Off . [awf] . adverb . (1) so as to be no longer supported or attached . (2) so as to be no longer covering or enclosing . (3) away from a place .
It’s accurate. I’m feeling off. And yes, my feelings should be over there with heating a house… but when I feel this ‘off’ I feel like I either need to write or give it up completely.
There’s been some suicide in the news and the media has a frenzy of concern. I really wanted to reflect on that a bit. I went to a show celebrating some bravery facing mental illness. I wanted to write about an incident and some introspection that occurred during the show for me. I’m writing an historic novel about the one and only witch trial in Pennsylvania and found some interesting information to include and cannot organize my thoughts to move forward in the story.
Last night I was on the way home from work – actually I was on my way to the gym. Last night I was on my way to the gym, when I saw someone for whom I wrote a book. I was the ghostwriter and before me on a city bus was the corpse for whom I pieced together words. Corpse? Yes. If I am a ghost, the soul with the eloquence to put thoughts from pen to page, then the remainder is a corpse. I looked out the window and if he called over to me, I would have pretended I had not seen him.
When I think about my writing recently, I think it’s just never going to be a thing from which I can make a living. And when I realized why I didn’t write, it was all I could do to convince myself that I wrote because I need to write, not because I need someone to read it, or get published, or have notoriety. But seeing the years that have passed without making a dent in projects that are whims in my head and no closer to calling myself a writer who counts instead of the other way around, it occurs to me that I may never become… whatever it is I was before being squashed.
Off. I’m no longer supported. I’ve isolated so much and find myself without drink and with meds to be intolerant of the effort it takes to feign interest in that which I don’t. The sobriety of treatment is startling on a daily basis.
So I saw this corpse and I thought of words a friend said to me quite some time ago when I was in the darker corners of suicidal thoughts. He said, ‘you cannot let [book title] be your legacy.’ My name was not even on the work. I was anonymous, and it was fine to be that while I worked on all the ghosting I completed. I blamed the time I extended to the ghost jobs for the reason I did not complete my work. I listened to the stories that the characters in my head were weaving and I didn’t know where they would end. I became obsessed with numbers while writing, looking constantly at the bottom left of the screen as I typed, wondering if there were enough or too many. I was contrary to the craft, telling other writers how I wrote by the seat of my pants and then went home and plotted. I told others I outlined for days and then opened my laptop and wrote freely, not knowing where the tale would take me. I am no more disciplined in my writing than I am in the rest of my life.
I sent in a play to a competition. It’s a fun story with no vulgarities. I wrote it during a manic weekend and edited/rewrote it in another two weeks. When I question characters’ motives, I write their back-stories in the blink of an eye. I wrote a horror [short] story where pizza is a killer and had so much fun with five thousand words in the course of two days to submit for inclusion in an anthology. I can do the work. I can complete work. Except when I’m off like this.
I feel no longer covered or enclosed. People who are or were the closest to me have probably heard that I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I’ve said, I want to scratch my skin off my body. I wear acrylic on my nails so that I don’t. A doctor told me that when one is mal-nourished, as I became when my pancreas revolted, a survival mechanism kicks in and one scratches their skin to get blood flowing to the extremities. Is this habit a part of mental instability or the physical? I don’t know.
Off. Definition three. Away from a place. Away from one place is in another, is it not? I understand how to use off in a sentence with this one but the literal thought of the words used to describe it have me wondering which of the places I am. Am I in a place or away from it in another? Of course when I dissect definitions and morphemes I am reminded of the statements from Stoppard, “Words. It’s all we have to go on.”
I’m disappointed in the devolution of communication, even though I am one to acquiesce to the theory communication is a means by which to convey a message. Even still, every day I do not put my fingertips to keys, or a pen to page [as another friend told me - the only tool I needed.]; every day I do not string words together for another to read, I am not a part of preserving language. I definitely am no closer to being a wordsmith as I aspired to be a few lifetimes ago, than when I lived in that lifetime. I am a bum writer.
Still, I look at the compilation of unfinished work and the small pieces I’m finally submitting for another to read and I think that I can become more than a ghost. If I can fix a little bit of me as I move through my days, I can fix this neglected piece that is pushing me off the route I need to follow.
And then there’s my brain. And if I want to be completely honest, I’ll say my belly too. My physical and illness seem to be forks that are presented to me in my journey. At the least, I fall down and consider what I need to do to survive the journey for one more day. At the most, the fork pulls me in and I’m lost winding through places that I have no business being if I want to get to my destination. I become off track. Off route. Off task. Off target. I feel off. I cannot write when my body or mind is off on another route. I cannot be me when I am off.