Patient: Stephanie M. WytovichIllness: Poet
Treatment: More poetry
When I gave my teaching presentation at Seton Hill this past residency, I told everyone that before I sat down to work on my novel, that I wrote a poem, whether it be about the character, the scene, the emotion, or the theme I was dealing with. I also told everyone that I had a very difficult time writing this novel, both physically and emotionally. So much in fact, that I stopped at one point and burned everything that I had. I didn’t want to go deeper. I didn’t want to actually see the Hell I’d created. It scared me, and the memories that it brought back gave me nightmares. I was falling into a pit that I couldn’t climb out of, and I couldn’t shake the blackness, couldn’t get rid of the darkness that the story brought back into my life.
But I kept writing poetry, kept exploring metaphors. I knew I had something, I just didn’t know what that something was, or if I even wanted to find it anymore. And so I wrote. And I wrote. And then I went to New Orleans for the World Horror Convention where I didn't write at all.
And if felt good not to write.
To just turn off everything in my head.
Then, one night when a group of us were at The Dungeon, we started talking about poetry. I talked about how I wrote/write a poem a day, and someone—I can’t remember who—jokingly asked if I’d written anything that day, and I hadn’t. So he/she told me to write something right then and there. No pressure right? I looked around for something to write about, and I saw the giant mixer for the drinks we were all having—Keys. They were orange, frozen, and the container they came in said "The Key to the Chastity Belt."
So I wrote about keys:
“There are keys to souls and souls to keysand they are beautiful and eternal,
sweeping past life and opening locks.”
Yeah, I know. It’s awful. But I took a picture of the container, put the poem in my phone and didn’t look at it until about a month ago. And then everything clicked. That poem, that stupid little verse that I wrote at 3 a.m. as a joke while I drank in a dungeon, damn near saved my novel, and probably my sanity. On the surface level, I’m not even sure what that poem means or what it meant at that point, but when I looked at it later, when I thought about keys, and souls, and locks, and dungeons…I realized something very important about my book, and about its ending. There was a door there, and I needed to not be afraid to open it. I needed to find the key and unlock it.
So I did, and I found something orange.
Something frozen.Something that very well might be a key to a chastity belt.
And I have a poetry dare to thank for that.