Writing Under Stress

Writing when your real life goes to Hell in a leaking hand basket. Let’s be honest, doing anything when your life goes bad can be a major undertaking. Many writers feel guilty because they’re not getting words. Sometimes they put more pressure on themselves because of that guilt.

Speaking from experience, that’s a great way to screw yourself over.

My father passed away last Monday. He’d been very ill on and off for the last few years and his quality of life topped out at “miserable” for the last few months. He went peacefully, with my mother (his wife of 55 years) and my sister sitting with him. I was on the road for the almost 11 hour trip and didn’t get to see him.

By any standards, this has knocked me for a loop. I was very close to my father. Though his passing didn’t come as a surprise, no one can really prepare for it. Until it happens, you don’t know how you’ll react emotionally. You can guess, you can suspect, but until it happens, you don’t know how it will hit you or how badly.

The thing is, this is a wound in your heart, in your soul. Just like a physical wound, it takes time to heal. Just like a physical wound, different things can help that healing, and other things can hinder it. Which is which is as individual as the person, as the wound. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. (As is so common in anything having to do with writing, y’know?)

I haven’t really written anything new since then, I admit, though I have looked at my MIP on occasion. My brain wants something else to think about, anything else. Work is only diverting while I’m there, after all. I’ve been able to make a few small edits, but there is no real creative juice there. Yet.

I’ve been through this before. My favorite sister died unexpectedly in 1999. That hit hard. It was months before I could do anything creative again but I guilted myself big-time for not being able to put the words together. I got very concerned that I’d never finish the book I was working on, that I’d never write anything good ever again. That added to the depression after my sister’s passing, which only made creativity withdraw further.

My grandfather passed from cancer the following July, just after I got back into writing. Again, big depression set in at the loss, since I’m prone to such bouts. Again, the guilt came because–damnitall, I’d just gotten back to writing and it wasn’t fair! The cycle started again and came back with a vengeance. I didn’t finish that book. I still haven’t, actually. In 2001, I kicked into learning about writing and pretty much didn’t really try to write a novel again until 2007–and I’m still working on that novel today, ’cause it’s been on-and-off with the creativity again.

So I’m not stressing about being creative. Yeah, I’m at the climax of the book, the big battle I’ve been building towards and wanting to write for over a year now. But the words aren’t there–and that’s okay. That’s the way it has to be because I’m wounded and healing. I’ve learned my lesson, I’m not picking at the wound again. I know the tears will dry some day, maybe sooner, maybe later. I know I’ll never stop wanting him to be there, but the moments of wanting him there will become more infrequent. I’ll heal and be able to tap into the creative well again.

After all, the only way I’m going to disappoint my dad is if I let his passing silence the writing he was so proud of. I’ve always endeavored not to disappoint him.

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