During the days that spanned my mom’s hospitalization and subsequent death, I had trouble writing. I already had a story I’d been working on, something about a girl and an enchanted forest, that kept turning into a girl and her sick mother. Go figure. I guess this is an example where life and writing intersect to create mountains of headaches for us.
One of my writer’s weaknesses is that I succumb to trouble easily. Like I’m looking for an excuse to get out of this life
sentence choice. Granted, losing my mom roughed me up, but that’s really no reason to take it out on my muse. Yet, that’s exactly what happened. Before I realized it, I started thinking that I can’t keep up this fight anymore. It’s too hard, it’s taking too long, and any talent I have I scrape from the bottom of a barrel.
Of course, a writer who doesn’t write is as bad off as a cat who doesn’t catnap.
You really don’t feel better by not writing, even when the writing isn’t working. If I thought things sucked before, they couldn’t compare to how they felt now that I had shunned my muse. Losing my mom was all I could think of, all that I felt. Everything and everyone became no more than a dull thud in my life.
Clearly, I had to get back to the writing, but how to do it when all I could think about was death and misery?
I killed off a character in my book.
One I hadn’t expected to die, and in fact, was pretty vital to the story in general.
Not only did my recklessness help take the book to unexpected places, but it got my muse scrambling to answer back. I’m not sure what the payoffs or the cons are to messing with the muse, but I can tell you this – it certainly livens up the party.
Or, maybe this was my muse’s plot to begin with, to get me back to work. My muse has been known to mess with me upon occasion.
Either way, the trick, I found, is to take (or allow your muse to take) your story off course. Force yourself out of the expected, the anticipated. Challenge yourself with something you cannot possibly ignore. Something that will refuse to let you sit at the pages and write by rote.
By shocking my story, I was able to channel the grief and overpowering sense of loss into creative energy. Even better, the fact I could focus on the story during “writing time” allowed me to take the opportunity to think of and miss my mom in more appropriate moments.
Now, I’m not saying I can turn the sadness on and off like a beer tap, because the sadness is always there, a film across my days. But, when sadness is the only feeling I have, it carves deep grooves in my soul where the self-doubt festers.
Feeling only sadness was okay (acceptable) in the days following her death. I wasn’t even trying to write anything then, anyway. But it was that empty, hollow time after, when my brothers and cousins and family friends returned to their own lives, that the sorrow started to beat me up. And, that’s not okay.
I needed to feel things other than the sadness, not just so I could write, for crap’s sake, but so I could take joy in my children again, indulge in the beauty of autumn, gear up for the holidays, enjoy my son’s soccer championship win, sleep through the night, relax with a good book, and anything else that makes up your average-Joe day.
If you’re one of those people who can salvage your creativity during tough times, feel blessed and more power to you. But, if you can’t, if the heavy emotions make you want to give up, then shock your muse back into action –
because muses like to have the last word.
What about you? Have you ever tried to shock your story? How did your muse take it? Do you take catnaps?