Friday, June 25, 2010

Why I Stopped Writing

You know, I was talking with a friend yesterday (oh, and just discovered, after having this MacBook for two years, how to use the video camera and AIM to do a video chat! Duh! But it's cool ... like sitting across from someone at a table and just chatting. Ah, technology.) Anyway. I was talking to a friend, and though she'd known that I'd published a Melissa Etheridge biography long, long ago, she'd had no idea I'd published other work. And that got me thinking about WHY I'd stopped writing.

It's not that anything I published (other than a short story) was anything of literary merit. I was, and am, a big fan of live music, and naturally the Melissa bio opened a few doors for me, so I did some occasional freelancing for Bay Area Reporter, OutLines, Girlfriends magazine, and places like that. It was mostly FUN stuff to do: interview Melissa Ferrick, the Go-Gos, the Indigo Girls, or the random CD or book review. One thing I found out was that "celebrities" are just like you or me. They can be sweet, they can be silly, they can speak passionately about political issues that concern them, they can be dumb, they can be amazingly honest and disclosing, or they can just put on an act to try to fit whatever image their management and publicist have created for them. Some of them are snotty and impatient; interviews are a drag but a necessary part of touring and selling records. The sweetest: Emily Saliers. We chatted on and on about Virginia Woolf, none of which was on point and did not appear in the published interview. The most passionate: Amy Ray on indigenous peoples. The most disclosing: Melissa Ferrick.

Melissa won me over by disclosing to me something she hadn't yet (at the time) disclosed in the press: she was a recovering alcoholic. The irony was that, at the time I interviewed her, I was still using. Hadn't even come near my bottom yet. I definitely did not think I was an alcoholic.

Yet I think it was, to a large degree, the alcohol that actually got me away from writing. I was either too drunk or too hungover to spend any significant amount of time on work other than teaching (which I needed for the salary). I'd written a book that needs significant revision; it's been gathering dust in my closet for years now.

I lived in a claustrophobic, small world the last three years before I checked myself into rehab. I cared about things or others in only the most superficial of ways. What mattered most to me was downing as much liquor as I could and then blaming everybody else but me for my own miserable life. The problem--and these are Melissa Ferrick's words, "was not everybody else; it was in my own hand." They say that alcoholics just kind of fall into an effin' bottle. It's true.

So it strikes me as ironic today that I revisit these old pieces of writing and remember the person I really am. She's coming back to life. I'm not writing about music anymore, and I haven't picked up that novel or started any new fiction (the serious stuff that I care most about), but I have been writing this blog. Some people skip the recovery posts and seek out the humor, the Youtube music videos, or my general wackiness. You know, Tigger. Others read this blog for the recovery posts. You know, the Hapless. Every now and then I get a surprise message on Facebook and I find out someone has been quietly reading me for months, recognizing a loved one in my experiences, or recognizing their own behavior in mine. I've said it before--in some ways, this blog is like 12th Step work for me. Right now it is also helping me remember who I am, where I've been, what I can be, and what I don't want to be anymore.

Some friends have told me, "Put this stuff together into a book, Joyce." Who knows? Maybe one day I will.


Amy Juras said...

That is part of the service that AA talks about. Your writing has definitely helped me understand the disease better. I have made some decisions, good and bad and talking them over with you has always given me excellent prospective. You do have a book in you now, my greatest joy would be for you to write it, publish it and you go on Ophrah and not have to apologize, eg 1,000,000 little pieces!

Joyce said...

LOL, Amy! Well, I would hate to wind up raked over the coals like James Frey. It's funny, and David M. and several folks you don't know have all told me I ought to somehow work the recovery posts into some kind of little book. Or to just write a memoir. I can't decide. I guess I still feel I'm still a newbie in terms of sobriety and that I still have a lot to learn. But in any case, the recovery posts are sort of a record of how I'm evolving. Maybe one day I can make it all into a coherent whole. Thanks for the shot in the arm! :)