Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Is Writing Making Me Sick?"

By Nicole Putrello

The characters are calling out to me. They are speaking all at once. The characters are pretty loud and very demanding. It’s hard for me to think. It’s hard for me to focus. It’s hard for me just to be when these characters are all yelling at me. They all want me to tell their story. They want to be heard. Each one is talking and my fingers can’t type fast enough. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors. What does it matter as long as the story is getting to paper?

The characters don’t care. They just want someone to listen. They are talking all at once. My fingers can only do so much. My head is starting to spin as the voices get louder. I am trying to get everyone’s story. I am trying to capture each character’s voice. Sometimes they forget I am human or that I only have two hands. The voices are getting jumbled because all of them are talking at the same time. I want to pause and let the voices sort themselves out. But there’s no time, louder and louder they shout, they are drowning out the sound of my T.V. I’m sitting here now with a cramp in my right shoulder. My fingers are a blur above the keys.

They stop.
Floods my room,
Settles in my head.
Fall to my lap as
tension releases,

The characters have run out of things to say. But they will be back tomorrow. They always come back tomorrow especially when they have this much to say. It’s never been so intense before. Before I started to write this play I mean.

Funny. As soon as they stop yelling at me, I worry a little. What if they don’t come back tomorrow? Oh God, what then? I’ve lost them.

No, I guess I’d rather have them keep me awake at night then leave me. If they abandoned me, I would just suffocate.

But this is my question for you:
Is this frenzy of writing, is it helping me?
Is it making me sick?

I fall so easily into a writing trance. Before I know it, five hours have melted away. My boyfriend has called me twice, and I have a pounding headache. I don’t know what I am going to make for dinner. That’s probably why he’s called. I get up feeling so so SO very drained. So empty. I have no thoughts or feelings of my own. Just faded echoes of the characters who hold my body hostage. My mind is blank. All I want to do is take a hot shower and lie down. Lie down until my brain can function properly again.

How else will I be able to make dinner if I have no brain? When the characters come their thoughts become mine and it’s almost as if I disappear. I blank out, go dormant and they take over for a while until they have said what they have to say.

Sometimes the characters come to me while I am eating breakfast. Sometimes they occupy me when I am supposed to be paying attention in class. I really wish they wouldn’t show up in class, especially when we are reviewing for a test but the characters, they just do what they want.

I just type.
For an hour,
or six.
My mind,
is not my own.
My brain
is flooded
with thoughts:

What’s the quickest thing to cook for dinner? What can I make that will be forgiving to his cholesterol? Do I have any chicken? I wonder if I have to do dishes.

I walk into the kitchen taking command of myself. I open the cupboard and pull out two pans. I fill one with water and put it on to boil. I open the fridge and pull out a tub of I can’t believe it’s not Butter Light. I scoop out a chunk and throw it in the other pan. I quickly cut up some onions, mushrooms, and peppers adding them to the melted butter. The smells fill the kitchen. Once the water starts boiling in the other pan I throw in some frozen vegetables.

UH OH. Oh Dear God.

A character is creeping back. Like a whisper tickling the edge of my mind. I push her away. I am cooking now. Please go away. It’s the wrong time to get distracted. Last time it happened I burned a pot of barley. The smell hovered in the kitchen for three days.

Suddenly I sneeze. I run to the bathroom to get tissue. I have had a cold for about two weeks. I don’t know what brought this on. I have lost 18 pounds. I run at least four times a week. I have given up red meat and pork. I stopped buying junk food.

Maybe because it’s the first month of school and I have had so much homework. Maybe it’s because I work 38 hours a week on top of going to school. Maybe it’s because my boyfriend wants dinner.

Or maybe,
It’s the characters.
Is writing making me sick?
They do distract me
From reality.
Is writing making me sick?

Nicole Putrello is a senior at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her play, "Light Skin [sic] Babies," will be produced on campus in the spring. Putrello is hanging on while her characters take over her life completely. Meanwhile, her boyfriend is eating a lot of take out.

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