A Writer’s Curse and Blessing

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As the finish line of completing my first draft is coming closer, I’ve found myself conjuring up different scenarios considering my future book.

For instance, I’ve imagined how my mother would pick the book from her bookshelf to show it to her friends, saying ”This is the book my daughter wrote!” with pride in her voice (because especially my Mom likes to share our achievements with her friends). And then I imagine how she would describe the book, how it came as a surprise that I had written and published a real book.

I’ve also imagined the publisher calling me up and telling me that the draft is great, that he or she really enjoyed reading it but they had some issues with the names of the characters (which, of course, would be heart-breaking). I can imagine myself torn with the conflict of ’yay, getting published’ and ’do I want this so bad that I’m willing to change the name of my characters?’

And after being published, I imagine a colleague or a fellow student, attending the same lecture or meeting as I am, pull out the book from his or her bag and show it to me, asking in an excited voice: ”Did you write this? I loved it!” And I would try to keep the pride in my voice on a tolerable level and answer calmly: ”Yes, in fact, I did. How did you like it?”

Silly fantasies, I know. But during the past couple of months I’ve come to realize that it’s just how I am and how my mind works. I’m a writer. Therefore, I have a tendency to speculate different things. As a writer, it’s even part of my job to speculate, to imagine how different situations could turn out, what someone would say, how they’d feel, what childhood memory makes them act like they do.

Speculating on things can be fun most of the time. I’d say I put down a good deal of time speculating on other people’s lives, and how different situations and conversations could turn out. It’s like daydreaming. It comes naturally to me and even without me noticing it. Yesterday, for instance, I was having lunch with friends and caught myself in the act, speculating a situation where me and my partner would get robbed on the street, who would kick whom in the groin, what street would be the best one to run along and so on. When I caught myself speculating this, I snapped back to the real life conversation we were having. Oops. But that’s just how I am!

However, this speculative, imaginary mind of a writer (or any creative person for that matter) has a dark side as well.

The Deep-Analysis Pit

In my experience, constant speculation of what happens, analyzing why someone said something and drawing conclusions from social situations has a tendency to lead to deflation, social insecurity and even depression.

Only a few years back, this sort of analyzing and speculating was a real problem for me. I had a tendency to ’read between the lines’, feel the vibes of other people, analyze what was said to me, in what way, and with what tone. The same went for posts on social media and private chats – what words and emojis were used. My analyses were probably more often a bit over the edge than right which often led to feelings of insecurity and depression, affecting my overall mood.

I know now that being sensitive for people and social situations is part of being a highly sensitive person. Hard-core analyzing was also a part of my people-pleasing behavior, a way of avoiding possible conflicts and being liked by everyone. But at the time, the speculating and analyzing just took over everything. And I had no control over it.

As you can guess, it ended up restricting my life. I withdrew myself from social situations, and didn’t for instance attend to any parties at the university because I had the feeling that I was being judged or somehow not wanted in the group. I was nervous for meeting up with people, and spent a good deal of time ahead imagining how things would work out, how the dialogue would be, would it be good to prepare some questions beforehand?

As a result of constant speculating came the need for balance: I wanted to be prepared for everything. Which, of course, didn’t happen because it couldn’t. The lack of control over what felt like everything made me feel even worse.

However, as I’ve gained confidence and been able to rationalize most of the speculations and analyses inside my head, the hard-core speculating has calmed down a good deal. Also, as I’ve become better at analyzing people and conversations – what words they use, how their body language is – I’ve become better to understand that other people’s’ crappy mood seldom depends on me. Thanks to this, I’ve been able to cut down on the negative effects on constant speculating.

Of course, on some days I still end up in the deep-analysis pit and make things worse for myself but I’ve become better at picking myself up again. It’s like I have a ladder in that pit and I know where it is these days, and it’s easier to come up again.

Creating Magic

However, as a writer, speculating and imagining things is a vital part of the writing. Despite it’s deflating nature when gone too far, speculating can be extremely fascinating and energizing. It’s amazing what the mind can come up with – characters that don’t exist in the real world, dialogues that have never happened, worlds that no one else could come up with. Many creatives have an endless well of ideas and stories they want to tell to the world. And I seem to be one of them.

As long as I keep on reality-checking my analyses and speculations, I’ll be able to use this speculative nature of mine to conjure up different scenes for my novels and short-stories. Although much of what I write has to do with personal experience and memories, speculating (i.e. imagining) other outcomes and different reactions turn the stories into fiction. What I experience, witness around me and what I think about it work as raw material, that then becomes something completely new as I write it down.

And that feels like some kind of magic to me.

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Are you a speculator, someone who puts down time and energy to think out different outcomes from different situations? How do you feel about it – does it give you more energy or rather, does it leave you feeling deflated?

 

Still Life Sunday: A Method for Sleep

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15 A Method for Sleep

Every night at 9.30 PM, when the lights go out, the game begins.

It’s right after the parent wishes her daughter good night, makes the room go dark and leaves the door ajar. That’s the moment when the colors begin to gather. Some nights they are more pastel, some nights darker. It depends on the day.

The daughter draws the blanket right up to her ears, letting the warmth take over and observes how her body gets heavier. It’s as if the mattress is in love with her arms and legs, her back and her head, and squeezes her closer. It’s a nice thought. I like you too, bed, she thinks to herself.

But then it is time to spin the wheel and choose a story. The imaginary colorful wheel of stories spins and spins in the daughter’s mind until she thinks she can’t take the chaos of color anymore, and stops the wheel. The story for the night is… the wolf girl in the woods. The daughter smiles a tired smile, her eyes closed, her body heavy and already a little bit sleepy. This is one of her favorite stories.

Every night she plays the game. She spins the wheel, then makes it stop and takes the story it offers for the night. She tries to recall what happened in the story the last time she visited it and then lets her imagination take over. It’s her favorite way of making the time go under the blanket while she waits for the Sand Man.

(She isn’t quite sure if she still believes in the Sand Man but as she doesn’t know any other reason for why she falls asleep every night, she continues to refer to the mysterious man while she waits for her sleep.)

The wolf girl in the woods is one of her favorite stories because it is always filled with the most exciting adventures. In the woods, she gets to run through the blueberry bushes, letting her naked legs get scratched (but it doesn’t hurt). She can climb the trees, jump from rock to rock, take a dip in the cold but refreshing spring and sleep under a pine tree. And she can do all of this with her wolf friend, Otto.

This particular story is so wild, fun and adventurous that the daughter is almost less willing to fall asleep. Sometimes she wishes she could stay awake the whole night because then she could roam the woods as long as the stars stay in the sky.

She needs to take care of Otto and her wolf friend’s siblings. You see, they are in great danger. There’s a huntsman in the woods – a brown-haired, tall, heavy man, whose heavy boots can be heard from afar.

And the huntsman wants Otto and his siblings. Not as pets, not as friends, like the girl does, but for their fur. The daughter knows this and therefore she needs to stay in the woods with her friend and protect him from the huntsman. It’s important – she’s the only one who can trick the evil hunter to fall into the big, deep pit that they’ve been digging for several nights.

She is the heroine of the story, the one who can save the day. Otto is the other main character, her right hand (or rather, her right paw). And the huntsman is the enemy.

Night after night the daughter returns to this dream (if the wheel of stories is in her favor) to help Otto and his siblings escape and hide from the huntsman. And every night she tries to find out a way to trick the man into the pit. It’s a slow process, but she knows she will eventually succeed.

The daughter loves this story. But every night, after only a short time of continued adventures as the wolf girl in the woods, the Sand Man comes to her, and she falls asleep. Before the dreams take over, she tells herself that Otto must wait for another day for her to come to the rescue. But she will come to the woods again. She knows she will.