So this is a follow-on from yesterday’s post so you might want to skip back and read that one first. Anyway, where were we?
Oh yeah, grounding.
So, why the title for this post? What the hell has grounding got to do with being an author? Well, I’ll tell you. Otherwise this post would be a real anti-climax.
Here’s the image of the grounding pin that I found on Pinterest:
Now, tell me that some of that doesn’t sound like what an author does. Ignore points 1, 2, 3 and 9 for now as they’re just calming steps or aren’t particularly relevant. Start at number 4. I’ll put them in groups and explain the author skills that they teach/enforce as I go.
4, 5 and 9 – Windows, electrical outlets, carpet – taking stock of the room’s smaller details and thinking about texture as well as visual impression.
6 and 8 – What does the couch or chair feel like? What can you hear? – taking note of input from senses other than sight (this extends to smells you can smell etc.)
7 – What colour are your clothes? – this is linked to the clothes and appearances of others.
Can you see how that could start as an anxiety-reducing technique and turn into a skill set? People often ask where an author gets the little details, the ideas, the characters. Well, I’ve been doing this “grounding” technique (coupled with a little OCD) since I was a kid. I count things, I touch things, I notice people and not only what they wear but how they walk and how they breathe. I will sit having a conversation with someone, while rubbing my thumb nail along the rough grain of the upholstery beneath me. It’s calming, and those little sensations stick in my mind because they’re important to me. That’s how you come up with the little details that make characters live and breathe on the page.
In an interview for an up-coming lit event, someone asked me the one thing that I would change about my childhood if I could (a pretty invasive question, I thought). I said “nothing” and explained that in changing the past, it would change me (summarised for brevity). I can now, with you all, carry on to explain that a little further.
Every mistake I’ve made, every stumble, every moment of heartache, every time I’ve been let down, they’ve all made me who I am. I may not like that person most days, but they have, in a roundabout way, given me things. A particular set of skills, if I might paraphrase Taken. Everything that ever fell apart inside me has given me coping mechanisms such as grounding. That mechanism led to an attention to detail that led to my writing. That writing is the only damned thing that I feel good about (when I’m not feeling like I’m wasting my time and no one reads my work, of course). And the writing and the depression have come together to give birth to the Down Days ebook and this blog. In turn, people have contacted me to say that the book/blog has helped them feel less alone and make sense of some of the things that happen to them. That’s fucking beautiful. On my Up Days, when I can see clearly, I think about those people. I hope they’re doing ok, and I know that, even if the moment of levity that Down Days gave them was fleeting and long-gone, it was still there. I did that. I helped someone that I’ll never meet, just for a second.
It sounds pretentious, perhaps. I don’t know. But my fucked up life, my messed up head, and the coping mechanisms that came from it have done a little good, and that makes the Down Days easier to live with, if only a little.
Thanks for reading.