Writing is about community, even if you write alone. – Natalie Goldberg
I read her words and feel as if I am looking through my skin. Her words are published, but they are not final words. The words are never done with themselves. Even while I read her book, as I crawl through my identification with Madness, I can feel the words expanding, growing, breathing.
They live in me. I hear them, sense the scenes of her mania rising in my blood. I read and I write about my own mania, about how the words make me feel a bit manic. I am not alone. She, the author, is with me, talking to me, pushing me to consider, to go on, to live.
I am not alone in this reading, in this writing.
It is two years after I have finally finished Madness, have gotten through my own considerations of the madness in my life, madness I used to never want to deal with, but am dealing with now, because of those words, because I have written about them in my journal and have started to talk about them with my therapist, words that inspired me to live and breathe through healing actions that help to restore me to sanity. My friend in Chicago reads the memoir. She has depression, and alcoholism is prevalent in her family. She reads Madness and she calls me. It’s like I’m feeling her words inside of me. Her writing matches what she is saying. What she is saying is that, “Here’s the hell of it: madness doesn’t announce itself. There isn’t time to prepare for its coming. It shows up without calling and sits in your kitchen ashing in your plant. You ask how long it plans to stay; it shrugs its shoulders, gets up, and starts digging through the fridge” (225). And while her words are not an unwanted house guest, they do sit, they do stay, they do become a part of me, a part of my mind, a part of my body. My friend feels this, too.
The words announce themselves in my bones, sit down, and stay.
Two years after I have finished Madness, I write an essay about living as a woman with bipolar disorder. It is an essay about healing and finding my way through life, through life that is lived with the effects of a mental illness. What I am doing is taking my graduate thesis and turning it into a five page essay. Madness was a part of that thesis, proof to my thoughts on how the body performs mental illness.
To write this essay, to get into the voice of a woman considering her mental illness, I re-read through sections of Madness. I sink into the words, let each one of them trot back down into my bones. I begin to feel where these words live inside of me, how they have encouraged me to write my own story. They enter. They stay. I write.
My essay is accepted into an anthology, and I can immediately feel a footnote being written that thanks her for being brave in getting all of those lived words onto the page.
The words live on the page. Words that expand in my body.
Writing is about community, even when you write alone. – Natalie Goldberg
At 3am, I write alone. At 3am, I am actually not alone in my writing. I live with an author, with a woman who has put life into her words. She has lived these words, and so she brings them to life in her writing. At 3am, I am not alone in my writing. My roommate and I wake up around the same time, our bodies like dogs who can sense when it is feeding time. Bodies that have formed the habit of writing at 3am, and so they become bodies that naturally wake up in the dark morning hours to feed the habit, to quench our desire to describe, get our inward selves out onto the page.
At 3am I sit alone in my room and write, sit alone but am not alone when I write.
I am never alone when I write. I take the words I have read, words in every book my eyes have ever soaked in, and I bring these words with me, bring them to the page. Sometimes they take the form of vocabulary– “crepuscular” learned from reading Orlando—and sometimes the form and structure of each sentence is reflected on my page, (parenthesis that swell with simple, precise descriptions seen in Funeral for a Dog).
At 3am, I light my candle (peach). It is during this crepuscular hour that I write myself alive. I take the words I have read, thoughts and images and the specific formation of letters found within books, and I begin to write.
At 3am, I can feel it. I can hear my roommate down the hall typing out her own experience. And I can sense the experiences of others, the community of words that live within my skin and rise up into my fingers, the words inspiring my hands to delve into the words of my own experience. I dig. I write. I am never alone.