EXPRESS YOURSELF

Writing My First Novel Was a Lot Like Getting Sober

‘Marilou Is Everywhere,’ one day at a time

Sarah Smith
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readOct 8, 2021

--

I was never this cute when I was drinking, P.S. // Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Former party girls know how it is: Each night is a sheet of fresh ice. You go skating across it, feeling young and free and invincible. You go faster and faster. You start falling down, and it’s funny at first. Everybody is laughing, too. Play another song on the jukebox. (“Isolation” by Joy Division, please.) Another rye rocks. Lights out, and the last thing you remember is the tarnished mirror over the bar at the Foxhead, or someone’s hand on your thigh, or trying to explain to a stranger why you love pop music, getting frustrated, and crying.

And the morning after that, it’s like you wake up in a different world. Subject to gravity and physics once again, you can hardly function except to reheat a co-op quesadilla and watch SVU sideways on your bed. Whatever energy you might have for pursuing goals, pursuing friendships, or experiencing the pulsing impossibility of the world is diverted to the short-term project of keeping your hands from shaking visibly as you hand over your student ID at the gym. Navigating a conversation without letting on that you remember nothing of what you did after 11 p.m. the night before. Burying the panic which blooms when you realize that you are 30, Jesus Christ. 30. And still acting like this.

Not exactly fertile ground for writing a novel.

Every night, you have the same choice: You can stop running from the tsunami of fears and feelings and minor adult errands and let them crash over you, setting things to right and flossing and writing one word after another, or you can find another sheet of fresh ice. Go skating across, young and free and invincible.

If you’re a party girl, the choice is obvious.

But eventually, you’re not so much a party girl as a wild wretch nobody will hang out with after dark, with nobody celebrating your birthday but a bartender. If you’re lucky, you get the brief grace to make a different choice, and you ask for help. You tell the truth, at last, about how scary your life is. You turn around and face the tsunami. And then you trudge.

--

--

Sarah Smith
Human Parts

Novelist. Tarotist, poet, lazy Virgo. Nothing is real; magic is real. Writing is a way to see in the dark. sarahelainesmith.com, @braindoggies