***Warning: It’s about to get personal all up in here ***
I’ve been ruminating over a new post for a while, but could never decide what exactly to write about. I’ve been really inspired by the (much more regular) posts of amazing people like Chuck Wendig and Delilah Dawson and Joyce C and Nicole Evans, who always share inspirational advice, writerly wisdom, and intriguing book reviews. My default thought when it comes to blogging is that I don’t have anything useful to contribute. I’m just a lil’ snowflake squeaking in the midst of a blizzard. There are far more interesting blogs and topics out there, and better writers to do the writing. But, one of my goals for 2016 was to post once a month about something, even if it was just what I had been reading lately.
I didn’t post in April, because it’s always a tough month for me. This year makes four years since my dad died, and it’s something I’m still dealing with. Every single day I miss him like hell. And every year when that day rolls around – that goddamned day in April when it happened, when I got that phone call out of the blue, and my mom was in tears – well, it’s hard to care about anything else really.
This April, depression reared its fugly head once more (hello darkness my old friend), and it took all my effort just to get out of bed and make it through each workday. I barely read, didn’t sleep well, didn’t do much of anything worth writing about here.
I know – through experience – that time makes the pain lessen. I know everyone grieves differently, as Mrs Dawson wrote about recently (after the passing of her father). Her heartbreaking and truthful post made me consider the parallels in my writing life and academic life and, y’know, real life, because she articulates a lot of the things I was going through and still am.
I started writing my first MS a few months after my dad died, and it’s filled with a whole boat-load of emotional shit I was trying to deal with. Grief, definitely, but also guilt, regret, the nightmares that come at night and during the day, and just the gut-punch that is loss. The very fact that my dad is gone. That he has – to quote one of my dad’s favorite Monty Python skits – ceased to be.
I’ll never hear his voice again, or his laugh. I’ll never spend another lazy Sunday with him, reading and drinking tea. Or go on an aimless summer road trip with him, my brother and sister and mom in the car too, with the windows down and Van Morrison or the Allman Brothers blasting from the radio. He’ll never make another witty remark that cracks up everyone in the room. He’ll never be there to pick me up from the airport as he always was, and we’d make sarcastic jokes the whole way home. He won’t be there when I need his calm, rational advice. He won’t be there to walk me down the aisle someday, or meet his future grand kids and read bedtime stories to them.
And he’ll never get to write that book he always wanted to.
My mom told me that, once I confided in her that I had started writing a novel. I kept my novel a secret from family, friends, my boyfriend, everyone, for the first few months because I was afraid they would think it was silly, or a waste of time, when I should have been focusing on my master’s or doctoral research (which was kinda true). But I finally told my mom when I was home for Christmas last year, and she paused, and said ‘You know, Dad always wanted to write novels.’
My dad – the work-aholic, who always had a book (or three) nearby, but who could only read a few pages each night because he was so exhausted – secretly wanted to be a novelist. I had no idea.
That’s kept me going when I lose all hope or interest in writing. Even if I’m not actually always able to write, I’m still grateful for it. It’s an amazing privilege, getting to create worlds and characters and play with them, like in a sandbox for grown-ups. And it’s something I’d like to keep doing, and maybe – hopefully – it’ll get published one day.
My first-ever post mentioned how my novel-writing was usually inversely proportional to my PhD dissertation-writing, and vice versa. I’m finally emerging from the dark and dank mines of dissertation-land, so I haven’t touched my MS in almost a year. I’ve lost interest in it, and while I’ve received some really thoughtful feedback and critiques from my CPs, I’m in that stage where I think it’s complete pants. I know it needs LOTS of work, but I’m also wondering if it’s even worth salvaging, or if I should just let it be ‘the trunked first novel’ and move on.
I started the sequel in a burst of creativity last fall when we moved to London, as we didn’t have internet for the first few weeks (and therefore I had fewer distractions…). But the sequel was so different from the first book, and I questioned whether I had ended the first book in the right place, and then I descended into a spiral of self-doubt. And so they’re both still sitting there, the second one unfinished, the first one untouched and in desperate need of yet another major revision. (I know they say you should let the book ‘breathe’, but hoo boy, that one has probably oxidized by now…)
BUT in the last few weeks, I’ve started in earnest on an entirely new historical MS, a stand-alone, set in a different century and location and with very different characters. In fact it’s very much out of my comfort zone, and it’s….*GASP* exciting! I’m doing research in tandem with writing, which is not how I wrote my last MS, but weeeeee who cares because sandbox play-time is fun again!
And – the backbone of the plot is drawn from a historical event that my dad first told me about. We walked the site where it happened (or what’s left of it), and I really want to do the story – and my dad – justice.
(I walk by this vintage Aston everyday – I think my Dad would’ve liked it)
Maybe I needed this new WIP to jumpstart my love of writing again, and maybe, just maybe, I’m ready to dive back into the mess that is my first novel. Even though the doubt-goblins and envy-ghouls have started circling around my new WIP, I know I just have to write my way through (as Jedi Master Chuck Wendig always preaches, with his much-needed kicks to the backside). And I’ve heard other published and successful authors say that doubt and envy never really go away, you just have to get better at ignoring them, and find a way to write the damn thing anyway.
So – after a long and rambly stream-of-consciousness post – I guess I’ll keep trying to do that. After all, life is short.
My dad never got to write those novels. So I’m going to – for myself, and for him.