In my previous post, I talked about keeping a writing journal. I often record personal events there because they affect how much writing I’m able to do. Looking back, I don’t want to blame a month with no writing on writer’s block when I was on vacation. Or more realistically in 2018, experiencing some stressful event.
This year, I drafted and did the first revision round on a 65K word novel, the third in a series that starts with The Wind Reader. On February 21, the journal I kept while writing it says, “If I can write through this, I can write through anything.”
What was the anything I was talking about?
Chest pains for my husband sent us to the ER in the middle of the night. He turned out to have no heart problems, but he did have a growth on his pancreas. Eventually, that growth was diagnosed as a benign cyst, but not before I found myself much distracted by worrying about it. Even when you push something like that to the back of your mind, it’s still taking up space there. I rely a lot on my back brain (what, in Misery, Stephen King calls “the boys in the basement”) for ideas and insights about whatever I’m working on. I think that’s one reason I don’t listen to music while I write. My back brain pays attention to it rather than wandering around my story. Not surprisingly, worrying about whether my husband had cancer took priority.
We put our house up for sale and bought into a condo association in the Chicago area. Actually, I should list that as two stressful events rather than one. Selling a house is a pain. There’s always conflict over price and condition with the buyer. Also it turned out the market in our area was sluggish. After several months, we wound up selling for less money than we paid 20 years ago.
Moving to the new place was good. We’re close to our son and in an interesting metro area. The condo itself is beautiful, and the building has services that make our lives easier. But even when you want to move, it turns out that moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life because it disrupts routine.
I finished the zero draft of this book six months after I started it, which is longer than it usually takes me to get to that point. I find a zero draft painful to write, so I usually like to blurt it out quickly without much thought. I also finished a week before the moving van came. That part was good timing. At that point I needed to set it aside to get some perspective anyway. I figured I’d go back to it in mid-August, after the move.
I had a heart attack. It was totally out of the blue. I have good family history, good cholesterol, regular exercise, weight at a desirable level, so the attack took me by surprise. In terms of the effect on writing, it was a pain (no pun intended) both because it scared me (and thus fouled up my back brain) and because it took up time. I spent only two days in the hospital, but I had to do cardiac rehab three days a week for 12 weeks.
So all of that was stressful. And yet, when I look back on this year in terms of writing, mostly what I feel is happiness. The Wind Reader came out, meaning people other than me got to read it. The book I’m writing is coming along. I’m at the revision stage now, my favorite part of writing. I found a great new writers group in the public library right next to the building I’m living in. A short story came out in Swords and Sorcery and a second story appeared in the November issue of Frost Fire Worlds. I feel lucky. How does that happen? I’m guessing just human resilience.
I hope your year was good too, despite whatever “anything” you had to write or otherwise make your way through.