Tuesday, my biggest (and initial) writing inspiration, died from metastasized breast cancer, at the too-young age of 52.
Elizabeth Wurtzel is/was best-known for her first book, Prozac Nation, a memoir of her life, which at that point, had only reached 27 years of age. Many critics bashed her for being too blunt, too self-absorbed, too “depressing”, and “too honest”… ridiculous.
If it weren’t for her, I would not have had the desire to journal / keep a diary (both personal and online, through Blogger, LiveJournal, MySpace, Facebook, countless other mediums)… or had the desire to express myself about movies, books, bands, as passionately as I have, since the mid-90s……. nor would I have had the desire or inspiration to release any of my poetry/free verse/journalistic writings… initially in photocopied/stapled format (1996), or beyond (my first collection of writings was self-published as an actual paperback, through Amazon, in 2016).
[[[side note– Three more collections and another book (and a book about songwriting) coming, all this year.]]]
Elizabeth Wurtzel started it all, for me.
I read Prozac Nation (and proudly still have my 1st edition paperback version of it, bought from Barnes & Noble) in late summer, 1994. I had just graduated high school a few months prior…. and I was totally fucking depressed, felt hopeless, lonely, and terrible about everything in my life. I saw Elizabeth Wurtzel being interviewed on the late-night TV show Last Call (with Elvis Mitchell and others). And I was like… “who the fuck…. she’s hot… I love what she’s saying…. wait, she wrote a book about being depressed… and she’s only… 27?”
So I ran out the next day and got Prozac Nation from the Cape Coral Public Library (basically a decent walk from my house, but walkable, because I didn’t have a car nor driver’s license), and then bought the book the day after, when someone gave me a ride to Barnes and Noble.
And every word throughout Prozac Nation told me this: Stay alive, stay inspired, for you have things to do (musically, artistically, and education-wise), later in life. Enjoy the music you love. SHARE ALL OF IT with people. Enjoy the films you love. SHARE ALL OF IT with people. Enjoy the things you’ve read. SHARE THEM with everyone. It’s ok to be fucked up, depressed, feeling like you don’t belong. It’s totally okay, and fuck everyone who doesn’t get you. Express yourself, fearlessly and in the process, hold up your middle finger and say “FUCK EVERY1.”
I wrote a few poems and random writings in high school. Thought nothing of it at the time. Just me, trying to stay alive. Then I read her book. Then I thought, “I’m gonna put my fucking shit out, as depressing and as bitter/cynical as it may be. I’m gonna fuckin’ put it out. And I’m not going to be scared, anymore.”
Granted, I haven’t, on a large scale, since summer 1994. Because of fear. But… seriously. Fuck that weakness. My biggest writing inspiration is dead. My father is dead, and coming up on the one-year anniversary of his death. The time is running out, and I owe it to myself, and everyone who inspired me, to put this fucking shit out.
So, I’m going to. Because fuck it.
A lot of people who have read my stuff compare it to Henry Rollins‘ earlier work, which I totally appreciate. However, he wasn’t my writing/journaling inspiration, initially. The truth is, I didn’t know who the hell Henry Rollins was, until 1992, when I saw him being interviewed on The Dennis Miller Show, talking about his friend Joe Cole who was just murdered a few months before. I was like “oh shit, that’s the guy from Black Flag? Cool.” I didn’t know that, though I knew who Black Flag was.
I didn’t read anything by Henry Rollins until early 1996, when my friend Adam Schere lent me Henry’s book Now Watch Him Die. Literally, 1996!! By then, I had been heavily inspired by Wurtzel’s cynical, sarcastic, bitter and real writing, which I had written a bunch of my own because of, a full year and a half before I even knew Henry Rollins wrote anything (except lyrics), let alone had books out, through his own publishing company, 2.13.61.
Rollins has always been an inspiration to me, but he was not the main reason I started journaling, and pouring my heart out, and just… being me: opinionated, passionate, intense. Anyone who remembers that shift in my life (1994-2000, basically), will know… that’s the real me that was screaming to get out, for 18 years prior.
I started writing and journaling because of Elizabeth Wurtzel and Prozac Nation. She and that book were the ONLY reason at that time. The ONLY reason.
I am heartbroken after hearing news of her passing. Utterly heartbroken.
I emailed Wurtzel a few times over the years, as her email was always easily found with a quick internet search. She always wrote me back, saying thank you and to hang in there and things will be okay.
On a large scale, they have been okay.
Just wanted to write something short, about her and her influence and impact on my life. Musically, and literately, literalistically, and literarily (and yes, those are all real words).
Thanks, Lizzy. I hope you finally found peace. Thanks for bringing me peace, through your three books I have owned since they were released, and through your great essays. Thankfully, you will always live on through your groundbreaking, passionate work.
You will be missed, anyway. Always, and every day.