Feeling Too Much

I thought, this being the Anniversary, that it would be a good time to reflect on why we’re writers. I contend it’s that we feel too much, more than ordinary people, and that we need a place to put all those extra emotions, so we write.

I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve visited the past couple of weeks where the authors are so twisted up about Katrina they can’t write. I remember the same reaction from many writers after 9-11. I’m not saying writers are more sensitive than others – there are certainly all manner of people helping right now – but I think it’s so much easier for us to put ourselves in those people’s situation. After all, that’s what we do every day, right?

Maybe it’s being a woman that opens us up, but I think being writers takes us that extra step, takes us to the Superdome, to Biloxi, and four years ago, to the crumbled financial district, the field in PA, the burning Pentagon. People see it on the news, but we are there, we are the ones getting the phone calls, we are the ones handing our children to the men in the helicopters, we are the ones choosing to live or die.

I have to shut myself off from the pain. I have to, to survive. This summer my brother’s good friend drowned on the Fourth of July. I cannot let my mother tell me the story. I can’t. Because the day Julian died, my own son was in a lake, and my fear is that it so easily could have been him. So I have to pull down the wall (I see it as one of those rolling metal doors) and block it out. I cannot let my brother talk to me about it, and I feel like a terrible person, but I can feel that mother’s pain as if it was my own.

This kind of ties back into the whole “writing as an escape” thing. Maybe I used my writing these past two weeks to escape from the horrors I was hearing, to have some control. And as terrible as I was to my h/h, I KNEW they’d come out okay in the end. That they’d have each other, that they’d make it home.

I wish I had that kind of power in real life.

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Anonymous said...


I think what makes us different as writers is the willinging TO go to where emotions are overwhelming. Many people spend their whole lives trying to avoid the feelings that we work with in our work every day. But because we do this, we have to be wise and learn to take care of ourselves, to know when to say "enough", no more. And you are doing that. This is why I from time to time take a break from everything and pull back to regroup. If I don't, it will implode on me.

Today is a hard day for so many. The 4th anniversary of 9-11. The continuing horror of Katrina. For me, this is also the 35th anniversary of my brother's death. I was 12 years old when he passed. So strange that a day that has always been hard for me is now a day that will live forever in history books, and in the hearts of every person who lived in this time.

And yet...the sun rises in the morning. That's what I look for, at every dawn. I know it means that life goes on, and so should we. It's what we're here to do.


Trish Milburn said...

(((JoAnn))). I'm sorry today is such a sad day for you, for many reasons.

Mary, I think you're right about writers seeming to be more open to experiencing others' pain. And we do have to protect ourselves because, if not, that pain could be devastating to our mental health. There's a fine balance to find.

MJFredrick said...


I'm trying to insulate myself today, then Fred drove by the nursing home where my grandmother died - yow. NOT good.

Toni Anderson said...

A difficult day--and maybe your not so different to Miss Snark as you thought???

This day is so sad, so heartbreaking and yet we should use it to remember the good things. Like the dawn as JoAnn says. If I die in some unnatural way I don't want to be remembered for the terrible ending (which I can imagine in every conceivable fashion BTW :/), but for the life I led.

I want to bless the people who died, pray for their souls and steal the date back from horror and turn it into something good for them.

If only I could...

Unknown said...

Great post. And it's days like today that taking those moments to really think about all we have is so important.

Nikki said...

It is a sad day... and with all of the Katrina footage as well it just seems like such a sad time for everyone in the U.S. But you guys have a way of bouncing back - you're just too strong not to.

I'm going to go give my little guy a hug...

MJFredrick said...

Ooh, ouch, Toni. I guess you're right. In my defense, it's the culmination of the Katrina coverage and the memories of 9-11. Too much, too much.

Toni Anderson said...

Hey Mary--it was just an observation, no defense required!! We cope however we can.


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I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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