Books are an amazing source of life lessons and love advice, so why don’t we learn from them? Esmée will recount to you what she has learned and what you should keep in mind while finding your way through the obstacle course that is life.

Imagine being fed up with your 19th century lifestyle of being a woman of some means, but not being allowed to make decisions on your own health. You could be dealing with depression, temporary-nervous or otherwise, and all the doctors surrounding you are telling to you rest. There is one specific doctor, let’s call him Dr. Weir Mitchell, who is insistent on prescribing the ‘rest cure’, which means you are not allowed to do anything. No housework, no hanging out with your kids and most definitely no writing. All you get to do is lie in bed all day in the same room, allowing for two mere hours of light activity. This will be your life until you get better, meaning until your husband and your doctor tell you you are better. And because you are a woman living in the 19th century, you agree. So now you are stuck in a single room for 22 hours of the day and you start seeing things in the ugly wallpaper that surrounds your man-made prison. Slowly you are losing your mind and you know that if you spend just one more minute in that god forsaken room, you will never recover. What do you do then? Well, you pull a Charlotte Perkins Gilman and write that damned doctor a horror story.

gilmanchetext99ylwlp10I think this is something we should do more often. If you are having problems, simply put pen to paper. This is a much better solution than using violence or anger to get your opinion across and writing will give you the time to really perfect your argument. Of course, writing down your feelings is definitely not a cure all and thank god we don’t live in the 19th century where women still had afflictions like melancholia, hysteria and other vaguely threatening mental illnesses that were code for women being dramatic. That said, write down you problems anyway. You can keep a journal, write a hopeless love story or a strongly worded letter, but I am going to have to agree with Charlotte Perkins Gilman that writing a horror story is always the best way to go.

Writing horror will allow you to put the people you dislike in terrible circumstances without them actually being in danger. It can be a great outlet for excessive anger or just mild contempt for whoever or whatever is bothering you. If you don’t like how your boss is treating you, write a story about a Lovecraftian horror roaming the halls of your workplace, slowly driving him to insanity. Mail it after you quit, or even better use it as your resignation letter. If you want to make a point that someone is treating you poorly, it might be a good idea to cast yourself as the protagonist and the person you are writing this for as the villain. Show that person what they are doing to you by creating complete terror. It might even help to cast some other people from your lives as the supporting cast, to really drive home that it is a metaphor for your life.

Now, when you start doing this and you have been writing terrifying stories to that one teacher that once yelled at you, or to that cashier that always looks at you funny, people will start telling you to stop writing. They will tell you it is scaring them, that it’s not what normal people do. This is where you come into action. Never, ever let anyone tell you to stop writing. That is exactly what they want to achieve. They are getting scared, are starting to see the error of their ways. Instead, try getting it published so you can pull a mega-Perkins-Gilman. After writing The Yellow Wallpaper, she send a copy to the illustrious Dr. Weir Mitchell. After getting the word out, many women recognized that the ‘rest cure’ wasn’t working for them either, so they quit and regained their mental health. Charlotte Perkins Gilman became a figure head for feminist writing and gave women a voice in their own health care. So next time you feel frustrated or don’t like how someone is treating you, consider this. Will writing a horror story about your situation help others with similar problems? The answer is always yes.


Esmée de Heer is head honcho over at the Bored to Death book club website, writing the daily content and making sure the site stays up and running. She's one of the founding sisters of the book club and enjoys reading and giving unsolicited love advice.

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