Process: How we change

“. . .time stretches out. Sixty, seventy or eighty years—they pass swiftly for us, but learn to breathe as humans do and time wraps itself around you, steps to the rhythm of your being, to the pulse of the space you choose to occupy.”  -excerpt from the work in progress-

I am revising a long work that I was working on before my husband died. I don’t know yet if it will be a novella or a novel, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of writing again. Those who supported the kickstarter campaign that saw us through that most difficult time have probably read the En piece. It is from that piece that this longer work grew.

Today, I am thinking of change. I think of life and loss and of how we change in our approach to art and life. A good friend said to me once that when you have faced death, there is nothing left to be afraid of. It’s a thought that echoes over and over again in my mind.

I think of fear–and of the drive to publish and once published to be noticed, to be mentioned, to be read.

But when your focus is completely shot (loss can do that to you), you can’t music, art or write. There’s just you struggling to make sense of this thing that has overcome you. For a while, I wondered if the writing died when my husband died. The possibility of being happy again, of writing again–these were things that seemed right beyond my reach.

No matter how much I pepped myself. No matter how much I told myself: come on, you can do this,  focus just wouldn’t come when I wanted it to. I sat my butt in the chair but my head was elsewhere. The thing about writing is this: when your head is elsewhere, when your heart isn’t in it, all you produce is a bunch of pretty sounding words and those words are utterly empty and boring.

So focus shot, I still made writer noises while at the same time thinking to myself that maybe–maybe my days as a writer were over. And good grief, maybe I should just tell people that I can’t write anymore. (And that made me sad and mad and it made me want to throw a tantrum, because goddam, wasn’t it enough that I lost my husband and my sister already?)

Then I thought of other alternatives. I mean, I’ve heard it over and over again. Loss changes us. Maybe I should pick up pole dancing. Or weight lifting. Or . . . I don’t know. . . figure skating? (Nevermind that I have never ever ventured out on the ice.) I said to myself: Forget writing and publishing ever again. You can’t write words, so give it up. 

(Writing those lines, I can just imagine my sister bonking me on the head and saying: Girl, what’s up with that? Weren’t you a fighter? Didn’t I teach you nothing?)

But artists will art (nevermind if they don’t get exposed or if the art never wins a fat award), musicians will music, dancers will dance, and writers will write. Sometimes our focus is shot–life happens. So maybe we produce crappy art for a while, or we just make bunches of pretty words or non-pretty words, or we can’t music to save our lives, or all we have when we dance is two left feet and an ankle that gets in the way when we don’t want it to, the thing is this: even then we go on doing because that way of being is part of our DNA.

Who we are, doesn’t leave us. But who we are is in a state of constant flux. We are always changing and I think loss changes us in one of the biggest ways possible.

Then it was the holidays and I thought–you know what, I’m going to take my notebook with me.

I think of space and the spaces we occupy and how physical space is important to headspace. For such a long time, home was this space where I pored over paperwork and tried to make sense of the financial and legal stuff that is the lot of all widows.

I said to a friend: I know now why a year of mourning is recommended. It’s so you can sort out all the paperwork. 

It might have been easier for more organised partners, but my husband was just as chaotic as I was and it took me ages to find papers I needed so I could get the paperwork going.

Home became this space where I woke up worrying about paperwork and went to sleep still fussing about paperwork. Making the switch to home is my nest and here I create–well, it just didn’t happen until the holidays.

By that time, I sort of surrendered to the absence of focus and thought…oh heck, I’ll just keep a journal like every other person who goes on holiday does.

I wrote whatever I wanted to write. It wasn’t always story stuff. A lot of times, it was me working through the things that had happened to us–trying to make sense of how I felt and what I felt. But I made words and I wrote words that I liked and I finished the draft to a story that wasn’t even half bad.

I came home. I checked in with my beloved friends and I started writing again. I haven’t stopped since. Every day, I write. Whether its 100 words or 500 words, the important thing became this: they were words that mattered to me and to the story.

I joined the Clarion West Write-a-thon this year and I am thankful to those who decided to sponsor me, but I didn’t make a lot of noise about it. I didn’t make noise about what I was writing either. I completed two essays. I wrote a short story. I erased all the pretty non-heart-to-page words I’d written and I started writing from where the work was heart to the page.

I acknowledged that I really love to write and that I really love science fiction and fantasy.

Life is too short to worry about how many stories I write and publish. It’s too short to moan about getting on awards lists or not ( Does it really matter? How important is it anyway?).

In the time that I do have, I want to keep writing the stories that matter to me. And the work won’t speak to all readers (of course, it won’t. Some will even hate it), but I’m writing what I want to write and I’m not in a rush because there is no quota when it comes to writing and art. The only critic you have to satisfy is yourself; and you are your only true opponent.

*While I’m at it, the ToC for PoC Destroy Horror has gone up. Check it out here.