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Grief and Creativity

The last lazy days of summer are gone. In the age of Covid, our return to schooling looks so much different than it did last year. I’ve enjoyed my summer so much – enjoyed the relaxation, the lack of stress, the late mornings and even later evenings, the campfires, state park trips, and time with my children. Starting the school year was a hard 180 degree turn.

There is nothing stress-free about this years return to what our new normal looks like. And I know I’m not the only parent who doubles as a teacher/para splitting their time between districts handling the pandemic differently. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to shrug off the anxiety and frustration.

Usually I could distract myself with writing when emotional turmoil uproots my sense of peace. It’s hard to fall back on that when grief is a heavy blanket emotion floating over my head.

I’ve mentioned in the past how my father was diagnosed with MSA (Multiple Symptom Atrophy) and the disease progressed with sometimes startling aggression over the course of the last year. July 28th, he passed away. It was sudden and unexpected because we all thought we had more time with him. We knew that the disease would ultimately take him from us but none of us thought it would be so soon.

For a while there, it didn’t feel like he was really gone. It felt like he’d walk in the door any minute after playing pinochle at the clubhouse which was a strange thought in itself given that the last year my dad had been confined to a wheelchair and virtually attending AA meetings. But that thought always hoovered there, relentless and familiar at the same time. He wasn’t really gone.
I know he is. I’m not so far gone to my grief that I would think my dad is actually still here. But you’d have to know him and his huge personality. It’s hard to not feel that lingering around sometimes.

And writing….ugh.

It’s been, to be very honest, difficult to write with all of this going on. Writing involves trapping into emotions to create believable characters and plots. When it comes to tapping into emotions for me, everything is fair game when it comes to writing and some of those emotions I’m just not ready to face in full on yet. I have been trying to write but it feels like every word is forced and awkward. It’s easier to distract myself with chores, with television, with things that either require no brain-power at all of things that require my full attention and focus. Writing pulls at too many raw emotions that I don’t want to come face-to-face with yet, emotions I want to remain socially distant from.

It’s getting easier. Some days the words will come easily enough and I’ll just get pulled away from working on a project which is natural. I suppose that means that facing my grief is a little easier. I’m not a therapist so hard to say on that one. But some days…it’s just hard to make anything make sense – my writing, the loss of my dad, the world in general.

One of my work kids told me that I should be writing when I’m in those really dark places, that some people have written their best work when they’re drowning in hard emotions. Some people, sure. But I honestly didn’t feel like anything I would have come up with would be worth keeping when the dust settled and I had something finished.

As a writer, it’s hard to know when to write. You’re a slave to what your muse decides to do and the moments in which you find inspiration. In the moments after someone passes, not every writer is going to feel like they should be diving straight into their work and that’s okay. It’s okay to not be writing every minute of every day. Should you try? Sure. But if you know you’re going to hate anything you come up with, why would you do that to yourself? You can’t force your writing to love you anymore than you can force another human being to love you. The idea that you should be writing something, anything, every day if you take your craft seriously is just asinine. It’s not a practice I subscribe to because it provokes a lot of frustration and feelings of failure when I can’t come up with a single thing I like looking at.

You know when you work best and if you can’t put forth anything that brings you at least some modicum of satisfaction…then don’t write. Take a day off. Take a month off. No one is going to physically hurt you for not feeling creative. If you need to binge watch baking shows and just forget about things for a while, do it.

But if you hear a whisper that part of you is ready to dive in….honor the process and go for it. That little voice is telling you in it’s quiet little way that it’s ready, and so are you.

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