Life has gotten in the way of my career since September. My mother’s health declined, and then on Tuesday, November 29th, she fell and ended up with a compound fracture to her right leg. Both bones broken and exposed, and one hell of a wound. Her multitude of health issues affected her ability to heal (including diabetes), so the surgeon gave her a 50/50 shot of keeping her foot. Almost 17 weeks later, she’s getting close to being able to bear weight again. The massive wound is down to a flesh wound, and we are hoping the surgeon takes the rods out of her foot soon. Last fall, my parents were also taken advantage of by the person who bought their farm and were essentially run out of their home of 30 years by a hog confinement they were tricked into allowing. That’s a long story, but Karma is a vengeful bitch. When mom fell, we already knew they were moving near us (finally!) because the toxicity of a hog implement 600 feet away from their home wasn’t an option. Because of mom’s injury and the need for care, we set her up in a facility near me until the wound healed. For a few months, Dad drove up on weekends to see her. I suddenly found myself responsible for her care, all of their finances and legal paperwork, as well as getting them ready to move out of the house I grew up in. Compound that with Mom being stuck in a nursing home (which has been a great place for her), and I felt pulled in about a hundred directions. I hated the idea of her sitting there alone, so I spent a lot of my days with her. Getting back to any kind of routine was impossible, and my head was full of everything BUT writing. And there was the daily worry about this day being her last one, or an infection setting in.
I’m an emotional person, and I think that helps my creativity. But it also means I live my life on a rollercoaster, and a lot of my emotions have been tied up with my parents’ issues and hurtful accusations from people I never dreamed could be so callous. Anger, sadness, confusion, absolute fear of mom dying, feeling alone, and then back to anger — and the worst part was the inability to understand how much everything effected me. My husband has been a constant support system, encouraging me to get back to writing because I have a television deal in the works. “Everything’s about to happen to you,” he’d say. “You can’t waste this opportunity. You need to get busy on the next book because the production team is going to sell this, and then they’re going to want season 2.”
I knew he was right, and I tried. I plotted, wrote a scene or two, plotted some more. All here and there, when I could fit it in between the 900 other things going on, including the voices in my head. I lost so much sleep imagining how I could defend myself to people who’ve already made up their minds and will never see things any different. That’s a battle I had to walk away from, because it dried me up emotionally, and nothing’s going to change it.
I kept telling my husband that I’d used up whatever creativity I had. I couldn’t even visualize writing another book, much less one that would be better than the last and worthy of the exceptions of my (very understanding) publisher and excited production studio. I kept trying to work, but every time it looked like I’d be able to get back into a routine and find some spark, the Next Terrible Thing happened.
Finally came the cat bites to my index finger and thumb, and a fast moving infection that could have easily cost me my finger. I had emergency surgery and then spent 4 days in the hospital feeling helpless and finished. And then the surgeon tells me it will be 6 weeks to 3 months before I have full range of motion. At the time, my index finger was still very stiff from the extreme swelling in the tendon. How in the hell was I supposed to work?
Thankfully, I was able to get away from normal life for a while. I made it to the state swim meet to watch my daughter, and then she and I took a much needed vacation to Florida to see my closest friends. Maybe that’s what saved me. After we got back, things seemed to stabilize. A routine emerged. I started wanting to read again, and I started making more and more notes for the new book. I decided to try dictation because of my hand—although I got very lucky and my fingers work fairly well, and I can type. But talking into the mic about the book seemed to jumpstart something, and without even realizing it, I WANTED to write again. And I had ideas! Ideas for Hyde and Seek (Erin Prince #2), for a new indie series, and maybe even another Cage Foster novel.
This week, it all clicked. Between dictation and typing, I created a scene by scene synopsis and wrote 10,000 words on the new book. I hated to stop each day because I enjoyed it so much. That’s a feeling I’d forgotten.
When I told my editor, she declared the lights were back on.
And that’s exactly right. I’ve struggled to explain how I’ve felt this winter, using words like dull and numb and stupid, but she hit the nail on the head. My creative lights had gone black. I didn’t think they would come back on. But they are bright as day right now, and I’m taking advantage of it.
The point of this post isn’t to get a bunch of sympathy or brag about my writing and the television opportunity (although some people are going to take it that way, and those are the ones I’ve realized add nothing of value to my life). It’s to tell you that we all go through extreme lows. Most writers are emotional people, and when that balance is upset by stress and life’s jackhammers, you’re going to stop being able to write. And that’s okay. Give yourself the time to walk away from the keyboard and replenish. Fill up your well, as my editor says. Because eventually, things will swing back up. You’ll see daylight again, and you’ll want to create. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will fall back into place.