Tag Archives: coping

Creeping Depression and Writer’s Block (A Word-Vomit)

In perfect form, I’ve gone all summer without posting anything on this blog. Also in perfect form, I’ve done very little writing since the summer began…and now it’s almost September. I suppose that’s how things go sometimes.

It hasn’t been an easy summer. I think, since graduating high school, there’s been an underlying dread attached to every thought of leaving home or being in college. Honestly, I don’t fully want to do it. Until September 3, I’m still in my home town, sitting around drinking coffee and pretending to be productive. I know that, for my own best interest, I need to get away. But I also know that, for my own selfish interests, I want to stay and have nothing change.

Besides my reluctance to hop the nest, I’m dealing with the long-term post-breakup depression that literally every other incoming college freshman is probably experiencing on some level. Who hasn’t had a breakup before going off to their first year of college? Happy people, maybe. I haven’t really felt happy in a while. That’s a scary thing, if you’ve never experienced it. I don’t actually know if I’ll be happy today, because I know my mind can concoct reasons not to be…no matter the beauty of a thing. I find myself lingering on questions that should have been answered two months ago. I find myself worrying about my quality as a human, as a significant other. I find myself wondering how I could have been different, and if I even should have been.

Those are the big things. And they’re trying to command the forefront of my attention. When I let them, I spiral. It’s hard not to spiral because it’s so easy.

It’s not like I’m creatively spent, of course. I don’t think that’s possible for sardonic teenagers. I get new ideas every day. What if a man was trapped inexplicably in a house with four locked, multicolored doors? What if a time-traveler was forced to stop traveling, confined to a containment unit, watching his friends and loved ones age without him? What if a small town was trapped by a gang of malevolent, bodiless witches?

Oh, look! Common themes: Capture. Containment. Helplessness. I wonder where those narrative delicacies came from.

I know I need to get out. I know I need a change. But change is scary. Change is things you’re not prepared for, things you’ve never dealt with. And it only makes it worse that everyone’s left already, or will be gone soon. In a month this will seem trivial, irrelevant. Now it’s scary. So when, aside from that, you’re also dealing with writer’s block, a debilitating ailment that renders people like me completely useless, you can see how things become a little hazy mentally. I’m keeping myself up by reading and going for walks, but I just have to wait. I can only hope that in the future, my writing returns to me. I really need it to, because I don’t know that I can function without it.

12:46 PM

J

Listen to: “L’America” by the Doors

The First Day of Autumn?

My life has taken a tremendous turn in the past couple of months, which would explain my lack of blog posts. Heading into senior year was enough in itself to give me a bit of a slap in the face, but on the top of that I had a break-up a few weeks ago, and I’ve been a wee-bit depressed since. I’m also dealing with college crap; i.e., deciding where to apply, arranging the propers for the Common App…these are the musings of a grudging high school student who just wants to be done with all of it, for God’s sake. But if you’re an adult reading this, you’ve been there and done that, and none of this is a shock to you. If you’re my age, I’m happy we can be in the same club together. And if you’re younger…just you wait.

Today was one of those days where I simply did not want to be near or around anyone. I feel hate for certain people, dull disdain for others, and indifference for the rest. Yet, there was a glimmer of optimism to my day, and it’s something that’s helped me get through Friday without tearing my hair out.

I have to do a senior Capstone project, and mine concerns the history of science-fiction: basically, I’m researching the genre as a whole and reading as much as I can. For the end product, I’ll have some stories that demonstrate how I’ve grown as a writer and what I’ve learned from my research. It’s a beautifully free project with few constrictions. I had to present a preliminary pitch to a teacher of my choosing, and I chose Jolliffe, a former two-time English teacher of mine. To be clear, I’ve loved having this man as a teacher. I had him Freshman year and then again last year, and he’s been the most understanding and interesting teacher to have: big tall guy with shaggy hair and a beard, and a love for Steinbeck.

I went to Jolliffe’s room first thing this morning, A block, to present. He was reading The Grapes of Wrath for his Junior AP English class, which is what he teaches to juniors every year. He quoted “Danny wants a cup of water” to me for a while, and then when I asked if he’d like me to present, he initially said yes. Then his wife, also a teacher at the school, came in and asked if he’d like to get coffee. He said he would.

So, I found myself walking with Jolliffe to Gatto Nero, a new-ish cafe/art studio near the school. The morning was chilly yet crisp, the way the first autumn mornings seem to. The sun was shining brightly and all of the colors in the Vermont trees were just thriving, it was almost like they were burning. And as we walked, he told me to give my pitch. Obviously I was a bit taken aback, but I launched into it. I had expected to stand before him and talk for five minutes, answer a few questions, and be done. But this guy never ceases to amaze me, and it became more of a discussion than a pitch. Not thirty seconds into my pitch he started asking questions, interrupting when he wanted more clarification or when he wanted to give advice or recommend a change to something. We talked about books, about authors, about the writing process, about relevant science-fiction and bare-bones science-fiction.

Something else happened, and for some reason, I won’t soon forget it. As we walked, a man in a suit passed us. He said, “Good morning, Steve.” Jolliffe said good morning to him and the man said, “Nice day, isn’t it?”

Jolliffe said, “Oh, it’s a beautiful day.”

I thought, Holy shit. It is a beautiful day. How had I not realized? Was I so focused on my internal issues? Was I too distracted by business-like matters to notice the fiery leaves or the refreshingly chilly air? The fact that Jolliffe so easily appreciated the morning spoke volumes to me, and I think I realized I hadn’t been myself for a while. I needed to get back to the point where I could walk alone and be content, not upset. Where I could just look up and appreciate the sky and the clouds, or the smell of burning wood from a chimney. I did just that later in the day, this afternoon, when I took another solo walk after school.

At Gatto Nero, Jolliffe bought me an espresso as well as coffee for a few other teachers (including his wife). Then we walked back to the school and continued talking, carrying coffee and drinking espresso. My pitch, written in scribbles on a piece of notebook paper, had long since been folded and tucked in my back pocket. Somehow I didn’t need it anymore, yet he knew more than anyone about my capstone.

This is what teachers are supposed to do. They aren’t meant to sit and just listen and tell students what they want to hear. They’re meant to surprise you, make you think, make you question yourself. And then when you’ve hit the right target, they’re supposed to congratulate you and help you further along. Jolliffe did that, and it’s another reason I’m grateful to have had him as a teacher.

Back in his classroom, we spent the rest of the block talking about my college and other life plans. Where I wanted to go, where I was applying, how my family was doing, how was doing. He knew about my break-up, and had seen me go through this kind of thing twice before. I think he saw that I had finally matured or grown up in some significant manner, because he said something to the effect of, “You’re all grown up, kid.” I think he said that, actually, when he heard how my process of writing stories had changed. It’s funny how I could give a comprehensive autobiography for hours on end, but someone will know me best by the way I write and the way I talk about writing. So much of my soul is within such a seemingly innocuous activity.

I walked away from A block with a better understanding of where I was going in the coming months, and of where I wanted to be in the coming years. I don’t know how it happened, but my English teacher helped me there.

Endings (and the Beginnings They Spur)

As I wrote in a post earlier this evening, I finished watching the ninth and final season of The Office tonight. Alongside this, I also finished writing the first “Arc” of my series, The Chronicles of Troy.

I don’t want to elaborate too much, but Troy is something I’ve been working on since September 2012. Before that, the idea was for it to be a graphic novel series, and I even wrote a few scripts. I then decided to make it a short story series divided into “Arcs.” and each Arc would be comprised of fifteen episodes or short stories. The later stories proved to be longer and were novellas in their last few stories. The series is science-fictional, with a bunch of adventure, some mystery, and even a bit of romance. It follows an alien named Troy who travels the multiverse with two humans.

The series was inspired, obviously, by Doctor Who, but has grown into its own original work, in my opinion. The first half needs a lot more work, since my writing has matured greatly, but I’m proud of Troy‘s ability to differentiate itself and come into its own as a story and series. I’m so hopeful about what the series could become in the future, and want nothing but to make it a real, bona fide series people read. That’s my dream.

Anyway, I finished the finale last week. I haven’t had much of a chance to write a blog post about it till tonight, and now that I’ve calmed down about The Office, I guess I can talk about it.

There’s something so emotional about really finishing something. After working on this Arc for a year and a half, it’s incredible to me that I’ve reached this point. I almost thought I never would. I’ve got enormous plans for the future of the series and for what I’ve already worked on (lots of rewrites). I’ve come to love and admire these characters unlike any others I’ve written, and perhaps most importantly, I’m PROUD of those characters. They’ve developed at an unimaginable rate and to an unbelievable extent. I can’t wait to begin the second Arc, but for now, that’s just ruminating in my brain. Big plans.

With the end of Troy‘s first Arc and the end of The Office hot on its heels, I’m forced to become a little introspective and think about my life for a while. That’s what creative douche-bags do, isn’t it? In all seriousness, it’s rather odd to come to these endings in my life. I was so dependent on the characters in Troy for so long, and though I’ll return to many of them, there are multiple differences that I have to cope with and adjust to in the future. And the same goes for The Office. That show gave me such a flood of unexpected emotions, by the final season, that it hurt a lot when it ended. I haven’t depended on a damn television so much since I started Doctor Who, and not even Who has made me cry as much as The Office did.

There was just a lovable quality about all the characters in that show. You were devoted to them even if you hated them, and even if you were unhappy with an episode’s writing (season 8 was rough for me, and yet…). And Who hasn’t given me such major emotions, perhaps because it lives on. The finality of The Office‘s last episode, “Finale,” was so well written, and the characters were given such beautiful (if odd) conclusions that I was bawling for the last twenty minutes. That has never happened to me because of a story, and for that I’m ever more vulnerable about this show.

So, the introspection continues. How do I cope, now, with these endings? When my seven year-old brother passed away in 2010, I really struggled. Of course I did. And I will never say I’m “over” that event, because that’s impossible. But I had to learn to cope, to move onward while coping. Writing was my outlet, so now that writing is affecting me so much, I have to keep using it as an outlet. And as far as The Office goes, I’m going to have to start a new show. A good one. A really good one. I think I’ll watch 30 Rock next, and then maybe It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or Modern Family. I need something to fill the hole The Office left. I need that.

Life goes on. I’m going to rewrite the premiere episode of Arc I, and then I’ll start revisions. While I do that, I’ll be getting serious about starting to write Arc II. For now I’m giving myself a break, though. I don’t follow the “read every day, write every day” rule as much as I should, but I’ll live. I think I’ve earned a brief break. Soon enough it’ll be back to the grindstone, though.

I’m reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Love that book, and though I’m only a third of the way through, I highly recommend it. I’m sure I’ll write a post about it when I’m done.

That’s all for now. I’m starting to feel better. Blah.

Goodnight.

-J