In my neverending game of which writer am I comparing myself to now, I’ve realized that I may be turning into Emily Dickinson -- without the poetry and the super creepy death imagery, I hope. Not to say that any writer wouldn’t want to be like Emily Dickinson. But for the record, she did die unpublished and lived most of her life in her room. And maybe I’m becoming like her.
There are worse fates.
They Called Me to the Window, For
Emily Dickinson sat in her room, looked out her window, and wrote poems about the house across the street. She penned poetry on a few other topics, as well, and never shied away from frankly looking at death. I think that on the surface, anyone would be a little bit leery of the young woman who never comes out of her bedroom and writes poetry about death. Because it’s weird, or at least it’s not quite the average. Emily Dickinson was what’s known as a recluse. She shut herself away and isolated herself from the rest of the world. The only reason that it’s not considered to be totally insane is because Emily Dickinson was a brilliant poet. We’ve been trained to accept that genius and insanity belong together.
But I’m learning that being insane does not also make you a genius. In most all cases, it just makes you insane. And sometimes, I question my own sanity. After all...I am a writer.
It's tempting to lose ourselves in words. To write madly, ceaselessly, to stay inside that world that lives on the page. It's thrilling to think about that world, to work out plot and figure out twists. To examine characters and picture the pretty setting. It's not always easy to be in the regular world. Emily Dickinson hid from it, and sometimes I don't like it, either.
Some reviews are ugly. Some rejection letters are really cold. Sometimes you get overwhelmed with other responsibilities, and you can't find the time to write. That's when you might start thinking about shutting out the world, putting your head down, and living with only the words.
And here's what I say about that: it's okay. All writers have a little Emily Dickinson in them, I think. We all have the ability to shut out the world and get lost with those words. Sometimes, that's exactly what you should do to get yourself back on track and back in the right mindset. But you can't spend too much time looking at the house across the street.
Because seriously, Emily Dickinson really was a little bit crazy. It is not healthy to stay in the same room, day in and day out. Even in her own way, Emily found a way to connect with the world that so frightened her. She kept up a rich life through correspondence. Every writer has to find their own ways to stay connected with the world, and hopefully you'll do it in an even healthier way than Emily Dickinson.
Get lost in the words, sometimes. Be like Emily, sometimes. Shut out the world, sometimes, and focus on your words. But then you throw open the doors and windows, and you take a good look around again. It's okay to be a little like Emily Dickinson. To get a little dark if that’s where you need to go. Just remember to let the light back in sometimes, too.