Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Main Story

What is the main story? The one that defined you?

My friend Shannon once asked me if there was any moment in my life that I could grab to make a good movie. This was in college.

I thought about my years in high school with my eating disorder and my clinical depression and the shedding of my personality. And maybe it would make a good story and it CERTAINLY defined me but I couldn't write it.

I remember thinking at the end of treatment that I was glad I had gone through everything I'd gone through because it had made me who I am. And I was strong and truthful and fearless. I felt the power that is given to cancer patients to not deal with petty crap but cut right to the chase.

But here's why I couldn't write it: there are big holes in my memory. My junior year is pretty much gone. I have snatches of senior year. There are a few completely clear moments. I remember the day that I decided to seek treatment for the depression. I was sitting in band practice and they passed out a sheet of new music and I couldn't read it. But I don't remember people or classes or conversations. It might seem normal to forget, but I didn't forget. The memories were never written on my brain to be forgotten.

I wanted to read about depression from someone else who'd experienced it so I read William Styron's Darkness Visible. But after I read it, I didn't think it helped me remember what it felt like to be depressed and it made me realize a fundamental truth. It is hard to write about depression because when you are depressed, you cannot write. And once you are no longer depressed, you can't quite remember what it was like. You just know things weren't how they are now.

Other reasons I can't write my defining story:

In a writing workshop someone told me that I couldn't have a character who was a writer and who was depressed because they were so goddamn sick of reading about depressed writers.

And I don't want to write a Hallmark Hall of Fame story about one more anorexic girl. Blah Blah Blah. Recovery may have been a powerful experience for me but I'm afraid to use it even in fiction. Unless I warp it a lot. I'll have to think about how to do that.