Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I Wish I Could Write Through Anything!

Long ago I found I couldn’t. Well, mostly I couldn’t. I did fine with my daily writing schedule for a number of years, but I couldn’t write a word after I found out my mother had cancer. After she died, it took me over a year to even glance at one of my manuscripts again.

A year or so later, I landed my first full-time freelance writing job. It was non-fiction, short biographies of singers and musicians. I did the research, the interviews, and then wrote up the bios, including adding HTML tags in the text as required. My weekly payday depended on my output and my meeting each week’s deadline. The more I produced, the more I got paid. It wasn’t really creative writing like my fiction, and I knew there was an editor waiting for it each week and waving a paycheck. As long as I did the correct research and wrote good bios, I got paid for them. (There’s no such guarantee with fiction, not even after a good bit of success.)

I went from that first job to writing greeting cards, then on to another bigger company doing bios again, and then reviews. During the years I did all of that non-fiction writing, I never seemed to have any energy or time or writing left in me to work on my fiction. It made me sad, but as a wife and mother with more bills than money, I did what I had to do. Through it all, no matter what was going on in my life, I never missed a deadline. I remember losing two dear friends during that time, and one Christmas week deadline pulling all the holiday stuff together for my family, completing all my bios, and doing it all with the flu and a double eye infection. There was no joy to my writing. It was a job. So I did it when I was supposed to do it. Even if that meant being up until two AM before a morning deadline.

A few years later, I was upset when the company I was working for cut back and tightened its belt to the point of getting rid of about 80% of their writers, including me. I tried to find another writing job at first, but when I didn’t find one soon, I was actually relieved. After years of non-fiction I finally decided to put it aside and turn to my fiction full-time. It was something I had been dreaming of.

I did fine at first, finished a couple of long manuscripts in pretty good time, then my father got worse and I spent more and more of my time caring for him, along with of course having to care for my children and be a housewife. I found it hard to be a full-time caregiver for my father, a full-time mother for my children, a full-time wife for my husband, along with handling all of the housework, shopping, bills, ect… Still, I found time almost daily to work on one of my stories—though not as many hours as I would have liked. Sometimes it was only minutes.

In June of 2004 my father became even more seriously ill. When he was put in the hospital, I spent hours with him daily. When he died. I fell back into not being able to write at all. I managed to pull myself out of the grief in less than a year this time. I turned back to my fiction writing and found comfort in it.

Then, this time, I got sick. I was thirsty all of the time, sleepy all of the time. I couldn’t sit still long enough to write because I would almost fall asleep. I just felt awful. I soon found out why, I was a diabetic.

Just about the time I began to feel well enough and awake enough to face the computer for longer than the time it took to do a few e-mail messages, I found out my blood sugar counts were getting worse instead of better. Learning I would need to start doing daily blood tests at home, as well as go on daily meds to try to control the disease, knocked me for a whole new loop. I’m terrified of needles, so just the thought of what I was facing, along with what I knew about being a diabetic because my father had been one, was enough to send me in a brand new downward spiral.

I caught hold of the cave sides on the way down, and climbed right back up this time. At first every word was a fight, but I slowly started to get back into the rhythm. And then…

Yes, you knew something else was coming. This time it was hurricane Katrina. Talk about turning my world upside down. She even turned it inside out. It’s been six months today since she hit my home, and I’ve yet to write more than a few words. I have even shied away from e-mail messages, mainly only doing the ones I have to for my groups, and answering friends after long lags. Many days I have a great idea for something to write here for my blog, and I let those thoughts slip away too.

I’ve tried hard, but I just can’t seem to get anywhere at all. I think I’m actually afraid that if I start writing again, and get back into a normal writing routine, or anything near it…something else will happen. Maybe even something worse than the other times. It feels like fate doesn’t want me to write my romance novels, and slaps me down with glee anytime I start doing too well at it.

I’ve felt this way, or close to it, before, and thought maybe just not ever writing again would be the best thing for me. I’ve tried that. But even now, when I can’t write, I can’t leave it completely alone either. The story I have started calls to me. The characters walk through my mind at the oddest times and whisper secrets to me. Plot points pop into my thoughts, ideas for a new story, a better way to end a scene, those kinds of things that only other writers know the power of.

Always before, the story and the characters kept on pulling at me until I could no longer resist the comfort of their world, until I willingly slipped back into its brightness with them.

I know that will happen again, I just can’t leave it for good. Part of me wishes that I could though, unless there was some way for me to turn into one of those writers who can write through any thing. I know some of them in person, and nothing, nothing short of their own deaths, would stop the flow of words for them. I wish they knew some little secret that they could share with me. What ever it is they have found that makes them able to write on no matter what. But I guess even if they could, the secret that works for one probably wouldn’t work for another.

I guess there’s nothing I can do but sit here and wait, try to reach out when the pull comes, and hope that sooner instead of later, I’m able to slip back in.

3 comments:

Scott Forbes said...

Hello from Canada. I am an aspiring writer and came to your site through a blog search. I am a father of 4, and husband of one - Karen. Your clear description of how and why you cannot write at the moment resonated with me. I hit an emotional wall in late November and early December and spiralled into a deep depression. THis is the first time in my life that I have been on this planet and can't make head nor tales of it. My feelings are something like what you have described. I have been greatly helped by medication prescribed by a Dr. and counseling from a professional. I know that medication sounds scary to some, but it has so far restored me to 80% of my normal self. Maybe it could help you too.

Blessings
Scott Forbes
p.s. My work is with orphans and street kids with and organization called Kids Alive International, www.kidsalive.ca, scott.forbes@kidsalive.ca

Charlotte Dillon said...

Hi there in Canada, Scott.

I think I've worked through most of my feelings, at least for now. (Smile) I'm glad the meds have helped you so much. I hope you get back that other 20% soon.

Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this helps, but in school we studied "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" and the first order of the day is: Survival. One cannot self-actualize when basic needs have to be met. You should not feel guilty because you are using your life skills to meet health issues, re-make your home, and provide for your family! Your writing is important {and you are Missed by this romantic!} and your family life more so. I read in Stephen King's "On Writing" that life isn't about the Art; art is about Life...something like that! Hang in there; at least you're published and can recall the heady feeling! Ah, sweet Memories!! Remember there is strength in Love, and you are Beloved by God, and us! ~Karen in California.