Monday, February 13, 2012
Origins Blogfest: O Rose, thou art sick.....
When I was about 13 (about 1971), a learned doctor told me he could cure me of my extreme mental illness--- my fantasy life. I lived a good deal of the time in the worlds of my imagination where I had adventures with Batman and Robin, the crew of the starship Enterprise, and the gang at Stalag 13 from the TV show Hogan's Heroes. Sometimes the adventures mixed character-groups, as when the Enterprise was thrown back in time and a couple of crewmembers were beamed down to Stalag 13, a mythical magical place where anyone who combed his hair right and put on a fake mustache could successfully impersonate Adolf Hitler.
But this was a sickness. Experts had said so. My parents continued to send me to the therapist. I never actually tried to give up making up fantasy stories or my other odd behaviors such as obsessively reading the Bible and the Star Trek by James Blish, and obsessively re-watching television shows that fed my fantasy worlds. But, then again, the therapist never asked me to.
At some point I read the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--- not as a school assignment, I rarely read books assigned to me, but because I was weird enough to like old books like that. The character Jo was like me--- she made up stories--- but unlike me she wrote them down and considered herself a writer.
I liked the identity of being a writer better than that of being a mental patient. So I began to think of myself as at least a potential writer. But actually writing down stories was hard. If they stay in your head, they cannot be harshly judged and made into a subject for mockery. I had enough mockery. The neighbor kids called me Retardo as it was locally rumored that in spite of my high IQ I was mentally retarded. And my sweet loving younger brother called me Pigface.
In one of the four high schools I attended, I somehow ended up in a creative writing class. Our assignment: write an opening paragraph for a story. This is what I wrote:
"In the beginning, John created the heavens and the earth. At least, that was John's opinion. It was for that arrogance that I vowed he must die."
The teacher started the next class day reading what I had written as an example of an excellent beginning. The first confirmation that my self-identity as a writer was more than mental illness at work. I tried hard to finish that story but got stuck. Maybe if the teacher had ever talked to me as an individual, he could have helped. But none of my high school teachers ever did.
In the subsequent years my fantasy life continued. My writing-things-down life continued to be unsuccessful. Some years after college I began writing weird poems. The first kind of writing that I could finish. I sent a few of them out to publishers. My first acceptance came from a Stalinist/Communist magazine called 'Struggle'. Since I was in my Youthful Marxist phase at the time that worked out well. I got more publications but gave up sending work out in time because of the high cost of postage and of sample copies of poetry magazines.
Recently I found out that my 'mental illness' was actually undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome. I also found out that my difficulty in finishing novels and other long writing projects was not due to my essential badness/laziness, but because I have Attention Deficit Disorder.
With this knowledge, I am working on my writing in new ways. I have started writing poetry again. I've self-published a poetry book, 'Where the Opium Cactus Grows', and started a poetry blog, Opium Cactus Poetry Immersion.
In today's writing world, poetry is pretty useless--- as useless as I often feel since I had to go on disability. But I've heard some nice things about some of my poems. I gave my current therapist a copy of my poetry book and he was impressed by it. Here is a poem from the book (with audio):
jump-rope-song of the apocalypse
(c) 1989-2010 Nissa Annakindt
My novel-writing I am revising to make use of the things that have worked in my poetry--- mainly writing things in shorter sections which I can handle rather than the paralyzing largeness of saying 'now I am sitting down to write A WHOLE NOVEL!!!' Will it work? I don't know. But still, I make up stories. And I write.
This blog post is part of the Origins blogfest. Please go there to visit some other participants.
A Fortnight of Mustard: Origins Blogfest: How I Decided Writing Was the Best Form of Self-Flagellation