if it isn’t even a story worth knowing anymore. And it is – oh, it very much is. The lives it’s touched and changed, even in its limited exposure and brief life in the wild, have been incredible to me. People from the next state to Australia have reached out to me, let me know just how impactful it was to them. It was for those folk that I wrote it in the first place.

Perhaps these are normal sophomore feelings; how do you follow up a first book that’s had such an impact on people? How you recapture that magic that, even if it wasn’t for everyone, was everything for some? In some ways, of course, I’m not writing a similar story; other than themes of darkness and depression, the characters, plot and events are, I believe, significantly different. Of course, this makes it harder to write, because a lot of what I’m describing in this new story is stuff I haven’t ever directly experienced. I’m relying on others’ experiences and historical information (much of the story is set in the 90s), and then trying to weave my personal emotional experiences into it.

I know that I need to just sit down and write. I know that I can fix bad writing, but I can’t fix no writing. I don’t need motivation – I know what I want to do and what I want to write.

I think, more than anything, what I really need is energy.

And that’s hard, because I naturally have very little, and as we move into autumn I’m going to be losing ever more of it. It’s a season of darkness, sadness and despair, and the deeper I go, the less I’m going to be able to move around, get out of bed, do … anything. Including writing.

I feel for Amy, I really do, because she felt the same (I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, because in so many ways, she is me). Lonely, abandoned, depressed and frightened of everything, feeling insane in an insane world … there’s a party in my head and it’s full of coke and speed and LSD and everything swims and nothing makes any sense. Sometimes I can’t even tell between dream and memory, illusion and reality. I wait to crawl into bed at the end of every day, longing to pass into sleep that is filled with just as nonsensical dreams.

And amidst this all, I try to carry on with a normal life. I try to go to work, to make dinner, to take showers and brush my teeth, and every moment of every day takes a little more vitality away from me. Eventually, I fear I’ll be unable to crawl out of bed, that one final sleep that lasts forever.

And all these feelings are intimately familiar, and yet so far from anything I’ve known before, that I don’t know where I am anymore. I know depression, I know misery and despair, but every year, every month, every day it’s just a little different from before, mutating and evolving over time into new layers of depression that are so very familiar, and so very far from home.

I know I’ll weather it, and I know I’ll finish The Broken. It might just take a while.

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