Saturday, 24 January 2015


Back in November, when I was deep in the darkest parts of that depression, or sadness, or funk, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it (can it truly be a depression if you come out of it, if you are loved, if you are lucky, if you have so many things going for you? And on and on and on the questions go now, with the doubt), one of the things that I talked about out loud to friends was this creeping realization of my patterns as a writer. Namely, the cocoon-create-emerge-months-later rhythm that always, in the thick of it, feels so safe and rewarding.

The problem, of course, is that I embrace the isolation wholeheartedly. I disappear into my house, I make forays out for work and groceries, and that's it. I spend my weekend days dressed in pyjamas. I work and write and work and write and sooner or later I come out into the world and there's a novel, yes, but perhaps it isn't a novel that goes over very well with those who read it, and all of a sudden the thought of more cocooning makes the panic flutter like a small bird in your heart.

But I want to talk to somebody, you say. I want to talk to somebody and I want to spend a week -- or weeks -- doing something that isn't writing or work or getting groceries or cleaning all the gunk away from the taps around the kitchen sink. I want to go out. I want to live.

Doesn't that sound silly? It sounds silly to me. And still I type, still I put the word out. Still sometimes I think, deep down in my soul: is writing really living? Or is it only ever the dream of living, a dream you hope to make so real and wonderful that it will come alive for someone else?

I figured something out at the beginning of the year, I think. Something to do with structure and points of view and how to make things all come together. And now the cocooning doesn't seem so terrible anymore. Now I look ahead to the days where I can just come home from work and not go out, and I'm excited. To write. To disappear again until another draft is finished.

I feel like there's a fable in here, somehow. Something about a person who sits down to create a world and comes out to find their own world empty when it's finished, the memories of people that you used to know just floating on the wind.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

I resolve, I resolve, I resolve

So many things.

A couple of nights ago I realized that 2015 marks three years since I've been in this little attic apartment. Three. Whole. Years.

When I moved in I was using a borrowed camp mattress as my bed. I did not have a pillow. I was terrified that I would have to spend ONE WHOLE YEAR in the apartment due to the terms of lease etc, and I did not want to stay in Hamilton, I did not want to work at the hospital, I did not want I did not want I did not want.

How fast the time goes now. Three hundred and sixty-five times three.

It terrifies me, somehow. And at the same time knowing this doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would back there at the beginning. So you stop in your hometown for a while. So you rest.

Some things are marked by time, though. Yesterday I ordered three books using a Christmas bookish gift certificate. One of the books was THE UNSPEAKABLE, by Meghan Daum, who is brilliant and wonderful and all of those things that my perpetually caterpillared writer self would one day like to be.

I can't think of her now, though, without thinking of this essay.

My own Central Sadness feels never far from reach these days. I wish it were not so, but what else is there to do about it, except read and read and write and love and hope that you can catch Time in some instances, even as it speeds on right beside you? 

Friday, 2 January 2015


"The best way I can describe the new autofictional novel: the oeuvre is the soul. The artist’s body of work, in other words, has come to replace the religious ideal of the immortal spirit." 

-- Jonathan Sturgeon, on the death of the postmodern novel

Yes, I think. And then I think: well, but maybe not entirely.

I am misreading Sturgeon, slightly. I keep reading it as the oeuvre is the soul. As though the thing that we draw our inspiration from is, in fact, the soul itself, and not the other way around. You excavate the soul in order to make your way around the world.

In other misreading adventures, at multiple times over the last few months I've found myself mistaking "devout" for "devour". Which seems appropriate. Isn't faith--or the semblance thereof, or the search for oneself in all manner of postmodern and post-postmodern and autofictions--a kind of devouring?

Don't you sink in, and go farther and farther until there's nothing left?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

In with the New

"For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.”

― T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year, friends. Maybe it be wonderful, and filled with magic. 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Out with the old

Sometimes I think the best time of year is that brief stetch of time before the New Year begins...those few days in between Christmas and January 1st where people rest, and recover themselves, and start thinking about how they're going to change themselves, become new at the start of the next year ahead.

Before the reality of those changes confronts you and you deal with the inevitable breakdown of those resolutions. When everything is exciting and possible.

It's a cop-out way to think, I know. Why not carry that enthusiasm and drive with you all year long? Why limit the excitment to a few days at the end of one year, and then -- if you're lucky -- a month or so into the beginning of the next?

In, I say. In, in with the new. I am ready for 2015 and all of the possibilities that it might hold.

I hope it is a brighter year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Early gifts

My story, "The Centaur's Wife", went up this morning over on Necessary Fiction. As I said on Twitter: it is about the end of the world and bestial love. Because 'tis the season, and all that.

Also: THE MIRACLES OF ORDINARY MEN has been shortlisted for the 2014 ReLit Awards! Three cheers and a wild crazy happy dance!

What a lovely early Christmas present. Now on to eating pie and Christmas puddings...

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The fog that lifts, and then descends

The first time I got depressed, I was twenty-three. It was 2005, almost summer. I was in my second-to-last year of university and working full time. I was also taking seven classes--writing, workshops, philosophy, Latin. In retrospect (and if I'm honest even then, a little) this was not a good idea. There's only so much space in the day, so much you can do, and I was experiencing for the first time the reality that one cannot do everything all of the time, not always, not for long. I cried in the shower. I cried in my kitchen. I cried on the bus.

I had just recently broken my heart over somebody, and I thought that's what it was. When my mother suggested, ever so gently, that maybe I should go to a counselor, maybe just to talk somebody, maybe you're just suffering from a little bit of depression, I thought she was well-intentioned, but wrong.

It's okay, I told myself. It's okay, it will be okay, it will all be fine. You just have to work harder. You just have to smile more. This too shall pass, etc.

I did end up going to a counselor at the school. One of the first things she asked me was how much work I was doing. I told her about the seven classes. And then I told her about the job.

"Have you ever thought," she said, "that the crying might be your body's way of telling you how tired you are?"

I still remember the look on her face when she saw it sink in.

"Well," I said. "Well, no."

I had a few sessions with her. I slept a lot. I cut back on my course load as soon as I had the chance to do so. And it passed, eventually.

The second time I got depressed, I was twenty-nine.