Being a writer is lonely. Sometimes I think characters and ideas come to me purely for the sake of filling up my mind with imaginary camaraderie. After years of being in the theatre and relying, nay depending on others in order to tell a story, digging into the act of putting words on the page tastes like creative freedom, albeit a solitary one. But let’s talk about this fact: Husband and I recently adopted a cat and this, compounded by my love for a comfy sweatpant and oversized mug of coffee, ensures the fact that if I don’t maintain a tangible real life community I will be swallowed whole by my introverted writer cat lady persona. Or that’s just another character I’m making up to keep me company. The whole chicken or egg conundrum, as it were, continues.
For a writer/actress (or actress/writer depending on the mood), the people making up my life will inevitably end up in my work. For instance, in the novel I’m currently writing, an old and terrible boss makes an epic appearance. Words and phrases from Husband’s childhood have made their way into my pages. And my heroine’s best friend at work is surely a compilation of relationships I’ve had with my own colleagues over the years. So when my tribe on the page starts reflecting the nuances of my real life back to me, it’s easy to want to life edit:
Let’s start with energy suckers - the ones who demand so much but give so little. The ones who ask you to pour over them, excavating their brilliance and hashing out their idiosyncrasies, but when you ask for a little bit of attention all you get is a dial tone.
And the boring ones. Nothing is original. Life is just one big headache and the dishes need to get done. By the way, here’s a selfie. And food. And a selfie of me with my food. Forty seven days in a row.
How about those neurotics? You know the kind. They're not the good kind. The good kind of neurotic cares deeply about the amount of burn on their toast or has a profound opinion on the Oxford comma. The bad kind manufactures their reality to fit their assumptions. The world revolves around them. They’re the ones who are sure the barista gave them milk and not cream as an affront to their weight. As if an overworked, up-at-the-crack-of-dawn barista’s forgetfulness was a passive way to say, No you don’t want cream, Fatso, you want skim.
But when I look at the daily characters in my life, a harsh fluorescent light comes down on my own patchy skin. How about the ones I play every day:
The 30-year old woman who gets stuck a lot. On the couch, in a pattern, in her thoughts. Noticing when I forsake the vibrance I want for the boredom I don't want reminds me of what it felt like as a five-year old in art class. It reminds me of my fingers being fixed together by gobs of cement paste, the pain I felt when tearing myself from myself, and the first childhood pangs of self-loathing aimed at the fact that I was daft enough to get stuck in the first place. This stuck/self-loathing pattern still happens. It's embarrassing. Just wash your hands and move on, lady.
Or the distant me. Hovering over the world in my own brain cosmos, wondering about meaning and bigger picture, and forgetting that there is no bigger meaning to reality if you're not a part of it.
Here's a character I really nail - the obsessive. She is a desperate fellow. Looking for approval, affirmation, affection, recognition, isolation, certainty, or any other flavor of the week. I obsess to control. And why must I have control, my friends? If we want to just go there: to try and trick myself into believing that I will someday escape death. Yep.
But here’s what I've learned about trying to make a life edit - you can’t get rid of all the crazies because you’d have nothing to write about. So instead of making ourselves nuts by trying to transform others, we could just, ya know, live and let live. Let them surprise us. Glean writing prompts and inspiration here and there from their bad behavior.
And if we do that for others, then maybe we can lay off ourselves for a hot second. I'm not suggesting going around and behaving like an @#$hole. But perhaps we could acknowledge where we fall short and accept it for what it is - the deficiency of our humanness that binds us to one another by our shared imperfections and complete lack of having our shit together. Maybe instead of self-flagellating, we could just trust that our foibles will not be our downfall but rather our compass.
Maybe it's too uncomfortable to exist so deeply in our faults and be so accepting of others', but my guess is the discomfort is the story. And who doesn't want to tell a good one?