Saturday, May 2, 2020

Emotional writer's block, the impact of grief

May 2, 2020

These are strange times we're in which we live. We've temporarily ceded our constitutional rights and civil liberties for the greater good of mankind. 

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has not as yet impacted life on the mountain. My people may not always be conservative voters, but we are conservative thinkers in ways that have nothing to do with politics. We're country people, rural dwellers with close ties to the land. We've conserved our resources and we're having an easier time of it than our city-dwelling neighbors. But that's not what is on my mind this morning. 

Writer's block. It's time to admit I have a case of emotional writer's block, the cause of which I lay at the feet of stress and grief. The last years have not been easy ones. My mother was institutionalized with Alzheimer's Disease, my stepfather died, my partner had two major surgeries, my best friend moved a thousand miles away, my writing partner died, a new CEO where I work caused a lot of upheavals, the uncertainties about retiring, tending to my mother's affairs including selling her home, and now living in a virtual house arrest. I've been trying to sort this all out in my head and it's not going well. 

Do I think my "problems" are unique in this world? No. Of course not. They just happen to be my "problems." Just as with any problem, identifying them sheds light into some murky corners. I believe the underlying reaction to all of this is grief. I grieve. 

I grieve the loss of who my mother was and what, unbeknownst to her, I must do in her name to provide care for her. I grieve the loss of a woman I've known since we were in the third grade together who is busy in a new life that has no place for old friends. I grieve the author friend who spoke the writer's language with me as no one else can. I grieve the loss of a co-worker that I was totally in sync with. I grieve the loss of a future imagined with my partner who through no fault of his own is progressively more disabled. 

Grief weighs me down to the point I have difficulty remembering how joyous it is to create a story. Creating a story is creating a virtual reality in which the writer joins with new friends to give them a world to live in and a voice to speak in that world. The writer becomes part of this creation, at least for a little while. I miss it. 

I'm sure Chris Grover would tell me to channel the grief into a character. Take him down to the depths of hell and then work him back to the surface. To be melodramatic, I'm not sure I want to take myself farther down into the pit. I'm too cowardly to go back there. You see, time does heal many things without the need to resort to substances that alter brain chemistry. I'm healing. 

I'm healing and now I worry I've become too lazy to write. Writing takes discipline and lots of it. Have the last several years stripped me of discipline? Have I become too comfortable living in the worlds others create? I've been supporting a lot of other writers these past months, reading two or even three books a week. 

It's time to redefine my path and rediscover the author part of my soul. It's time to settle the grief, to tuck it away and allow it to unwind and wither. Brave words, to be sure. I hope I can make them my truth because I want to walk in the sunshine again. And if I'm walking alone, I'll just have to create a couple of characters to walk with me. That's what a writer would do. 

KC Kendricks
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