Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Emotions and Authors

Something got me a little bit angry yesterday. I really mean just a little bit. I think it was political, but I don't particularly remember what it was now. Texas School Board, who knows.

I then left to get 7yo while I was in a slightly bad mood, so as I was walking I started thinking back to my experiences with Verizon Wireless. I once had a little local cell phone plan but was going to take a trip, so I called them up and asked about roaming and the like. They offered to put me on a nationwide plan, which sounded great, so I said, "let's do it" and took off. I came home from my trip (to VA and NC) and found they had charged me over $200 in roaming. Turns out my phone can't use that plan, but they didn't tell me that.

Naturally, they refused to take off any of the charges. Charges that only existed because they told me they would change me to a plan they did not in fact change me to.

I spent months calling them and not being called back and them writing threatening letters about the bill, etc. Stupidly, in the end, I folded, paid them, and promised to never go anywhere near Verizon again for the rest of my life. I hope that one of you will also refuse to be their customer in solidarity with me.

What's interesting to me about this is that this all happened almost 10 years ago now. I've never forgotten and never forgiven. But as I was walking I was only minimally living out any actual memories of the situation. Instead I was imaging various scenes. I was creating the phone conversations, the emotions as I screamed at them, the utter frustration and sense of injustice (nothing gets me angrier than someone wrongly accused by the way), and my own emotions were building and building. Someone walked by on the sidewalk and I had worked myself up into such a lather that I wanted to punch them for existing. Literally, I wanted to attack something.

When I realized how angry I had become over nothing that existed anymore, I was able to laugh and finally chill out. It helped that I imagined myself doing "Bret's Angry Dance" from Flight of the Conchords.

Anyway, I was wondering 1) can everyone get themselves worked up like this through just imagining conversations and scenes? and 2) how does it affect you when writing?

The only fiction I've written in a year was that scene Freddy read as part of a Robin-athon, but when I do write, I get into it if it's any good. It makes me a very slow writer. Imagined emotions very often become real ones to me. I can pace around the room after some particularly strong bit, because I'm too wired by the scene in my head. I'm sure this is good in some ways, but it's also a negative. Sometimes the emotions I am feeling due to imagination are stronger than what I've actually written. In other words, I can feel the scene, so I assume that my words have actually created such a scene, which may not be true.

Can you write angry scenes without becoming angry? Tense scenes without becoming tense?


And don't use Verizon Wireless.


Mommy said...

I don't do very well "on the spot" so I tend to imagine a variety of scenarios and how I would respond. Everything from winning the lottery, to a loved one dying, to a zombie apocolypse. Not only do I get emotionally worked up I will physcially respond by crying, laughing, grimacing, etc... Phillip regularly asks me what's wrong since I will be expressing emotions contrary to the current situation

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Actually, it's a relief to me to know that I'm not the only one who gets this worked up (both in RL and when I write). I could totally take some heads off in my worst moments.

FWIW, Verizon doesn't exist over here, but my Dad told them to stuff it 'cause their incompetent buttbrains, if that's of any consolation. Sorry you had to go through it. Big corporations resemble steamrollers in a lot of ways...

pacatrue said...

I'd just like to say that I'm pleased my two comments are from Mommy and Mother (Re)produces.

So I'm not a complete freak -- or at least all of us are.

Peter Dudley said...

I do get worked up by situations in my mind, exactly as you've described. Like when driving, you want someone to cut you off, cause a fender bender, then do something to provoke you into kicking the sh*t out of them. Not that I could kick the sh*t out of anyone old enough to drive, but you get the point.

When I'm writing, I don't feel the emotions directly. Maybe because I don't tend to write in first person. But I do try to understand the emotion so I can write it. I don't need to be angry to write anger, but I do need to think about how it feels to be angry, how it changes a person's actions and perceptions.

Unfortunately, I use Verizon. It's the company carrier, so I must if the company is to pay for it. The thing is, I don't think any of the others are any better. I had an experience like yours, only with Cingular. Then another, only with AT&T. I've been OK with Verizon.

moonrat said...

Iiiiii can get myself SO upset remembering conversations, even long-ago ones. For me it's very easy to slip from "remembering" to "viscerally reliving" and I'm not good at stopping myself. Disaster all around.

I like how your post makes this seem as if it could be billed as poetic sensibility. I'm going to take that and run with it.

Robin S. said...

I can write most things without becoming that thing - except for sad scenes. They just take me out.

Unfortunately, we HAVE Verizon. But I'm pissed at them, because they lowered their rates 6 months after we signed with them (we signed with them because we were pissed at Sprint...)

writtenwyrdd said...

I realized when I was younger that I did this with my then hubs. I would be furious with him, but I sublimated it. And when alone, I would have all sorts of conversations with him where I said what I really thought, yet never with him in person. The net result is that I would often get madder than ever at him, and he had nothing to do with it.

I finally recognized this habit and called it "having a relationship in your head." It's a dangerous habit.