Episode 57: Writing & Super Zoloft

In This Episode:

Mel got some feedback that was not very positive, but she wasn’t surprised by it. She had a rough stretch in her personal life (hard, not-exactly-podcast-material-kinda-stuff), but she forced herself to finish her pages. When she got her edits back, she admits that it hurt. It felt like she had really screwed up in her writing.

Mel says, “It just brought to light how distracted I had been. I was distracted from my story. I wasn’t really connected to it. I was trying to put the things in it that, for some reason, I thought needed to be there, but there wasn’t that thing that we always talk about. There wasn’t a connection to the characters. There a bunch of stuff in here, but it doesn’t really mean anything.”

Jennie and Mel talk a little about the interplay between being a person and being a writer. Mel hates the trope that you have to be a sad, depressive creative in order to write well. Mel talks about her struggles with mental health, and how they have the exact opposite in her writing. Things for her grind to a halt until she can take care of herself. She tried to tape her life together so that no one could see that things were falling apart. She didn’t want to admit to anyone that she was struggling.  Mel thinks that creatives can be more prone to dealing with this sort of thing.

I don’t really think it’s addressed as often as it should be. Or admitted to as often as it should be. Or maybe it’s used in a way that says, ‘Oh, well. That person’s really troubled, but they’re also really brilliant.’ You don’t have to be both. And when I’m troubled, I’m not brilliant.
— Melanie Parish

You connect to people through your art, and you can pull from your experiences. Your empathy can help you as a creative. Jennie points out that, “The things Mel is talking about is not being able to control what you feel. What we’re doing when we write a book is controlling what the characters feel and playing with that emotion like it’s clay. But you recognize that you can’t control what you yourself feel.”

Mel admits to feeling all her feelings. All of everyone’s feelings. ALL the feelings everywhere. Yet there was no emotional connection in her story. “I was afraid to put it in there, or I didn’t know how, or I couldn’t narrow down what I was feeling in a way that was useful.”

But finishing her pages-- even junk pages—felt like a win. A win that Melanie needed.

But is anything she wrote salvageable? Mel jokes that she did great on one paragraph, and she's keeping it!

Abby asked Jennie if this is typical? That every writer everywhere, somewhere over the course of their book will have a bad streak. Jennie says, “100% of the time. And 100% of the time when I reflect that opinion back to the writer, they’re not shocked. And then there’s always some reason. Writing is not separate from who you are.”

Jennie reminds us no one is immune from real life—sickness, accidents, loss, doubt.

We can’t have our only metric be page count or word count. Or how fast we wrote them.

Slow writing, like slow cooking, it just takes time.
— Jennie Nash

In craft talk, Mel has an uber-dramatic scene that she wants to keep. Jennie said that sometimes when you have intense drama, the writer stops writing and acts like a camera, forgetting that the reader is still looking for meaning.

Mel did her best to tamp down her feelings in real life, and her characters stopped feeling, too. Abby jokes that Mel’s characters took Zoloft and quit feeling. Jennie says that Mel’s Infinity Device in her story is like super-Zoloft! What she’s writing in her story IS ACTUALLY what happens if you tamp it down. 







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