Guest-post by Litsa Dremousis
In our perverse or philosophical moments, many of us contemplate our own funerals.
We’ll die of natural causes in old age, leaving countless love ones, myriad creations, and boundless good deeds. Mourners will weep copiously. And there will be hats. (Admittedly, my funeral dream gets a bit anachronistic.)
Regardless, the one thing we share after we’re born is that we’ll die. We don’t know when and most of us don’t know how. But we seem to agree this is our one shot at this incarnation. And if we’re lucky enough to live in a peaceful nation with free speech and, also, we want to be a writer, really, we should get cracking. Because we’ve already got so much going for us, it’d be foolish to piss it away.
If you think you’re a writer, you’ll only know for sure if you write.
And, yes, it’ll be monstrously hard much of the time. Staring at a blank page can be like driving a poison-dipped knife into your brainpan. You’ll wrestle with self-doubt and spend an ungainly amount of time alone. Your mental health will sometimes teeter and your loved ones will occasionally deem you bonkers.
But, so what?
None of this will stop you if you’re compelled on a cellular level to write. And if you’re not compelled on a cellular level, for god’s sake, choose something else to occupy your finite hours on earth. Don’t contend with the rigors of technical exactitude and profound emotional trauma unless you absolutely must.
Of course, I’m talking from experience.
I’ve been legally disabled 24 years now, half my life. I have Myalgic Encaphalomyelitis (MEcfs), or what you might know as “the illness Laura Hillenbrand has”.
Each day, I wake with what feels like a flu hell-bent on crushing me. It’s like I’m wrestling gravity and gravity is saying, “Take that, bitch!” I hurt like hell, am dizzy and nauseous, my eyes are sensitive to the new day’s light, and I have to muster all my discipline and I.Q. to do super-fun, basic things like eat, shower, and dress.
Then I have to write. (See: “contend with the rigors of technical exactitude and profound emotional trauma”.)
Which renders me both wildly encouraging and totally impatient. I’ve lost entire years of my life to bed-ridden immobility. On my healthiest days, I’m still symptomatic and feel like the days are a meat-grinder and I am the tenderloin. I know it’s possible to overcome a body that’s fighting you. Don’t let tiny obstacles become tripwires. Or wait for some magical perfect time to write, because there is none.
I’ve had a successful career. Because when I’m able to write, I write. I pitch constantly. I’ve cried over rejection letters and in low moments eaten some truly bizarre food combinations, but the good part of getting a chronic, incurable, degenerative illness when you’re 24? You realize early on that it’s your life. And I decided years ago no one would stop me from writing to the best of my ability as often as possible.
If I can do it, you can do it.
And I believe you’ll figure it out.
After all, it’s your funeral.
QUESTION TO WIN a free copy of A Writer’s Guide to Persistence:
Out of all the work you’ve written or will write, which piece would you like to see lauded in your obituary and why? ANSWER IN COMMENTS
Litsa Dremousis is the author of “Altitude Sickness” (Future Tense Books). “The book is a howl of pain, a bellow of grief, and a funny-sad Irish funeral for a lover and friend, combining deep wisdom about mortality with an almost naive sensibility…The length is just about perfect: Any shorter and the thousand opposing facets of her experience wouldn’t be fully examined, but any longer might dilute her laser-sharp focus on the subject.”–Paul Constant, The Stranger. Her essay “After the Fire” was selected as one of the “Most Notable Essays of 2011” by Best American Essays 2012. She’s a Contributing Editor at The Weeklings. The Seattle Weekly named her one of “50 Women Who Rock Seattle”.
Her work appears in The Believer, BlackBook, Esquire, Jezebel, McSweeney’s, Men’s Health, MSN, New York Magazine, Nerve, Paste, Poets & Writers, Salon, Slate, The Weeklings, on NPR, KUOW, and additional venues. She has interviewed Sherman Alexie, The Black Keys, Betty Davis (the legendary, reclusive soul singer), Death Cab for Cutie, Estelle, Ron Jeremy, Janelle Monae, Wanda Sykes, Rufus Wainwright, Ann Wilson and several dozen others. @LitsaDremousis.
If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, Night Oracle, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and, Forged in Grace.
The Second Annual Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson happens at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, May 1-3, 2015.
Photo, “Roy’s Funeral” by Don LaVarge, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License.