It was the year from H-E-Double Hockey Sticks. My mother passed away. My teenaged daughter told me she was pregnant. We almost lost our home to foreclosure. I felt like putting up a white flag, curling up in bed, and giving up. My mind was spinning, and my heart was broken. The thing is – and I’ve been told this ever since I was handed my first diary as a child – writing can help ease the pain of trauma. And I’ve learned the truth in that statement firsthand.
I don’t write in a journal like ordinary people. Not that I’m extraordinary – I’ve been called eccentric and odd before, but never extraordinary. I guess I found it dull and uninteresting to write down the events of the day as they happened to me when I could write them as if someone else, a character in a novel, was experiencing them. She could have an exotic name like Alexandra Phillippa Rossini, long flowing blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes instead of Clairol-coated frizzy gray with wrinkles and a double chin. Alexandra’s mother could die tragically in a carriage accident on the rocky road to Ambleside, in the lake district of England in 1889 where her daughter lay ill on the eve of her arranged marriage, or having been poisoned by a jilted lover. Alexandra’s life could be way more exotic than mine, no?
You may want to set aside time first thing in the morning or last thing at night to write down your thoughts and feelings during a season of intense stress, whether in character or out. As long as you keep writing, your skills won’t slacken. And even if you end up throwing away all the pages or hitting delete six months down the road as you realize every word on the page was sappy, self-indulgent drivel, at least you were writing! You can congratulate yourself for not giving up when the going got tough.
I say, write, write, write, and continue to write – whether your arm is in a sling from a skiing accident, your mind is in a whirl because of unemployment and rejection after rejection, your husband left you for an Alexandra-esque other woman, or you are utterly indisposed in some other way. Life is short, and getting published is tough. We have to be strong, establish schedules, meet deadlines, and never give up. If I have anything to share when it comes to life’s big and little interruptions, both happy and sad, it would be this: Never stop writing!
I was recently encouraged by this video clip of Ray Bradbury, talking about his early short story-writing career. The turning point in his writing came as a result of dealing with a tragedy in his life. I was intrigued. You’ll see why.