I haven’t written anything personal – not even a single diary entry – in a year. I’ve always thought it good practice to keep a journal. I’ve been writing some poetry but with less urgency and intent than I had been.
Initially, I thought this might be something to do with a kind of fear. Or maybe a sense of inadequacy is a better way to phrase it. When you’re a voracious reader, there’s a weight of literature that is both powerful and crushing.
Every time I sit down to write, I’m acutely aware I’m not Anaïs Nin. Everything Nin writes about her daily life in her dairies seems to be driven by a compulsion to document her feelings. Her prose is poignant. Her existence seems exciting.
I want my reflections on my daily life to be equally poignant. Working part-time in an independent cinema allows for a certain kind of poetic license when reflecting on the mechanics of living – it’s the historic (or histrionic?) setting; there’s the Hollywood aspect, which lets me understand myself as the tragic protagonist in the movie of my life. Yet, more often than not my reality is dull and filled with boring routine.
About a month ago I got some bad news regarding a project I’d been working on. As a writer I’ve become used to rejection however there was more bound up in this – a short film that I’d loved and laboured over had been rejected by a broadcasting network. And it did feel cinematically devastating for a moment.
I once opened a piece of writing with ‘when it rains in Hemingway it’s a precursor to something awful happening.’ This is embarrassing for the following reasons.
1/ Hemingway – who I still loathe to like – shouldn’t really speak to my female experience.
2/ In hindsight, it seems self-involved. When my mam took seriously ill it rained and I took it as some sign from the gods. The weather was reflecting my mood. It was a downpour and a metaphor – a literary device meant to consolidate the emotions of the protagonist (me, in this case).
I suppose the honest truth is ‘I was sad and it rained’ doesn’t make for engaging reading.
Still, one night – about a month ago – I was sad and it rained. It wasn’t just a light drizzle either, there were huge drops bouncing ceremoniously off paving stones. If I lived in the world of the films I watch so often, I’d have been sitting in bar, maybe nursing a drink whilst feeling very present in a film noir setting; I would exist in an Edward Hopper painting as the hard-done-to heroine.
It was raining although it was no painting. There were huge drops, too – and they were forming in puddles along piss alley (affectionately christened) and mingling with frozen burger fat from the chain restaurant a few doors down. I was not fabulous. I was wet through, carrying a child’s umbrella borrowed from the box office and crying – not one single tear – but in Titanic, ugly, mucus-filled gulps.
Sadness comes in different styles, I think. There’s the oceanic kind. Quells and troughs. And there’s the sharp, momentarily earth-shattering kind. When I found out about my short film, they hit me both. I’d felt before the futility of trying to be an artist (how privileged and pretentious anyway!) and now it felt like fait accompli. This was the moment I should give up. I only know for certain that I feel worn out.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve pushed myself to be ambitious which has meant channeling negative emotions into opportunities and masking patches of bad mental health wit
h a drive to be productive and successful. The problem with that formula is that when the outcome of your endeavors doesn’t work out as planned, you’re back to square one and somehow it’s worse. It’s the same sadness only each time you return the romance fades a little. There’s no romance in it. It’s just failing and failure means to let others and yourself down which is hard to live well with.