If you’ve been following this column, you’ll remember that the previous episode of my journey to becoming a published author ended with me querying a not-quite-ready manuscript—which didn’t go so well—and left me doubting whether I truly have what it takes to be a writer.
What you may not realize is that it happened over fifteen months ago, in October 2020. Since then, I haven’t written anything other than a few blog posts, some poetry, and four articles for this column. As for my MS, I haven’t even cracked it open. But I have had a revelation or two in the time since.
Revelation: Making Something Known or Visible
When I dedicated myself to finally fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a published young adult author, I was ALL IN. Even after losing my son towards the end of drafting my MS, I was still committed to seeing this through—not only as a project or hobby but as a serious change of direction in my life.
My goal was to spend 5-8 years building my writing career by creating a backlist of books and a healthy list of fans and followers via email and social media so that by the time I retire from teaching, I can enjoy a profitable second career as an authorpreneur.
And in 2020, I made serious progress toward that goal in only 8 months: a complete novel drafted and (somewhat) revised, a website up and running, a blog, and an email list with a few dozen subscribers.
But then. I just. Stopped.
Maybe I just need a break, I told myself. Maybe I’m just burnt out from doing so much so fast.
It took me several more months still to acknowledge the truth I’d known all along: I’m not the same person I was when I started all this.
Like many moms, I can imagine all kinds of terrible, awful things happening to me and my family. To my kids. As a writer, the way I imagine them is magnified exponentially.
But of all the horrible thoughts and images a writing mama can conjure up, the only one she believes could never actually happen because it is so unspeakably awful is the end of her child’s life.
It’s the one time the words The End don’t bring satisfaction, but instead bring anguish, suffering, despair, and loss of all hope.
One thing this writing mama has been so skilled at is writing a different ending; one that didn’t include those words and the finality of them.
Denial is the heart’s way of protecting what it has lost and the brain’s way of protecting what it cannot fully conceive.
I’m not in denial anymore: my son is gone and he isn’t coming back.
But that isn’t the only thing I’ve been in denial about.
Revelation: An Enlightening Surprise
Have you ever heard the idea that the thing we feel the most resistance to is often the thing we should be doing?
Well, that’s a load of crap.
One lesson I’ve learned from loss and the grief it creates is that resistance is the soul’s way of nudging us away from things that no longer serve us and toward living in our truth.
I’ve been resisting my truth for the past fifteen months, but here it is: I no longer feel like writing, and I certainly don’t feel like writing about all the writing I don’t feel like doing.
This might be only a now thing, or it might be a forever thing. I don’t know. And that’s OK with me.
And this isn’t the grief talking. It’s not a giving up, or a giving in, or even a tired ol’ giving out; it’s a giving to. It’s a giving to myself.
It’s giving myself permission to call it all off just as the guests are arriving.
It’s giving myself permission to let it go and knowing that because it’s my choice, I’m empowered and liberated to do something else and to do it guilt-free.
It’s giving myself permission to acknowledge that I was a certain person before my son died, and that person had different goals and desires than the person I am now.
The new direction I’m being pulled in is one I never expected for myself. It will definitely require some use of my writing skills, but in a way that feels exciting and energizing.
Revelation: The End
As a mom, I’ve been through HELL and back, and I’ve survived. Am I over it? Heck, no! I’m still IN it, but I’m functioning.
In fact, my experience with grief and loss has made me more fully human.
I’m still able to grieve AND go to work and take care of my family.
I’m able to grieve AND laugh and enjoy things and do my hobbies.
I want to help others know they also have the strength and resilience to get through anything, and that while there is no “getting over” grief, we can commit to making it our life’s work to go THROUGH it. I want to help people understand that our emotions cannot kill us, so we need not avoid them. We can run into the bullets and make it out alive.
Collectively, we have all suffered a tremendous amount of loss in the past two years, and many are in need of encouragement and support in managing their thoughts and emotions in response to grief.
At this moment, I see a great need in our world to help others develop fortitude and resilience to withstand the heaviness that comes with grief and loss.
However, I don’t want to help others by writing fiction, but by being of service in a different way. I’d like to coach anyone who has suffered a loss (not only death but ANY kind of loss) and is struggling with allowing and making space for the sometimes overwhelming thoughts and feelings of grief to be present in the midst of the busyness of daily life.
Along the way, if I feel like writing again, I may even write a bit about grief and loss.
And if I don’t, that’s ok.
Finally, to end this column and—if you’ll allow the pun—close this chapter, I’d like to thank Gabriela Pereira and her team at DIY MFA for their generosity in welcoming me into their community of writers. I learned so much from all of you, not only about writing but about myself during the most challenging time of my life.