Saturday, November 26, 2011

Author Update: When Personal Life Affects Your Writing

This blog post is a little unusual, so please bear with me. I began November with gusto, and have an exciting WIP I am writing, or was writing, or started and fizzled out on, and completely choked and now I'm not going to finish #NaNoWriMo (NationalNovelWritingMonth). My sincere apologies to #NaNoWriMo. I have failed.

Okay, now onto the excuse part of today's post.

I have a good reason for fizzling out, and it occurred to me, it might also happen to other writers out there and you might be feeling a bit lost, a bit off, a bit dried out, and a bit alone. Well, I'm here to tell you, you're not alone. Something happened in my personal life that has caused my writing to take a huge hiatus.

My mother passed away unexpectedly.

I know, I know, you're sorry to hear that, you wish me well, and all that nicey nicey stuff. Thank you. Sincerely, thank you. I mean it: Thank. You. Okay, okay, so let's move on. What do you do when this happens? Well, you give yourself some slack. You let things happen when they happen, and when they don't you "refill the writerly well of creativity and thought." At least, that's what I'm doing. I'm also spending a bit more time than usual with family and friends. It helps with the sense of being alone. That's especially difficult when you lose a parent (for those of you who haven't experienced this yet).

So, what does that look like? Well, for me, it means I'm attacking my TBR (To Be Read) pile a bit more voraciously, and loving that part. I'm giving myself permission to be a bit less on top of my blog and my social media platform building routine and I'm just listening to the quiet parts of myself and taking time to process this loss. It's a huge one. Trust me. I don't wish this on any of you. Don't get me started with all that was involved in taking care of things related to my mother's passing. Suffice it to say, it hasn't been easy, and a lot has been asked of me, and I did what was asked, and now that it's over, I can breathe and fill the well, and look forward to the time when I can take up the keyboard and write again.

I stalled out on my book, but my characters are still tapping my shoulder, asking me to continue, and ideas are still percolating in my mind. I don't think I'll be away for too long, but I'm giving myself permission to be away as long as necessary. Grieving takes time. Also, I have a non-fiction project I could start and allow myself to be busy with that, while I wait for the creativity to flow again.

Each of you may handle something like this differently, and that's okay. Seriously. Lighten up and don't beat yourself up for not being "productive" enough. Just step back and let the creative well be filled and let yourself have some time to process. I know it's helping me.

The flip side is also true: If you are hard on yourself and you do try to make yourself work, you'll probably get a big pile of poo on the page/screen and toss it out later anyway. If that is what you need to do to see or understand, then by all means, give it a go.

I wish you all the best this holiday season, and I hope you spend time with family, friends and loved ones. Be thankful for who you have in your life, and fill the well. When your well starts to overflow again, then it's probably time to get back to writing.

I welcome your thoughts, comments and feedback on this, and I hope you'll follow the blog and keep coming back, too. If you still feel it's necessary to offer your condolences, feel free. At least I'll get some comments on this blog post!

Also, if you haven't read chapter 1 of THE PACKING HOUSE, it's at the top right corner of this blog, and you can email me at or post your feedback in the comments section. I'm not fishing for pats on the back, just serious comments on what you liked, didn't like, and anything that could help me improve the writing would be a HUGE BLESSING to me. And, if you want to read more, that would make my millenium. Go ahead, tell me you want more. I dare you!


  1. I love, "if you do make yourself work, you'll probably end up with a big pile of poo on the page." Very true. Great advice Don and my sympathy for your loss.


  2. I know this sounds hard to do, but a few years ago when my husband was put in jail because he was out of work (we both were) and he wasn't able to pay his child support to his ex-wife. (The judge didn't care that his mortgage wasn't being paid either, that his family was headed for the streets!) I was angry, and hurt, confused and angry. (Did I mention I was angry?) I channeled that anger through one of my characters and Wow! What had I wrought? The pain, the anger, the frustration all went through that character and created an emotional scene that still stirs my soul even now when I read it over. The scene was also therapeutic for me. It allowed me the outlet for what I felt. Much better than any psychologist and a whole lot cheaper. Channel the pain, it makes fantastic copy. You can do this!

  3. Thank you, Crystal! I appreciate your comment. And, CygnetBrown, thank you for sharing how you dealt with a similar grief and loss. It's healthier to use our pain to move forward rather than become mired by it or stuck.