It Hardly Matters

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


When I can't write, or won't, I can't sleep. So I've been up to all hours lately. Instead of applying my anxiety to my work (my new mantra, thanks, Jo Ann), I sit and stew in my own juices for hours on end ingesting various media: music, TV, films, books, magazines. I try to turn the level up a notch during what are supposed to be "writing hours": watching touching PBS documentaries about inner-city kids performing Shakespeare at London's West End Theatre, reading Lucy Grealy's harrowing medical/psychological memoir Autobiography of a Face, listening to The National's two albums on repeat, finally popping The Lives of Others into my DVD player instead of letting it rot in its Netflix sleeve on my coffee table. All this in search of my soul.

The kids in the PBS documentary (My Shakespeare) were having trouble. They weren't actors. They had never read or seen Shakespeare. They had no hope of success in any tangible way. But after a month of intensive rehearsals and constant guidance/encouragement from filmmaker/actor/director Paterson Joseph, they pushed through adversity (thank you ESPN, for that phrase) and connected to their characters, wrenching emotions like love, lust, and betrayal from their souls and getting them out on stage.

An actress friend of mine once told me that she had to stop acting because the ability to access and control emotions, though she could do it, was too much for her. She couldn't stop feeling them after the scene ended. I think this kind of direct access to and control of emotion is necessary for all art. But writing isn't a performance. It's just always there. So if you're attuned to your emotions when you're writing, if you're ripping your heart out, when and how do you put it back in?

Last night, I caught American Beauty on TV, uninterrupted, unedited. I remembered going to see it in the theatre with Jane, when it first came out, when she still lived here, when she made me go see the best films. Afterwards, we clutched each other and sighed with overwhelming wonder at the Wes Bentley character: how gorgeous, how real. The plastic bag dancing in the wind. We probably cried.

It's so easy (too easy?) for me to access my emotions. It's wrangling them into art that pins me to the couch. What good is all that emotion with no means to get it on the page? So I'm up all night, feeling stuff, staring into the night, the flickering television casting a frantic shadow in my bedroom, wondering what to do.


  • often, often, too often, i'm sat staring out the window wondering the same thing.

    By Blogger molly, at 11:05 PM  

  • "Jane, Honey...Are you trying to look unattractive?"


    Well, congratulations. You've succeeded admirably!"

    Haha that always cracks me up obviously - 1999 was actually a decent year for movies.

    Love love... -je

    By Blogger Jane Elizabeth, at 11:11 PM  

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