Writing in blood means writing with, in, and from your own blood, your own guts, your own self-hood and experience. And every so often, you get sloppy. We all do. So what do you do? How to get blood stains out. Well, it’s tough.
First, you’ve got to consider how deep the stain, how old. Consider the material it “bled” into. Cloth? Fabric? Upholstery? Pure as unused toilet paper white or a multicolored hemp bag with a coarse weave?
The Internet is a 3-D polygon of too many immaterial and woven fabrics to comprehend, so the old tried-and-true doesn’t always work.
While many resort to a bleach solution for words written in the ether in blood via Delete Post, others try white-wash techniques that end up turning their stains into a bloody, muddy mess, and even sometimes an unintentional mind-f***, doggy-style, for their readers, who try to show the post to a friend and then say, “Weird… I KNOW I read that post…or was it on another blog about going to the desert to heal?”
Now, writing in blood for a published work like a novel is much more complicated. A novel is wrapped in layers of polished publication processes and you can’t retract what you wrote with a Delete Post or a Post-script à la:
Dear Rugged Individualists (who actually read),
It’s come to my attention, posthumously, that I’m an insufferable hypocrite and all-around twat because I “shrugged,” shall we say, my own personal responsibility toward the end of my life. Ah well. Enjoy the rotten fruits of my hardline-vitriol for decades to come—because Life does have a way of turning karmic, as evidenced by…well…
The Digital Age demands an “online presence” for most people and walking the line between someone who writes privately or anonymously and a professional writer trying to establish, or with an established audience, is tougher than ever.
And while easier to ”fix” one’s mistakes online, sometimes there’s no defying the Law of Information, not anymore. Can’t unring a viral bell.
Male Author: That was taken out of context.
The Whole World: Sure it was.
It’s easy enough to wave it away, and if you catch it in time, you can correct it. Sometimes, though, you can take your World Wide Web FAILS and make them part of your…shtick. Take for example this Instagram post I did for #postitpoetry:
See anything wrong there? Yep, me too. “’I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ rule” notwithstanding, I goofed up. And it was a blooper, blunder, and easily fixed with a re-write, re-post, and a “what misspelled word? I see no misspelled word there…” my inner finger wagging and eye rolling a simultaneous rebuke to that bullshittery. So, instead, I did this:
Considering the larger meaning of “hubris,” I think I did the right thing.
Which brings me to mistakes we make, not just online, not just as writers, but as human beings. Because writers are only human, and with the Court of Public Opinion now open for general admission via World Wide Web, the arena is larger than ever and the farther back the last row of seats, the more open to misunderstanding—and being misunderstood—we are.
In my previous blog entry, almost a year ago, I was caught up in a kind of “throw-caution-to-the-page” moment, where I had the promise of “HOPE” sold to me over the phone by a place in Sedona, Arizona— the Las Vegas of spiritual enlightenment.
To be clear, I was hungry and desperate, and the market for their brand of schlock is ripe. The sales team at this place did it by the book—Snake Oil Sales for Dummies—and true to my own desperation, I dropped everything and wrote family, friends, and that blog post then squeezed every ounce of financial everything we had to pay thousands (and thousands, and thousands more) to go, finally, all promises of a different experience aside, to a run-of-the-mill, desert-based treatment center for addiction. Not what I needed help with.
At worst, think of an AA/NA-based rehab, but instead of “Higher Power,” you get a consult with a shaman and you find your spirit animal together. At best, think of a 2.5-star “desert-spa experience” with “a kind of medical” professional-ish medical team and starry-eyed staff paid to buy into the Law of Attraction-hype that all-but fizzled when the Age of Information became a thing.
My ordeal with psychiatric medications became my life in 2016—not the beginning of it, but the desperate search for help, relief, and hope, anywhere I could find it. I didn’t think I would be alive this long as I withdrew from the drug, Latuda in 2016. If my husband hadn’t been by my side, constantly, doing everything in his power to advocate for me with medical professionals, counselors, family, friends—I wouldn’t have made it.
But by the end of 2018, he was completely tapped and so was I.
While some things improved, others were getting worse—specifically daily akathisia and dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that can have fatal complications if not treated properly. With the sudden onset of the latter, I was an emotional wreck, to say the least.
When I found the wherewithal to write, I didn’t make it public because everything I wrote was just *this* side of unreadable. I was filled with so much pain—I could barely see the trees, let alone the forest. Too often, I was filled with total despair. Both my public and personal personas were being eaten alive. My worst fear was that I’d never write a cohesive sentence or paragraph or story ever again—and when I tried, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I still wrote in blood—but I wrote with the watery platelets of my dwindling, pain-fogged mind.
The only real clarity I got at all during that time was through the creations, work, and words of other writers, then writing reviews. Poems, books, movies, articles—and the ah-hah* of that didn’t quite hit me at the time.
But before we “ah-hah,” I want to say something here, briefly, about pain—untenable pain—and art. They don’t coincide well. But they can coexist–only if the art and the process of making it transcends the pain, even for a moment.
But when the pain is relentless, without fail, it changes the way you view the world and yourself. I had a choice, and I made the choice to let the pain take me down roads that were, in a word, counterproductive.
And when I blurred the lines of pain and meaning and suffering and art and bought into this notion that perhaps my pain had a purpose other than torturing me day in, day out—I noticed that my art changed. My writing “voice” changed into not only something I didn’t know—it was something I disliked, immensely. Bouncing between rage, pain, absurdity, and a kind of pain-induced madness, I was desperate for any intervention that could ease it.
Looking back, it’s so clear: I wrote in the imprecise language of esotericism, using the purple prosaic language of bruised plums dripping with saccharine sentiment (sediment?) that is difficult for me to revisit and smell, let alone swallow with my eyes. It’s why I’ve avoided this blog for so long. In a word, it’s just this side of humiliating, reading where I was at emotionally back then.
And that’s what journals are for. To write, then never look back. Unless there’s a court case and documentation of events demands the revisit. Kidding. Sorta.
In short, any kind of online writings, whether a blog or review or article, especially ones from self-proclaimed writing professionals, really need to walk the line better than I did.
But in our personal lives, when we take our critical thinking and set it aside for someone who demands faith (and money) before the miracle aka (the heAling vorTex of eMpty-nonesensiCal bullshittery in Sedona), we become easy prey to, not just opportunistic hucksters, but our own sense of self-importance.
I went there to finish the pain journey, if you will. And in doing so, finish the book I’d been writing, unknowingly, for over a decade. And see, that’s the thing about writing and creating; if you try to force an ending that isn’t meant to be, it ends up feeling and being just that: forced.
Back at the first of this year, day in, day out, *I* was not working and my art was not working. And without the work and the act of creating, I was flailing. I had the *ah-hah moment much later.
So, when we found the place in Sedona, I was sure whatever prayers or healing whatevers out there had given me a way out of the pain, had pointed me onto a healing path. (And see the use of the words “healing + path” together should have been the first red flag.)
Despite the promises on the phone that they are the only ones who can help you, and “you’re worth it” and “Offer ends at midnight tonight” hard-sales tactics, only you can help you.
In short, I did not go and heal in the desert. I went TO heal, and I came home a few days later, much worse for wear, but wiser, clearer, and not in the “clearer” sense you might hear in some circles ifyaknowwhatImeanandIthinkyado.
But I felt a responsibility to people. I still do, to a degree. After I posted my film on YouTube, How Bad Can Good Be?, I had no idea what would be unfolding for me, both personally and professionally. While the YouTube hits are scant at 4K views, it went pretty wild on other social media, including from my article on Mad in America.
Which brings me to how and when the Writing-Public-Life and the Personal-Public-Life coincide.
We’re all caricatures of ourselves, even when we’re alone at times. (Oh c’mon. How many of you haven’t sang Lady Gaga’s Pokerface at the top of your lungs during your shower to get yourself in a better emotional space to go to work?) And, no, I haven’t actually sung Lady Gaga anything, but I’m embarrassed to admit what I do sing at the top of my lungs in the shower, so we’ll just move along.
We’ve also been sort of pushed into self-creators of our online images. Whether an artist, writer, or mother struggling with _____ (see “Dooce”), it’s hard to know where that overshare v. undershare v. “titillating-tease”-line is, sometimes.
It compelled me to ask hard questions of myself about who I wanted to be online, offline, and when I was alone, keeping my own company in the quiet of my office workspace or my front living room at the piano or reading a good book, or in the shower singing I Can’t Make You Love Me, getting my vocals ready to sit at the piano and play the Bon Iver version, but with mad props to Bonnie Raitt who was able to write such a timeless beautiful song that speaks to the yearning…
…and you know what? THAT’S why I don’t talk about stuff.
I felt responsible for the still-in-edits book that ideally would give voice to countless silent screams—I don’t know what made me think a red bow made out of an artificially-stained pink crystal, one that would have concluded an 8-week (cut short by a mere 7 weeks, 4 days) stint at a gummy-tabled, shabbily-upholstered “facility” that cost me more than just money.
And while I’d thought creating art was what had saved me all these years, one can’t create without consuming and since nothing came from me but pain—pain in all forms—reading other writers was a reminder that I was not alone in the world, not with my being, and not with my pain.
Poems like “Delmarva,” by Katy Santiff, Manhattan Beach, by Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan, and even small but beautiful gems via haiku such as “On Autumn,” by Christopher Perry among many, many others, were lifelines. Even still, my private self and public life converged like a magic vortex. Kidding.
The point? We are not what we write. We are not who we write. We aren’t even what we eat, breathe, read or believe ourselves to be. And that’s the beauty of living an authentic life: being able to see ourselves as ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-learning. It’s okay to mix it up—it’s okay to mess it up.
But try to do it consciously.
I still have no answers on healing. But I know that I can still write. As a matter of fact, my head is even clearer now—when it is. When it isn’t, I step away. You’re the only one who can heal yourself. And whether you go there and buy into their cult-like New Age bullshitisms or you go with legit sites that help you DIY that shit, like The Inner Compass it’s all you, in the end.**
If I saw someone being tortured, I wouldn’t ask for a deposit to the tune of $10K before helping them out of the Iron Maiden. You don’t sell water to people literally dying of thirst. And as unreliable narrators go, keep in mind: I’ve got nothing promising to sell you.
So in closing, my hands are not stain-free, and neither is my life. However, the blood in the creases and folds of the many-textured facets of my life and work is mine and mine alone.
I don’t lack stains because I’m above reproach.
I lack them because I don’t make it a practice to profit from other human being’s suffering—someone like you, like me, who is in unimaginable, untenable pain. And while I do feel a modicum of responsibility to people who look to me for some guidance due to my earlier efforts and yes, my upcoming efforts to raise awareness for the drug side-effect, akathisia, among others, I am first and foremost an artist.
That’s a collaborative effort between me and myself, you, my audience, the world around us and within us, and other writers I love to enjoy, read, and who absolutely fill the parched well when I’m crawling through a pain-filled day.
I feel like I’m finally recovered from my stint in the land of woo-woo, only a little less shiny with naiveté and terra-cotta tinted lenses. But I rest well knowing I’m not guilty of hiding or trying to white-wash any blood I’ve spilt into the ether or beyond.
I don’t faint at the sight of my own blood. Remember—
I write in it.
Je te vois, and as always…
(**I will say that the nice part about The Inner Compass and The Withdrawal Project? It costs thousands and thousands of FREE and teaches you exactly what Laura Delano learned and is so graciously sharing with the world: let your own inner compass be your guide, not yet another authority figure. Whether they’re in a white coat or in batik sarongs and Crocs, when you hand over your personal responsibility over your own well-being to someone else, it always, without exception, comes with a price—one you might not be prepared to pay.)