WARNING: this is a no-edit zone…
Writing is never easy. Oh, sometimes we get into the flow or the zone and the work flows, but usually that comes after intense planning and effort and only post intense focus.
A friend asked me about a week ago how long it had taken me to put together a proposal for a new series I’m very excited about writing. My response surprised her: “About a week and twenty years of experience.”
It did take roughly a week to put the proposal into format. But I’d been thinking about elements of this series for months. And it took all the experience and expertise I’ve scooped together in the last two decades to know what those elements were and what would work with what. It is also that experience that taught me what wouldn’t work and to avoid–and that information is equally important.
That was last week.
If I were being asked that question this week, my answer likely would be very different. It’s been one of those dark times around here.
I do all my annual medical checks around this time and I got some worrisome news. For weeks, my mantra was, “Okay, take this cup from me if you will. If not, give me the strength to drink from it with dignity.” That was the best I could manage. I don’t know if it was enough.
What I do know is that in more extensive testing, we discovered there’d been a reporting error and those problems were not mine. My results were fine. Some would say, “Oh how horrible. To go through all that for all that time unnecessarily.”
I say, if it weren’t necessary, then it wouldn’t have happened. I did a lot of thinking and assessing during that time, as one would expect, and I took a more intense look at priorities and interests and desires.
My relief was enormous, of course. I’m not ready to leave this world yet. But I can’t say that this dark time wasn’t valuable. It was extremely valuable to me.
Then a dear friend’s house burned. Fortunately, she wasn’t in it. Unfortunately, her two dogs were and she was by them like I was by my Alex. She’s grieving and grateful to have been spared. And of course, badly shaken.
I hadn’t yet gotten my feet back under me when I learned that a lifelong friend had passed away unexpectedly. This hit hard. Really hard. We’ve been friends forever, and I was her maid of honor at her wedding. She was beautiful inside and out and always had a kind word for anyone, a hug for anyone in need of one. Less than a month ago, her oldest son, who was born within months of my oldest son, passed away. I swear, I’m reeling. I don’t know whether to be devastated or thankful that she was spared a long battle with grief. And my heart aches for her poor mother and father–kind and gentle souls both–who have lost their only daughter and their grandson.
These things aside, there have been a few other significant challenges happening to those in my circle. One lost her sister, and has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Hospice is with another friend’s mother and they’ve called her to come home. And on it goes.
There are dark times. We all endure them. They’re never convenient or easy or merciful. They always exact a high toll and payment in full. And during them, we find writing challenging and we give ourselves hell for it. We shouldn’t. Writing is a creative art, after all, but we have to produce to eat, and so we’re not permitted to wallow in those dark emotions.
I think that’s a blessing. If we did wallow in the dark times, we’d be there far too often and we’d be not doing a lot of constructive things while we wallowed.
That doesn’t mean we don’t feel. It doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge the dark times. They command our acknowledgement. Demand it, I should say. It’d be so easy to just go cover my head and hide out until the dark time passes. So easy.
But so wrong. Thinking of my friend, and the way she lived her life. We had a two-hour life, death and the universe phone conversation less than a month ago. During it, we laughed a little, cried a little, talked about those we love who are no longer with us, and about kids and grans. And we talked about dreams and hopes and wishes we held dear as kids. Do you know, she got her dreams. She was content and happy and fulfilled.
We all know there are seasons in life. Cycles. And as much as we hate acknowledging death of the physical, it comes to us all. But in recalling that conversation, I’ll tell you something. My friend lived. She really did.
And so while the dark times might make writing hard, they don’t make it impossible. Actually, they add rich layers to the writing that couldn’t exist without experiencing the best and worst of life.
I’m sad. Yes. Of course. And grateful I’m well. And I feel horrible for the woman that report was actually issued. Bless her. I know exactly what she’s going through. I went through it for weeks. It seemed much, much longer.
So how much writing have I managed to get done during this dark time? Not a lot, frankly. But I’ve gathered a lot of fodder and experienced things that when I do write will explode on the page because they’ve exploded in me.
I don’t think we have to experience everything to write about it. I do think that when we experience relatable events, it adds that extra insight that not only brings authenticity to the work but empathy and compassion.
Some find writing during the dark times therapeutic. Some find it impossible. I guess I fall somewhere in between. Though it’s definitely not evident in this post, I will share that the only time I really write humor is when I’m mourning. That’s one of my most apparent writing quirks.
We all have them, right? The point is, we have to respect ourselves in these situations and do what we know we can do and be at peace with what we can and can’t.
Today, I’m not writing. Today, I’m spending my writing time in prayer for my friend, for her son, for her family and loved ones. Today, I’m thinking of family and the others in my expanded circle who are facing challenges and the woman going through now what I went through then. Today I’m remembering, and I’m genuinely grateful that I have so many good memories to recall. And so many good friends.
And, well, I guess to put it simply, I’m spending a day steeping myself in gratitude.
And I’m grateful.