Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I feel your pain

Let's face it: writers are an odd bunch. (Yes, that's a generalization, but if you're a writer and you're not odd, keep it to yourself!) We spend much of our lives envisioning what we would do and what we would feel if we were in another person's shoes. To me, that is one of the most fascinating aspects of reading, that in reading I can lose myself in someone else's world vision. It's as close to mind reading as we can get.

But that ability to transport yourself into someone else's mind, to empathize, has its downsides. The realization of that has been a long time coming for me. I always just thought of myself as being very sensitive, never wondered why I was that way. But once I started wondering, it became obvious.

I have an enormous amount of trouble distancing myself from anyone else's distress. When someone I know is hurting, my sympathy pains are sometimes hard to live with. (This translates even to pets--when one of my dogs is sick, I'm absolutely miserable!)

Within the last month or so, a friend and former critique partner announced that she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been blogging about her experiences, which I'm sure is therapeutic for her, but also allows her to share information with her friends and family without having to repeat it umpteen million times. When I read her blog this morning and found that her hair is beginning to fall out less than two weeks after her first chemo, it was all I could do not to start crying. (Her prognosis is excellent, but that doesn't make the ordeal she has to go through much easier.) I can't help imagining what I would feel in her situation, and when I imagine it, I feel it.

I have another writer friend whose husband just had a major stroke this weekend (and no, he's not particularly old). More tears on my part, even though I've only met the guy briefly in passing. I keep thinking about how terrible she must feel, wishing I could do something to help, but knowing from personal experience with tragedy how little I, as a casual friend rather than a bosom buddy, can do. Last I heard, he's doing much better, but he's far from out of the woods. Then there was another friend, whose husband passed away recently . . .

I don't know how people who deal with death and misery every day cope with it. I know they must somehow be able to put some distance between themselves and every else's pain. I wish I knew how to do that. I wouldn't want to lose my ability to be a caring and compassionate person, but considering how much stress I've had in my own life over the last three years (I've lost both of my parents and my mother-in-law over that period), it would be nice to be able to turn it off, if only for a little while.

So did I lose my ability to distance myself because I'm a writer, or did I become a writer because I so easily can imagine how someone must be feeling? (We'll leave the question of how accurate my imaginings might be for another day.)


At 4:05 PM, Blogger Sonja Foust said...

The chicken or the egg? I don't know, but if you figure it out (and how one might be able to turn it off), let me know. ;)

In the mean time, I keep telling myself that feeling makes me human, even feeling bad.

At 12:33 AM, Blogger Jocelynn said...

While the sympathy brings you pain, it keeps you closely connected to the people that surround you and those you love. The other option is to be numb inside, and lose your connection to all of humanity -- a unique hell all its own.


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