Mourning as a Writer

I’ve been writing a new novel lately, hopefully one I’ll get some blog posts out of at some point. But the thing is it reflects a lot on death…and I guess that’s just made me reflect a lot on it too, but also on related issues, like grieving and moving on.

My dog died recently. I initially wasn’t going to mention this, but I feel like it’s relevant. The creature I’d loved for thirteen good long years was suddenly gone, and I’m still at a loss sometimes to explain what I feel. And it’s been tough. In many ways this school year has very much seemed to be one filled with loss, loss I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with as hopelessly as most others who’ve come before me. His death hit me harder than I’d expected, though in loving him for so long, I’m not sure why I’d expect to be so unaffected.

But this was not the only loss I’ve suffered recently. A few months ago I laid to rest one of my favorite novel series I’d been working on, the one that included the first four novels I’d ever written, the one I’d been working on for probably five or six years now. It was unfortunately co-authored, and the other writer wanted to move on to more “mature” things, newer things, fresher things… I suppose in life we change and our writing changes with us. And for a time I thought I was ok with that, thinking moving on to new things wouldn’t be too hard.

I muddled along on my own, then gradually just realized it wasn’t working anymore. Maybe it was like the passion was cut in two without her. Or maybe I simply grew up too, and in time I began to realize there comes a time we grow too old and have to put aside things of the past. Sometimes I feel like the children in Narnia being told they’ve outgrown their beloved kingdom. And regardless, after she left, my characters, my world, my novels seemed to whither and die away. And for a time it seemed like part of me died with them. Maybe it did.

I poured the better part of my young adult life into those books. I had those characters at my sides as I dealt with those awkward teen years, when I cried about not having a date to prom, when I felt alone, when my parents just didn’t understand. They were some kind of a therapy and comfort as I dealt with anxiety, depression, confusion about life and boys and angsty teenage problems.

I buried them all in a swift flash of fury, smacked my hands onto the keyboard to create a little half-sheet apocalypse of my magical world that undid all I’d created. ” The chaos of untold proportion took over, the already potent disease spreading insanity in its wake. ” To give some idea of what happened. Sometimes that’s just how things are for me. A flash of rage and before I realize it I’ve destroyed what I love. Funny how anger is one of those stages of grieving when it seems so utterly different from sorrow.

It has been a few months now. But still sometimes it feels like fire has swept the fields of my imagination. Life is attempting to poke through bits of scorched earth, but it doesn’t have the same strength that it once did. It feels feeble, crippled. My characters feel like half-life’s, something not quite fully created. They speak perhaps a touch on the page, but I do not love them as I used to love. They feel like mere creations rather than friends. I do not sense them with me in those moments I need bravery or inspiration or a little more strength to make it one more day. And sometimes I fear it will be forever, that I will now forever have this sense of loneliness no author should, that I will never again be able to create with the same youthful passion and vibrancy I once did.

But that is the way life works. We grow up. We move on. Things of the past become less important. Goals and ideals and values shift and change like the ever moving tides. People and animals and characters we care about die, leave us, forget about us, move on. There is no control over these. They are simply patterns of life that dictate how we live.

Still, I’ve recognized by now that I’m in mourning, both for my beloved dog, for these stories I once loved, for the parts of myself I that may not be relevant anymore, for the things I’ve lost this year.

Somehow, someway, we move on. Past grief, past pain, past anger. It’s never easy. These feelings may never completely go away. But we find new people to love, we get new pets to share our time with, we write new stories either on the page or in life. Mourning can’t be underestimated. But it is crippling at times. And I only hope I’ll continue to heal, to grow, to move past these darker times towards brighter ones ahead, hopefully filled with better and fresher writing.

This year, more than any other before, I’ve considered throwing in the towel on my life-long dream of writing. I’ve considered giving it up and moving on to new things. For now, this remains something I cling to in spite of the troubles I’ve had. But who knows? Maybe some day writing will leave me too. Nothing is certain I suppose. The sun sets each and every day, sorrows happen, we simply have to hope it will rise again, and that good things too will come once more.

How do you grieve? What things or people or other elements of life have you mourned? What have been the best ways you’ve moved past hard life events? Anyone feel like writing a therapeutic response blog, if so please do.

PS: If I seem pathetic whining over a dog and some writing I no longer have, I apologize. My intention is not to make my spoiled life sound ridiculously hard, but rather to interconnect the human experience of loss and moving on, something I hope others can relate to as well in whatever means they can.

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Writing

12 responses to “Mourning as a Writer

  1. It really is hard to let go of a writing project that has been such a huge part of your life. I have a couple of manuscripts like that tucked away that were my middle school/high school therapy novels. I wouldn’t want anyone to ever read them, but I just can’t get rid of them because they were such a part of my life.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your losses. I wish I knew how to make it easier, but the only thing I know to do in those situations is to take life one step at a time and remember that God loves you.

  2. I’m sorry for your losses. If I were you, I wouldn’t make any decisions about writing or much else in this state. Let the grief do its job then, when you’re feeling better, think about what you want with your writing or anything else. Grief makes terrible decisions, believe me. *hugs*

    • Thank you so much. That is an excellent point, and I appreciate your advice. If I weren’t reliant on finishing a novel this semester in order to graduate (my replacement for a thesis) I would probably go that route. Unfortunately, for now that’s not an option. But maybe at the end of the semester I’ll have some good recovery time. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Shelley Axtell

    Emily,
    This is so beautifully written it brought tears! Mourning, sorrow are so devastating, but each experience makes us a better person-much more able to cope with our own life tragedies and be able to help others with wisdom and compassion. You are already doing that! You will be stronger soon, but whatever you do, never, ever give up writing!!

  4. The Happy Typewriter

    Not pathetic at all. I thought it was warm and beautifully written and I can so relate. Almost cried.

  5. Oh no! I’m sorry to hear about both things, your dog and your book series. 😦 I’ve had pets die before and it’s devastating. I also recently discovered that a book I loved writing probably has too many flaws to be published in anything close to its present form… so yes, I completely understand your disappointment. I’d advise you to just keep writing. I think you’ll eventually begin to love it again. 🙂

  6. Simone Moore

    Very well put. Best advice I have ever heard was to write about what you know and you are doing that. Everyone suffers loss and it is a writer’s job to figure out how to put that experience into words to help others sort through their own losses. I have had my share of losses this year but writing about them, sharing my memories on paper helped me to feel like it was not all in vain. Being a writer is not just what you do, it is who you are and whether you “write” or not it is a part of who you will always be. I have a feeling that when you look back on your writing in 20 years, you will see that this time was even more important to your growth than all the “easy” stuff you have written before. I am sorry about Oliver, he was a grand dog and I hope you will get to a point where you can bring him or the spirit of him to life in your writing. Keep being who you are and hang in there, it will get better!

Let me know what you think:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s