Whenever I need a burst of creativity, I read either a memoir or a fictional story written in the first person. It pushes me out of my own mental boundaries and makes me consider another person’s point of view. My mind takes on that new role and flexes into new thoughts.
One of my favorite stories to revisit is The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Read it here). The main character’s reflection on her own state of mind mirrors the process I go through daily when I jot in my own journal. Although I am not in a state of mental anguish, keeping a journal helps me gain confidence and regulate my emotions. It helps me see myself and think about how I want to exist in this world.
A notable example of early feminist literature, the story builds symbolism around the sick room of the unnamed narrator. A modern reader will feel conflicted about her situation as she is held against her will to recover from her recent pregnancy.
It’s not a thriller. And it doesn’t need to be.
There is no real twist. Just a horrifying journey of an unwell mind (or perhaps a mind that has been made unwell.)
If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.
Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?EXCERPT FROM THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
The author’s sentiments foreshadow the soon-after cultural critique of domestic life as both bland and suffocating. In both fiction and non-fiction, her contemporaries and followers began to question the meaninglessness of mid-century household arrangements. Most of them did this through an exploration of their thoughts and feelings.
Most explored their identities through a series of journal entries (or fictional recreations of journals) that showed a progression of self. This fascination with self loosely ties together these stories for me. I always lump these types together in my mind — although they may fit in different categories.
They’re not really coming-of-age stories — more like finding-myself stories.
Going through these journeys with the writer opens doors in my own mind — to consider who I have become and could become.
That’s why I keep coming back to my own journal. It’s not a record of anything other than a progression of self — as obscure and unread as my story may be.