A Thousand Rotting Baby Seals, or: Guest Post Friday, The Spenceration

I’m getting really overwhelmed, you guys.

Overwhelmed by all the honesty-balls being thrown at my head. Overwhelmed by the sweet, funny, sad, strong, fight that lives in all of these posts. Amazed that when I met these people, they were all the smart and secure ones, and there I was, all alone in my fool insecurity – but the whole damn time, there we were, going ’round and ’round in our own heads.

Well, this is Spencer. Spencer is all ‘pinnacle’-ey: That is to say, he’s clever, a great writer, (you may remember him from Mount Rainier’s struggle with depression in this post) married to a beautiful and supportive woman, and has evil-gorgeous children. (You know. Evil gorgeous, like they could get away with murder. Kittens and puppies have it too, but it’s lessened because they can’t talk. Thank the gods.) His work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Intergalactic Medicine Show and Brain Harvest. He also has one of them day-job things, and blogs, and twitters, and somewhere on this inter-web of horrors there is a link to his band, but I can’t find it and it’s late at night and he’s probably doing something clever, like sleeping. Here he is, in letter-form.

(And by the way, I don’t think this is ‘my’ internet, exactly, but I DO think that the CIC is a great idea)

Updated: Look what I found! http://www.reverbnation.com/pawnbroker

Updated Again: Links to Spencer’s Stories!

BLADE AND BRANCH AND STONE
THE DEATH OF ROACH
THE DEVIL’S REMATCH

My Pet Depression

An Essay By Spencer Ellsworth

You know the old adage: “If you’re going to confess embarrassing things, do it on a Canadian’s internet.”

So confession time, people.

At every writing-related-thingie I go to–convention, workshop, get-together–every one–I cry at some point.

This is not because something beautiful has been shared. This is not because I have connected to my muse. This is not because I wrote something really fucking amazing.

Don’t get me wrong.

(I’ve written some fucking amazing stuff.)

It starts when I come in contact with a lot of people who have had more success than I have, or who seem to be writing about something amazing, or who just enjoy writing more than I do.

I look into my soul, and I think about my own writing, and I think about how I’m not so hot on it, and that one novel needs to go out the door, and I wish I had more short stories out.

And I think about lots of stuff. Sometimes I think about how I was supposed to do more with my writing by now. I made myself a promise as a teenager that I would be all famous n’ shit. I question whether or not I really like writing. It sure is hell sometimes.

The frustration and sadness and etc all wells up, and then it taps into something much darker.

This CIC (Canadian Internet Confessional) is The Thing That I Like Least About My Depression, and teacher, here is my long-bandied thesis statement: I hate that my depression has latched onto my writing.

Yes, that nasty creature I call my depression, squinty eyed and cackling, waits for me to weigh my worth as a writer. Then it pounces, bowler hat perched on notched cat ears, and says, “I’ve been telling you for years you were worthless. And I was RIGHT!”

You, Wise Reader/Writer, may be Wise enough to have avoided this trap.

If you know what I’m talking about, though, even a little, I hope you recognize that this really has very little to do with your writing, and more to do with that nasty little creature, Depression, squat, hobbling around on stork legs, in a dinner jacket with a wilted purple rose at his lapel, under the embroidered words, “You suck.”

When I hadn’t sold any stories, he constantly reminded me of the fact. “How can you call yourself a writer when you haven’t sold stories?” But now that I have, he hits just as hard on other things. “You haven’t been nominated for awards.” “Nobody cares about another dumb SF writer.” “You haven’t sold to this long list of cool guy markets.” His breath rasps in my ear, stinking of a thousand rotting baby seals.

And he WILL make my cry.

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different tactics, not least of which is personalizing the bastard. Last time I did the Mid-Writing-Retreat-Cry, I ran into a friend who suggested, “Go on a run. I know that makes you feel better.” So I did run, a lot. A little over seven miles. At the end of it, the adrenaline washed the emotion from my system and I was able to story.

Sometimes I call my wife and she talks me down a bit. Sometimes I just take a walk or otherwise take myself out of the situation. It helps to remind myself that there is more than just the writing world.

But I will cry.

To further deal with this black-pupiled, purple-irised bastard, I’ve been studying mindfulness meditation a great deal lately. Both in Thich Nicht Han’s famous book The Miracle of Mindfulness and Williams, et. al.’s book The Mindful Way Through Depression. Mindfulness is just awareness, really. Pay more attention to what you eat, do, love, and less attention to what you want.

In mindfulness, he’s still there. I wish I could say he went away. I suspect that the only way to really conquer him might be to put my arms around his pebbled, warty, mildew-ridden skin, pull him close, and tell him, “You’re part of me, and I love you, but you’re wrong. Writing is not about these things. Writing is about Story, and Story is bigger than the both of us.”

Because frustration is normal. Sadness is normal. Comparisons to other people are, as unhealthy as they are, normal. And his shifty purple eyes, pebbled skin and cracked fungus-ridden fingernails are the yang to the muse’s whispering crystalline wings. He is me, in the same way the muse is. He comes from dark places I don’t understand, but they’re still my dark places. Call them chemical imbalances, childhood trauma, bits of both… he is me. He is my darkness, and I need my dark places.

I’d like to end this blog with the conversion. And then there was no more depression, just like when we got rid of racism and war. But that’s not it. I get to live with it, and I get to fight it over stupid things related to writing, and you might too.

Nope. He’s still there. But so is Story, and whether I outrun him, out-think him, or pull him close and acknowledge that he is mine, Story will be calling in the background, and once he quiets down, I’ll hear it.

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5 thoughts on “A Thousand Rotting Baby Seals, or: Guest Post Friday, The Spenceration

  1. In defense of the existence of this horrible, mildew-ridden, etc. etc. creep, I think that struggling against a monster that lives in your head is sometimes helpful.
    Like, if you just thought everything you did was wonderful all the time, your writing might be crap – and you wouldn’t mind at all because nobody in your head would be telling you otherwise. There is a part of you who knows how good you are (“I’ve written some fucking amazing stuff.”) so the contrast might be perfect for the creation of the amazing stuff!
    And you are obviously good at the written word, but maybe not in spite of that bastard, but maybe because of (?)
    And what’s wrong with a good cry, now and again? It’s supposed to be as healthy as a good belly laugh – maybe not as much fun – but you get to the body release that might just precede a few pages of genius.
    Keep on writing; and thanks for this post and my new appreciation of the monster in my own head!

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