October 31, 2005

The Fast Train to Crazy Town

There was that weird dream and the resulting belly-button gazing, and then, just when I was becoming unendurably self-involved and repulsive, it got worse. My mental illness number had ALREADY left the building, but this morning it attached a jet pack to its butt and blasted out of the stratosphere. It zoomed so fast away from dead-level zero that it PROVED Einstein's special theory of relativity as it applies to speed and time and by 7 AM, I busy was being crazy in the NINETEEN FORTIES.


I spent the period usually devoted to breakfast trying to drive every fool who has bothered to love me either away or equally insane by weeping and handwringing and threatening to fall down dead of despair and total brain failure. WHICH I STILL COULD, by the way.

If the blogging is slow for the next week or two, assume that I am SPARING you the crazy. And it is BIG HATEFUL BORING CRAZY. You might want to send me thank you notes. And chocolate.

SAMPLE OF HOW BIG THE CRAZY IS HERE: I lost my keys, which are actually the SPARE keys because lost my ACTUAL keys for the 300th time last week, so now with the spares gone I have NO keys, and I took Maisy to my room, put on Dora very loud and waited until her brain had been entirely sucked into Nick Jr Land, and went down the stairs, where I worried she would still hear me, so I went down MORE stairs into the cesspit that is currently our unfinished basement and there I lay in the sawdust and old bug parts and wept and wept and wept and wept and wept and WEPT over these keys. I called Scott and got his machine and wept into his machine. I called Lily and got Lily and wept into her ear. I called upon God to infest my skin with boils as punishment for being such a repugant human smudge of key-losing worthlessness. I wept and wept and wept until I was so snot-choked and hopeless and unable to breathe that I had to go up a flight and puke.


AND the worst part was that it was not until that point, the snivel point, that I began to suspect the keys weren't the real problem...

Lily just then called me back.

Her: Better?
Me: Well. I am no longer asking God to smite me to spare the Earth my stupidity. So. *snivel*
Her: You know none of this is true, right?
Me: *snivel snivel* It FEELS true.
Her: You called me this morning weeping and screaming, and I hadn't listened for 4 seconds before I thought, "Did she start drafting a book recently? Oh right, she did." And then I starting buffing my nails until you wound down. You always do this.
Me: I do?
Her: Oh Lord, yes. Always.
Me: No but, I do? You aren;t saying that to make me feel better?
Her: LORD yes, this is just, like, imagine the book is a little tiny baby growing deep inside you and---
Me: If you do a birthing metaphor, I will be forced to hire thugs to kill you
Her: And when the baby is ready to come out, you must have a terrible gush of liquid ruin your sofa---
Me: I sent the thugs my Amex number.
Her: In this case, puke and snot from crying so hard. And then you have to be in in screaming, contracting agony and holler and carry on---
Me: The thugs are coming.
Her: so loud it irritates the neighbors. And me. And Scott. As soon as you PUSH THE NOVEL OUT you will ---

At that point thugs burst in and garroted her. It was a swift and merciful slaying, but only because she refrained from using the word "muse."

I got off the floor and hosed all the tearstains and snot off the carpet and retrieved the oblivious Maisy and gave her yogurt. Scott came home with new keys he had made from his set. I dragged him out of the kitchen into my office, leaving Maisy behind to ply her spoon.

Me: Do you think this is about the book?
Him: Um....duh.
Me: Really?
Him Honey. You always do this.
Me: I DO?
Him: LORD, yes.
Me: *sniveling* How do you put up with me?
Him: *brightly* Look I got you NEW KEYS! Aren't they SHINY!

Then he took Maisy to pre-school and I sat down at my computer and all of a sudden Chapter 1 of the new book, which had up until now been a hodgepodge of repulsive jokey one-liners and meandering action, snapped into focus, and I found a VOICE and a NARRATIVE DRIVE and a DAMN good Jesus Bug Metaphor, and realized I had enough words to stop DRAFTING and begin REVISING and I here four hours later I own a working draft of a Chapter 1 that I kinda want to make out with.

HERE IS WHAT I DO NOT UNDERSTAND: If I do this every time, to the point that my loved ones EXPECT it, why don't I remember this and PREP for it? How do I get blindsided like this? My Mental Illness is apparently the Old Faithful of Yellowstone Naitonal Crazy Park----So if you KNOW it is going to blow at fifteen seconds after high noon, then what kind of lobotomized monkey-child runs and sticks her face over the hole the second the clock chimes twelve? Shouldn't I, here on book the fifth, be able to find a way to BRACE for it and get to the part where the book gets drafted WITHOUT the "snivelling key losing weep-til-you-puke with no idea that this is about the book" part? A stitch in time and an ounce of prevention and all that...and yet. Every single time.

Pass the Halloween mini-Twixes please, and if you could sprinkle some grains of Prozac on top like it was rainbow Jimmies, that might be good, too.

Posted by joshilyn at October 31, 2005 12:40 PM

Hooray!! You're really going to write another book and are not pregnant after all. I thought all of the grompiness was about the book you were suppressing with the game show channel and mini-Twixes but I thought you already knew that during your reality-tv show blog last week? Why does the writerly life has to be so weird?? Congratulations on a great Chapter 1! Will we get exerpts from it next week?

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 31, 2005 1:05 PM

I just...giant pink puffy heart you. Crazy and all. *smooches*

Posted by: Amy-GO at October 31, 2005 1:10 PM

a)Ha! I was right. b)Scott, you are STILL so 'da man'! c)Joss, your drafting is like my revising. Okay, you've got me beat on the mental illness thing, but after several dozen read throughs of anything, it all starts to sound the same. After all, how many times can you read something before your brain cells fuse into a solid, non-perceiving lump?

Posted by: David at October 31, 2005 1:22 PM

Congrats. Having a make-out-able Chapter One is a mega-accomplishment!

As to how not to get blindsided by yourself in the future, I'm not sure. Would it have changed anything if your family and friends had said to you a couple of days ago, "Ummmm, you're starting to draft a new novel, so you're about to have a mental breakdown that you think will be related to losing your keys but will actually be about THE BOOK."?

Posted by: Edgy Mama at October 31, 2005 3:00 PM

Can I just tell you that you have made me feel SOOO much better about my ownself?

I do a version of this--and it does, in fact, FEEL quite like mental illness. Or how I imagine mental illness would feel. ;-)--only mine ALSO occurs after getting feedback on chapters/short stories. I get completely overwhelmed and excited all at once. I want to implement EVERYTHING my wise-critique people have suggested. And then... see, the same sentence will garner three entirely different opinions.

I will work myself into quite the froth, conclude I need to completely re-write the entire piece, change the verb tense, pov, and hell... why not the setting while we're at it? About, oh, mid-way through THAT exercise, I will conclude that this is a moot activity b/c the problem really is that I simply STINK and shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard or writing implement.

This whole thing will go on and on until I am literally on the floor, begging the gods to take from me the desire to write--since clearly, that is the answer to this problem and I could be happy if only I didn't WANT to do this.

Then... *cue angels singing* for some reason, I will get my head out of my hindparts and be able to see more clearly. I'll get a direction and begin actually writing things I won't later delete--and thus can finish whatever it is I'm working on.

But it's not a very efficient approach. And it happens EVERY time. And each and every time? I don't recognize it AT ALL.

And in the midst of the listed specific nonsense? I'll lose not only my keys, but have been known to misplace brassieres, VERY important paperwork, money, checks, a single shoe from a pair--always a pair that I dearly love... I could go on. I also cry at random, uncontrollably and get, well, er, mad at people who love me. For really no REAL reason.

And while this is actually HAPPENING??? I have NO sense that it's relative to the work.

And me? I'm actually one of the most self-aware people you'll ever meet. [No, seriously. I have a trophy and everything.]

So don't be too hard on yourself for not seeing this.

But thanks again for sharing this on your blog. I feel just scads better. I'm sitting here thinking, 'See! I'm not like dangerous, special floors of the hospital crazy. This is just writer crazy. I mean, Joshilyn does it and her book rocked.'

You've just performed a public service. :-)


P.S. Chapter 1--SOOOO exciting!!!

Posted by: Alicia at October 31, 2005 4:00 PM

Jos. Make yourself an index card for the refrigerator door that says WHEN I START GOOGLING MY DREAMS AND SNOTTING THINGS OUT MY NOSE I SHOULD WRITE A BOOK


Posted by: Jilly at October 31, 2005 9:24 PM

Oh, Please don't spare us the CRAZY. I need the CRAZY. It makes me feel less alone. Major congrats on Chapter One!

Posted by: Carolyn Hueston at October 31, 2005 9:57 PM

Jesus Bug? I...huh. Can't wait to see that one.
And overwrought or not, the birthing metaphor is apt. I always puked during labor. It's not labor until you've seen what I had for breakfast, I always say.
I never say that, actually. But I could. It would be true.
Happy book, dear.

Posted by: Kira at November 1, 2005 1:08 AM

*petpet* You're pretty, Tulip.

Posted by: Mir at November 1, 2005 7:55 AM

At the risk of having thugs knock on my door--you don't remember it, just like women block out the worst of pregnancy/labor so they will go on to have more kids ;)

Do you think thugs can be bribed with Halloween candy?

Posted by: Angel at November 1, 2005 11:29 AM

I'm still stuck on the Jesus Bug Metaphor. Like, is there something called a Jesus Bug, or is it a metaphor concerning Jesus that hinges on an insect reference? I feel so dumb...

Posted by: Cornelia Read at November 1, 2005 8:15 PM

So apparently in Jakarta, "Kaki Berbulu Membantu 'Jesus bug' Berjalan di atas Air." Which clears THAT up. Thank you, Google.

Of course in Market Indonesian, they use the same word for milk and boob, and double words up if you want a lot of something, so to order coffee with a lot of milk you say "kopi susu," which is kind of like saying "coffee with tatas." Only nobody is embarrassed or anything.

Wait, I think dinner is defrosted...

Posted by: Cornelia Read at November 1, 2005 9:38 PM

All of this fills me with an amazing amount of hope. If THIS is Joshilyn who has written a wonderful novel that I love and has more on the way... perhaps I am still a potential novelist. I find so much delight reading your blog that I am making my way through your archives, month by month. Thank you!

Posted by: Tracy at November 2, 2005 9:44 AM