Sometimes a writer can’t write. Or doesn’t want to write. And I think the best thing to remember is that not everything in life is forever. I tend to forget that because permanence is kind of a theme with me, but it’s true. Now I try to remember that every day. Temporary. Just for now. Change. Change back. When a writer stops writing it doesn’t mean she or he will never write again. Not every writer writes through the bad times. Not every writer writes through the good times, or sick times, or on vacation, in the middle of the night.
Stephanie Elliot, whom you might recognize from Booking with Manic fame, is the kind of writer, and person, who put writing aside to take care of life and some personal hardships. And then she found her way back.
So if you’re not writing right now, remember, you will.
Please welcome Stephanie Elliot to Women’s Fiction Writers.
When The Writing Stopped
by Stephanie Elliot
I used to wonder, what would it be like if these people in my head would just stop living there? If I could just do something else, to not think about them, to focus on the now, the people I see and feel and love every single day. What would it be like to live in a world like that? To live in the present, to not have to think about these characters filling my head? They were so demanding! Calling to me at all hours, waking me in the middle of the night, telling me what they wanted to do, who they wanted to spend time with, introducing me to some strange new friends, sharing with me what kind of problems they were having. They were always running into some sort of crises! Writing was becoming a chore, something I wasn’t enjoying all that much, something I was struggling with to make happen.
The characters in my head quieted about a year and a half ago when I stopped writing, not because I wanted to, but because I felt I had to. I didn’t feel like I could spend the time creating a fictional world when I had to deal with something real going on in my life, and in the lives of my closest family members.
So, the writing stopped. My 10-year-old son was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Focus on anyone but Luke was clearly impossible. To give time to imaginary characters running through my head would be a disloyalty to my child, and with two other teenagers at home, it was all I could do during that time of crises to not go insane. I didn’t need mentally unstable characters filling my head on top of this family trauma, especially now that I was the mentally unstable one and I had to keep it together for my family. So, I “sent” all of my characters to a private island for a while and told them to enjoy their holiday. When I was ready to work with them again, I’d come calling for them.
Did I miss not writing? So much. It was more than a year away from one of the things I love doing the most. It was more than a year away from reaching the goals I had set for myself.
It was also a lot of time spent being very close with my son, of figuring out his medication, helping him through serious seizures, sleeping next to him many days and nights, holding his hand, hugging him tightly, crying with him, telling him that I don’t understand but I wish I did, and how I wish it could be me instead of him. It was more than a year of pain and tears of devastation and education about a disease we knew nothing about. It was a long time of doctors and hospitals and ER visits and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
His epilepsy is something that might never go away. We are learning to live with it, and are thankful for available treatment and medication. Luke’s strength and grace has shown me so much in the year and a half since his diagnosis. In the grand scheme of life, I’ve only missed a little time of writing. The characters will always be there. I want my son to always be here. That’s why when the writing stopped, I let it go for a little while. I knew it would always be there, that when I felt ready, I could come back to it.
And I have.
Stephanie Elliot has been married for 20 years and lives in Scottsdale, AZ. She has three children and is a freelance editor for a variety of parenting websites. She is also the owner of Booking with Manic, a popular book blog, where she has hosted hundreds of authors and given away hundreds of books over the years. She is the author of What She Left Us and the e-novella, The Cell Phone Lot. The Life After will be published September 2013.
What She Left Us is available on Amazon.