Make it Lit
When I was a teenager, I read a memoir called Lit by Mary Karr. I marked up the pages with pencil and took in her riveting account about alcoholism, her overcoming addiction. I sat by my uncle’s fireplace one Christmas at the tender age of seventeen and underlined almost every line. My cousin said, why are you writing in the book? My obsession with her tragedy had made me perhaps zealous; I needed to be at one with the text.
Mental illness has been my go-to writing topic for a long time. When I was still that seventeen year old girl, my life goal was to write a memoir. Flash forward ten years, and I started pouring my heart out on Prose. The abuse, the alcoholism of a parent. Funny that Mary Karr had gone through the same thing, only to win my respect for her and her experiences. But I loved her memoir of pain.
Pain. That’s what I need to write about. After about a hundred entries of mental illness tirades on Prose, I seemingly ran out of things to write about. My mental illness defines me, but is that boring? Once I’d written what I thought was everything I have to say about mental illness, what is left for me to write about?
The Prose weekly challenges have gotten interesting recently, more involved that when I first started writing for this site in April. They are my current outlet and inspiration. Finally, something not related to mental illness - to me and my pain. Finally, some practice at fiction.
But that’s where I hit writer’s block.
What is going to inspire? What is going to move people? It’s not enough to sit at my computer and rub my hands together and anticipate brilliance coming out of my fingertips.
I’ve raised the stakes for myself. It gets tricky to be inspired when all I’ve known is my memoir-ist writings. It’s fun to write fiction, and I want to do more of it. I just need to embrace the unknown, and perhaps learn dialogue - my weakness.
Perhaps I am only to be a memoirist, and that’s okay. But my writer’s block for fiction has become almost an inspiration to keep pushing through and write what I don’t know.
One night recently I wrote a piece for a Prose weekly challenge and got an editor’s mention. I remember having a glass of wine and going at it. It was so much fun - my racing thoughts seemed to seamlessly go through my fingertips and onto the keyboard. I laughed out loud through most of that writing process. I remember being so excited by what I had written that I was shaking when I’d finished.
So what’s the summary? Mental illness is what I know, but fiction is my goal and overcoming writer’s block is often tricky but something I can push through.
And my advice? Mark up with a pencil what inspires you to keep writing.