You should know that what follows is just a tiny scribble of what I have written, and it might not even make the final cut once I finish writing the book. But I put it here as a little enticement for readers, a tempting snack to “grow the appetite for more” when it comes out. That said, I must warn that in addition to alerting you that the passage below might end up on the cutting floor, if it does not, it still may not start the book. But here I am hemming and hawing and making excuses. Nothing wrong with posting what I have for now, for the nonce, even though I may remove it later on. Comments on subtitle would be greatly appreciated. If you have suggestions for improving it — the subtitle, i mean — so much the better.
BLACKLIGHT: a memoir of one woman’s fight to recover from schizophrenia
Blacksoup, tarstew, coffeecombs – submerged in the darkness of things I cannot face by light, inky, skeletal, reaching-out things that pinch and grasp and touch, I fight to swim away, even though away means into a blinding headache. I am sucked down again and then again, until through pounding surf, someone calls my name, almost too faint to hear. Desperate, I thrash upward, cracking the surface of the day and open my eyes. It’s well after dawn yet all the lamps in the room burn brightly.
“Pam, wake up. Unlock the door. I’m here,” someone shouts. The door thunders on.
What time is it? What day is it? I must have plunged into sleep the night before without awareness, for all I know is that I break into daylight like a common mole nosing into what feels like leaf litter and detritus, the remains of an old picnic. Popcorn is strewn across my lap and chair in a white rash. Resting on its side halfway off the night table, a cup of coffee, now empty, its contents on the carpet. I hoist myself off the recliner with a groan, trying to shake off my shoulders the gargoyles of nightmare. I sleep in my clothes but I never go barefoot –too liable to be bitten by the inanimate fang of a tack or discarded fork– so it takes me a minute before I can home in on my flip-flops.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Wrenching the deadbolt, I yank the door open. “I didn’t hear you. You’re early today.”
“It’s 8:30. No earlier than usual.” Elissa, her dark hair pulled back from her face, carries her big nursing bag and tablet computer. She wears slim, tight jeans and a ruched tee shirt that make her look thirty-five at most, not the forty-something she rarely admits to. She assesses me quickly before coming in and asking, “How did you sleep? And did you eat last night?”
Almost every morning begins this way, not with the bleep, blurt or blare of an alarm, on which I can mash the snooze button. Not even with the sweet sun-rising tones of my favorites song on iTunes, no, my morning begins with this won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Thor at the door. It’s not Elissa’s fault. Sometimes I leave my door unlocked before I cliff-fall into sleep so she can come in on her own the next morning and gently wake me. But not always, and then what can she do but hammer at the doorway of Oneiros, because nothing else will rouse me.
Elissa has been my primary visiting nurse for more than 10 years and she is the one who checks on me every morning, rain or shine, snow or hailstorm. She can read me by now the way a farmer reads the sky, and just one look or something in the tone of my voice tells her when things are copacetic and when they are not. She has seen me well and she’s seen me precariously ill and she’s the first to recognize when I’m somewhere in-between, headed in the wrong direction. Her main job is to keep track of and make sure I take my medications, but when paranoid, I have yelled at her or been snappy and high strung and irritable. She has never taken it personally. I no doubt have driven her nearly to distraction but she flicks all away as no big deal. I must say though that even though I wouldn’t admit it at the time, she has in more than one instance saved my life.
She keeps returning with a smile nevertheless and now instead of telling her how glad I am to see her, I turn away, mumbling that I had a lousy night. It’s true, but I feel like a lout for saying so. Or at least for saying so first thing.
Argh, now all I can see are the faults, but I will leave it as is, and not panic or take it down at once. I have learned that there is no terrible tragedy is letting people see rough drafts or the work-in-progress, though it be only that, a rough draft, not the polished version. If nothing else, it proves that I too am a human being who must write and make mistakes before editing and rewriting my copy. In fact, I rewrite a zillion times before I am happy with what I have written. Each poem takes at least 20 rewrites, at a minimum, and most take at least 50 while some over 100. As for prose, well, I cannot even begin to estimate how often I rewrite or revise each passage. but needless to say it is well over 50-100!
Not only is there no shame in revision, I take great pride in how much rewriting and revision I do. It is a point of honor with me that I take this much time with my writing and do not hurry it — ever. People who believe that the first words that come out of their pen or mouth or computer are sacrosanct are likely to not be real writers, only dilettantes who play at writing, but never take it seriously. Who want to write, but who never really do so, except for in the pages of a journal or doggerel between friends and family.
Do not get me wrong, I do not disparage this sort of writing. In a sense ALL writing counts as writing. And all writing is good for a person. But not all writing is publishable or suitable for the public consumption, and that is what I mean by writing done by a “real writer.” Someone for whom writing is what life is all about. Someone for whom life would not be worth while if she could not continue to write. Someone who knows the value of editing and revising and rewriting and who knows that a good editor can a writer’s best friend.