An Abundance of Iron and the Need to Bleed, A Writer’s Ailment


Writing isn’t hard. Not really. It’s writing well that poses the difficulty.

But let’s not talk about that just yet. Right now, let’s get elemental with this. Let’s talk about iron.

I know, I know. It’s not the sexiest element on the table, but it is the most relevant to our conversation. It’s relevant because of the one person in 250 who is born with a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis. These people, for better or worse, absorb iron like it’s going out of style. They absorb so much iron in their lifetimes that, eventually, it becomes detrimental to their health. Since our bodies do not possess a mechanism to get rid of this excess, the only way to relieve themselves of the iron they don’t need is to bleed. For people with hemochromatosis, going down to the Red Cross and dropping off a pint of plasma isn’t just a selfless act of altruism. It’s an act of self-medication.

But why in the hell am I talking about this at all?

Because right now, at this moment, I feel like a guy with too damn much iron in his blood. I think there might be something similarly wrong with us. When I say us, I mean writers. And when I say iron, I mean experience.

Like a sufferer of the aforementioned condition, I suspect that writers store up too much experience and emotion for their systems to handle. Words build up in their blood and threaten to bring critical functions to a stop. If they can’t find a way to express these words to someone it could all build up to a symbolically fatal level.

Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic. I do that.

But I don’t think so.

I don’t think so because I haven’t written in weeks. Not seriously.

And I’ve never felt worse.

Okay, maybe I have felt worse. But not since the last time I didn’t produce words for a substantial length of time. When I don’t sit before the pale light of my computer for longer than a few days I feel like Superman deprived of the light of our yellow sun. I feel weak. (I know I’ve been working on the writer/hemochromatosis sufferer metaphor in this piece so far, so the Superman stuff might seem like it’s coming out of nowhere. But that’s only because it is. I won’t miss a chance to compare myself to Kal-El.)

I’m sure that the act of writing has been compared to bleeding on a page by better writers than me. But I’m gonna do it anyway. Because like a man with too much metal in my blood I have to shed said blood every once in a while if I’m gonna continue to live.

So why do I let myself go for weeks without performing this activity that seems so vital to my own health? Because of the problem I mentioned in the first line. I have a quantity versus quality problem. I’m afraid to produce quantity that doesn’t have quality, yet I understand that the truth of the matter is that without quantity it is almost impossible to produce quality. You have to write a lot of shit before some of it turns to gold.

My metaphors are getting sloppier. That last one didn’t even make sense.

But I suspect I’ve made my point.

Laziness and fear are the enemies here. We can cure our collective disease by tapping on these atonal keyboards in front of us. We can bleed ourselves on to this page and alleviate the pain I know we all feel. At least for a while.

That’s my plan, anyway. And I’ll probably give blood next time I can. Or at least get in a knife fight. I can’t be sure my problem isn’t actually hemochromatosis, after all.

I’m not a doctor.

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