Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hearing Voices Doesn’t Make You Crazy

By Anne Rhoades

When you’re five or six years old, it is perfectly acceptable to have imaginary friends who talk to you. That usually changes as we grow up. But it didn't for me. When I told my sister I watched movies inside my head and had conversations with the characters, she said, “I always knew you were a weirdo. Don’t tell mom and dad. They’ll send you to the funny farm.”

Needless to say, I kept it to myself. For a very. Long. Time.

I made good grades in school, went to college, worked several jobs, and gave the illusion of normal. But always, there were an awful lot of noisy people in my head, each with a story they wanted to tell. I was an apartment building and they were the tenants. I could be doing the most mundane thing in the world, like folding laundry, when someone like Annabel, an older woman in her seventies who has always painted dolphins, announced she wanted to start painting chickens. Or, in apartment 3C, the kid that drove a Schwanns truck one summer  who told me he met a girl he wanted to take to dinner and was worried about picking her up in the stinky meat truck for their date.

Did I mention this to anyone? Of course not—they would have thought I needed medication.

My life completely changed when I joined my first writers group and met a whole bunch of people just as strange as I was. I realized I wasn't crazy, I was a writer. My mental movies were stories and the voices were characters trying to come to life. For maybe the first time in my life, I felt normal.

Later that same year, I went to my first writer’s conference and sat in on a workshop given by a children’s author who had written over twenty books. She was explaining the plot of the novel she was currently working on, and laughingly told us that while she was mowing the lawn one day, her main character asked, “Did you know my mother was an alcoholic?”

And the author said to her character, “Why no, I had no idea, but that explains a lot.”

The author went on to explain that when she told her daughter about the conversation, her daughter told her not to tell anyone because they’d think she was insane. So what I've learned is that hearing voices does not make any of us crazy. Just be careful who you tell. There are a lot of weirdos out there who wouldn't understand.

Anne Rhoades is a freelance writer and copywriter by day and fiction author by night. She is currently collaborating with fellow author Patricia S. Cook on a collection of horror shorts. Check out her website/portfolio at www.annerhoades.com or tweet @anne_rhoades.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing Truth in Creative Nonfiction

by Shirley Drew





“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
 ~Ernest Hemmingway

As I stood facing a dryer that was a minute or two from stopping, I positioned the rolling basket in front of me so I could pull the clothes from the dryer into the basket. Suddenly a man strode through the door, walked directly toward me, grabbed the basket and wheeled it quickly to a washer on the other side of the room. I said, “Hey, I was using that.” He replied, “You were just standing there. I need it now. These baskets are for everyone in here—not just you.” I was astonished. As he wheeled it across the room and loaded his clothes into it, I made a loud comment over my shoulder to my husband about his rudeness. That’s when everything spiraled out of control. He began shouting obscenities at me. During this rant, he said, “I work for a living, unlike some people.” I replied that I work for a living too. He said he didn’t care what I did. And on it went. At some point he got in my face and began telling me what I could do with my complaint about the basket. I responded in kind. I am not proud of this, but in the interest of honesty, I need to tell you that my behavior was every bit as rude as his. Even as it was happening, I couldn’t believe it. I was angry and shaking. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see other patrons of the laundromat staring at us. This whole interaction lasted about 30 seconds. You may wonder what my husband was doing during this exchange. I think he was in shock. At some point he walked over and called the man a “jerk.” A jerk? Really? Is that the best you can do? I thought. The man responded in kind. He walked back to the basket and pushed it hard in my direction from across the room. I caught it just before it smacked my leg. Then he stomped out of the laundromat and jumped in his truck and drove away. Then all I could hear was the sound of the washers and dryers doing their jobs.

People went back to their sorting and folding. A man folding his laundry next to us said, “We’re not all like that.” I responded by saying, “I know. Neither are we.” Clearly there was an understanding that he was among the locals while we were obviously tourists. Were we that easy to spot? Apparently so. And I’m guessing that’s what triggered the whole thing.

While I was furious at that man for treating me as he did, I had to admit I was more troubled by my response to him. You see, his behavior doesn’t really matter. But mine does—to me at least. Sometimes it’s hard to admit the truth about something we’ve said or done. But writing the truth about it is even harder. Still, I think we must try.

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