As my husband’s illness escalated into a health crisis, it became difficult to write. As he was dying, writing became impossible. How could I pay attention to made-up people in my head when one of the people I cared about most in the world was suffering and fading?
And here’s another question: My protagonist is a demon slayer involved in a supernatural war. How can I write about death as entertainment now that I’ve held my husband’s hand as he died?
I’ve had writer’s block before, but nothing like this. This was a complete loss of any sense of purpose. After the agony and loss I’d experienced, how could fiction matter?
It wasn’t just my own loss, either. On any given day, when I scan the headlines, I routinely see that dozens were killed by car bombs in the middle east. Or a disgruntled worker shot former colleagues. Or an estranged spouse killed five people. Or three people died in a car crash. Or the civil war in Syria has caused several hundred more deaths. Or a drone strike had unintended civilian casualties. On and on. Place after place. Day after day. I am conscious now, in a way I wasn’t fully before, of how each of those deaths–every single one of the dozens or hundreds broadcast by each new day’s headlines–causes profound, unimaginable grief to the survivors. To the husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings, friends left behind. Sometimes it seems like the world’s atmosphere is thick with anguished cries of “No!” and “Why?”
Mine are among them. They have brought my life screeching to a halt.
Still, when I think of Steve, I remember how much he celebrated my successes. He told me, many times, that one of his greatest joys in life was watching me blossom. He didn’t care what that blossoming entailed–he would have been just as happy if I’d been writing obscure monographs on medieval hagiography as he was walking into a bookstore and finding my mass-market urban fantasy paperbacks on the shelves. He wanted me to achieve my dreams, whatever they were. And he fully supported me in going after those dreams.
From that perspective, how could I not write?
So I’m making an effort to get back to it. I want to finish Deadtown’s story. I want the readers who have followed my series to get an ending that excites, pleases, and satisfies. As corny as it may sound, I want the blossoming that gave Steve pleasure to achieve fullness. I will not let him down.
Since I’ve been back home, I’ve been taking walks on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings with a local writer friend. On Monday, she suggested that we finish Wednesday’s walk by meeting another writer at a local coffee shop and spending an hour or so writing together. Not talking, not sharing, not critiquing–just writing together.
We did that. And it was great.
There’s something about being in the presence of other writers who are working that makes it impossible to procrastinate. No more letting myself be blocked. I read through the outline for Deadtown 6, looking for a scene I could draft. I found one. And I started to write.
To my surprise and delight, Vicky and crew were right there, waiting for me to give them voice. There was no awkward period of getting reacquainted. As soon as I turned my attention to them, my characters stepped forward. Vicky’s voice was still there, as strong and distinctive as it’s ever been. Mab, always a leader, gave me the first line, and off we went. Just like that.
It’s good to know I can trust my characters; they’re here for me, true to form, when I need them. It’s good to know that I can use fiction to explore some of the thoughts and emotions I’ve encountered in the past year. It’s good to know that my characters are ready and eager to deliver an exciting conclusion to the series. Most of all, it’s good to know I can continue to blossom in the way Steve so enjoyed seeing. This book–and whatever I accomplish in the future–is for him.