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An American on Writing and Other Natural Disasters

If one were to chuck a Pilot G2 07 pen in any which way at a local café, city street or in their church or synagogue or mosque, they would more than likely hit an aspiring writer. Actually, one could be anywhere; the god-fearing are no more likely to be writers than coffee drinking atheists. It’s estimated that 200 million Americans feel as if they have a book in them (Goldberg, 2018). Yes, the number is so astounding I have no choice but to use APA citation. That’s 81% of Americans for those at home that like percentages and that doesn’t change from year to year. What is most wild about this is in 2017 only 8% of Americans experienced a natural disaster (“Insurance Journal,” 2018). 

If you’ve ever written anything, you’ve experienced the “What now?” Most writers have journals, screenplays, incomplete manuscripts or novels secreted away in a drawer (in my case a patchwork denim clamshell suitcase from the 70s). Every once in while one will open those hiding places up. From drawers, suitcases and bags, dust mites emerge like pixie dust tickling noses and enticing the writer to revisit and maybe one day submit. They close that secret place with a cursor on the red button in the corner of the computer screen and a mouse click or physically close the drawer.

When the muse visits and stories, poems or essays trickle from fingertips, a rush of adrenalin flows through the writer’s body to the paper or computer screen. The writer may experience the following symptoms:

 Excitement: the heart beats rapidly 
 Frustration: the brow furrows furiously
 Fear: the third option of fight/flight visits—freeze
 Trepidation: shame tints the cheeks over what one’s family will think
 Boldness: caution thrown to the wind and completing the damn thing
 Dread: tightness of breath occurs as one considers where to submit 

Invigorated by the classical fight/flight of creation, the writer retreats to hoard the bounty of their manifested words. The work stockpiles and builds. The green-scaled dragon of self-doubt with the hot breath of judgment hisses every time the writer thinks to share or submit. Charred hands and dark thoughts prevent masterworks from being released into public spaces to be consumed by voracious readers or ignored by the apathetic masses.

  On the slim chance, the cagey dragon (the hoarder of great and mediocre works) has taken the day off the writer is able to access the work and begin the rewrite. This is when the blood-sucking rabid vampire bats rattle around the writer’s ribcage particularly in the solar plexus region.  If you’ve ever been to downtown Austin, Texas mid-August when millions of Mexican free-tail bats take flight from bridges at dusk and paint the dappled sky with black forms, it’s like that but much bloodier and violent. The sting of the bites rises up to the top of the throat and falls back to the burning sensation of unworthiness in the pit of the stomach. The ego hemorrhages and pleads for a savior. The good news is that the internal bleeding of self-confidence does not have a direct correlation with mortality. Will the writer be banished to the waste land of the unpublished? Ego death, or at least the fear of it manifests. Comorbid conditions that are associated with writing are:

 Procrastination
 Superficial knowledge
 Clichés and colloquialisms 
 Toxic perfectionism
 Revision aversion
 Revision obsession
 Purple prose
 Distraction
 Overwriting
 Plagiarism
 Lack of ideas
 Isolation
 Carpal tunnel
 Writers block
 Completion anxiety 

The body fails to know if it is experiencing self-immolation or self-judgment. Each burn with a distinct sulfuric and seared flesh smell. Such a silly reaction to created work, but alas it does burn. After all of that, for the bold it is time to submit. The writer sits with gnawed nails and a restless leg. They must then determine where, who, when, how. They scour the internet, literary magazines and calls for submission to find agents, publishers and the like. They huddle in groups or work alone; some know that 98-99% of written work is rejected. Others are blissfully unaware. The optimist, pessimist, realist or solipsist is equally likely to experience the existential angst of releasing their work into the world. 

  There comes a time when the writer knows the work is done. The manuscript, poem or short story is ready to be released. Quasi-confident they feel the work is set to be out in the world.

This is when natural disaster strikes, or so it seems. As one stuffs the manuscript into an oversized manila envelope dog-earing pages or looks at the Submittable page with a cursor that blinks the wake of immediacy falls upon them. Reality shifts the gravitational pull of the earth can no longer hold the writer in place. The idea of submitting work may result in:

 Heart palpitations
 Dry mouth
 Shortness of breath
 Misophonia
 Sensitivity to light
 Irritable Bowel Syndrome
 Overactive bladder
 Sweaty Palms
 Goosebumps
 Nausea
 Irritability 

All the things the writer experiences as they prep for submission sounds like horrible side effects recited at the end of pharmaceutical commercials.  With the big blue mailbox agape and hungry to take the package, the cursor on the submit button waiting to be pressed the sensation of possible ego death presents itself. The body doesn’t know the difference between a tsunami and submitting. The same internal warning bells ring, and whistles blow, and energy explodes as it travels throughout the nervous system. A call to get to higher ground, to find safety, to find cover can be felt in every nerve down to the tip of the fingers and the toes. The body vibrates with these message units, ready to die. The writer doesn’t die, they are resilient, and they’ll live to submit again. The fear of the Tsunami will surge again with the next opportunity to submit.

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Meet The Author:

Thea Pueschel is a writer, multi-media artist, and filmmaker. In her work, she enjoys exploring the dark with light humor, and the light with dark humor. Thea believes that without the shadow, there is no story. Her work has been in Rebelle Society, Heritage Future, and DNA Magazine.

Resources

Goldberg, J.T. (2011, May 26). 200 Million Americans want to publish books, but can 

they? [Blog post]. Retrieved from Insurance Journal. (2018).

Disasters affected 8% of U.S. population in 2017, FEMA notes in review of historic year. Retrieved from

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2018/01/03/476001.hml

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