In January, two people I love got married. They each came home from work on a snowy Monday afternoon and decided to go get the marriage certificate they’d neglected for the past few months signed. And that was that. They were hitched.
When I got the call, I threw on my puffy coat, two pairs of mittens, and slammed the door on the way out as I stomped through the snow. I knew I should have been thrilled about this—I really, really love these people!—but all I could feel was this churning in my stomach that physically hurt.
It took three miles and a set of frozen toes to recognize that this was my glitch talking, not me. Real Me felt excited for these people. Real Me wanted to drive through a blizzard to their house right then and hug them. But when something is triggering, Real Me isn’t on the front line. The glitch shows up first.
An emotional glitch is a little like a wound that just won’t heal. It’s usually caused by some very specific incident years earlier and thinks it has the authority to include every other event in life that kind of, sort of resembles what opened it up in the first place. The glitch stays on the surface, and so it’s often our first reaction, even if that isn’t actually how we feel.
I have a glitch when it comes to being forgotten. I can’t tell you exactly where this came from, or when it happened. It could have started to split open when my grandma accidentally forgot me at the grocery store while I had been staring at a display The Little Mermaid videos in their boxy cases. Maybe it was when my mom left too late one night and I didn’t understand where she possibly had to go past bedtime. Maybe it was when my dad got married and didn’t tell me then, either.
If you look closely enough, you’ll find my glitch in most of my writing. Creating anything takes a massive amount of energy and emotion, and a lot of time we pull from the wounds on the surface first. This is a form of self-preservation. We know this glitch well; it’s protected us before. We’re familiar enough with it to use it when we make, and we can do it without self-combusting.
This is why the main character in my first published novel feels forgotten by her parents, her friends, her entire hometown. It’s why there’s an undercurrent of loss in most of my pieces, and meditations on forgetting pieces of ourselves.
If we’re not careful, we pull all of our work from our glitches. We repeat ourselves. The story structures may look different, but the themes are the same. We’re asking ourselves—and our reader—the same questions over and over again, looking for different answers.
So what do we do about it? And how do we go beyond the glitch in our craft?
In truth, we can’t write beyond the glitch until we’re beyond it ourselves. Art is an extension of every part of us, whether we like it or not, and that includes all the stuff you may not necessarily want anyone to see, including all the glitches.
Here’s the good news: once you can spot your own glitch, you become conscious of it and it loses its power within your work. Then you get to decide: Do I want to let this glitch speak here? Or do I want to say something else entirely?
That’s the other great thing about art: it forces you to deal with your shit. And once you know where your soft spot is, you can deliberately shift your focus in your work. You can start to patch up your glitches in the space between the print.
I still write about loss and being forgotten. My next book is about just that: getting lost in the woods, forgetting who you are in preference of helping someone else remember that they’re worthy of love. But this story ends differently than Scars. This story is just as much about finding yourself as it is about losing everything.
Last January, after I’d taken off my boots and warmed up my toes, I told my glitch it had ten more minutes to complain and seethe and pout about how it didn’t get invited to the wedding. And then I slowly, carefully, packed it away and called my new sister-in-law to congratulate her.
The glitch is still there, but I don’t let it speak for me anymore.