The Will to Write

Two years ago, when I started this blog, I felt guilty calling myself a writer. I worried people would laugh at me, not take me seriously. I had to talk myself up each and every time I hit “publish” and put my work out into the world.

Fast forward two years to this September. I started a new memoir writing class with my friend and mentor Marion Roach Smith. I committed to finally working, really working, on the book – the book I promised my late sister Mary Jane I would write. I wrote daily, sharing my work each month with the others in my class. Finally I felt comfortable saying the words, “I am a writer!”

Confession time: I haven’t written in two weeks. Life has a way of changing the best laid plans. At least, it always seems to happen to me.

My beloved father passed away on December 14th, giving me a healthy dose of perspective just as I was starting to get mired in pre-holiday stress. In an instant, I went from “How will I ever get the rest of my cookies done?” to “How will I get home to Mom and my sisters?”

After the funeral, the family gatherings, the tears and the laughter, there was still Christmas. And work. And life. And a book still waiting to be written.

That is how it happens. We gather with loved ones to offer comfort and share memories. Then, we return to our new normal and try to make our grieving selves fit back into our prior routines.

Somehow, I never manage to fit.

When my sister Mary Jane passed away five years ago today, I learned how easy it was for me to cultivate a relationship with grief. At the time, I wasn’t aware it was what I was doing. Now, I recognize the listlessness and lack of focus.

I am on vacation this week. Once again, my sister Caroline has agreed to let me crash at her house for the week. It was supposed to be a week of writing, crochet and relaxation.

Every day this week I have sat to write, and nothing has come. Well-meaning friends have offered me encouragement. Just journal. Write to a prompt. Set a timer and write for just ten minutes.

I started this post two days ago. Today, because I made Mary Jane a promise and I always try to keep my promises, I am finishing something – anything – just to say I am writing.

I know enough to know that I need to listen to myself when I don’t have the will to write. It is fine to take a break, to grieve, to allow myself to retreat and take a respite.

The trick is to not encourage myself to stay in that dark place, to not allow my voice to dwell in the grief and sadness in my heart. Even though I may want to sit and mourn, I know how easy it is to become mired in the sorrow and not move forward towards the goal.

I am a writer. It is what I do to help process the world around me. I think in words, stringing thoughts together in my head whenever I have moments to myself. When I don’t write, I feel like part of me is not fully functioning.

My goal today was to write a post and get it up – no matter how long, even if I think it’s crap. My goal tomorrow is to write 750 words about my experiences as a former poster child.

Goals are good. They provide focus when you feel lost. They can be modified when life throws you curves. Sharing goals helps me remain accountable. Hence, I state them here so I know someone else is aware of my plan.

I’m not thinking beyond this week. I’ll spend the next few days playing with my sister’s dogs and crocheting in front of the fireplace.

But come next week, I’ll write again. Because I am a writer. And writers write.


33 thoughts on “The Will to Write

  1. I’m always inspired by the selfless way you share those emotions many may feel, but be unable to easily express.

    Your writing and the topics you share are a special gift. Take whatever time is necessary to reflect and reinvigorate.

    I’m looking forward to reading more next year!


  2. Oh Dee, good for you. You did it! Last week our friend Carolyn Studer used an interesting quote from Sandra M. Castillo, “…Even a map cannot show you the way back to a place that no longer exists.” She was lamenting not being able to return to happier times. I read the quote to my daughter, who lives with a long term disability sustained from a traumatic brain injury. She had a different take on the quote. “Ya, you see mom, that quote for me means I’ll never be able to go back to the sad places. Even if I wanted to. They are passed and they don’t exist anymore. We got though them, and they’re done .”

    Our prayers for your comfort. Keep moving forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry for your loss Dee. I think that writing can be such a cathartic experience, allowing us to express emotions that may get squashed. Carry on writing and developing your skills – even if its just a prompt, or a few words on a blog, it enhances our psyche. 🙂


  4. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your loss. My heart and prayers are with you. I lost my mom in July, a week before her birthday. It’s been hard to do much of anything, but it’s getting better. I’m actually trying again to plan a novel from beginning to end. But except for the brief stints in NaNoWriMo, I haven’t done any writing since spring. Maybe this post is the push I needed to get going again.


  5. Dee, I am so very sorry for the loss of your Dad. Grief is boundless as is the time needed for healing. I commend you for realizing you ARE a writer. It’s who you are. It’s what we do. Such powerful sentiments. Embrace them. Own them. Your experiences, no matter how seemingly trivial in the moment, MATTER. Ride the waves of grief, splash in the waters of sorrow, find solace in the streams of silence. Allow yourself moments to feel. To ache. To be. Then get back to the writing and share your thoughts again. We need your stories to help us face the same battles in our lives, too. (((Hugs)))


  6. Grief reshapes us. There’s a hole in our hearts, souls, and lives where our love one used to fit, and it takes time, and energy to reform around that scar. Sometimes the hardest thing is to give ourselves that time. Write on, my friend, because you’re right: It’s what writers do. Please share whenever you feel up to it, because I love your voice.


  7. Oh, sweetie. I’m glad you’re back to it. You may still have days (or weeks) (or whatever) when you need to take breaks, and that’s okay, too. And you may find the return to it utterly therapeutic and healing…or at least distracting. I’ve actually taken about two months off most writing, mainly because I’ve gotten sick twice and then had a massive job work backlog. But I have every faith that I’ll go back to it and it’ll come back to me. Still praying for your comfort and strength, for you and your family.


    • I do hope you are feeling better. I think part of my hesitance is that I am feeling like the book needs to make a different argument now. And I’m trying to fit it all in. It will happen. I just need to have faith it will happen as it is supposed to.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Denise, I know you must miss Mary Jane so very much, and have added grieving for your father to grieving for your sister. It must feel like too much sometimes. I’m glad you are taking a break, and I am glad you have a plan in place to pick up your writing. You can do this!


  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like he was such a wonderful guy. I was glad and more than a little bit surprised to see that you were writing again, and have always like your writing since I read your first post a few years ago. Your words are so naturally fluid it was a surprise to me to see that you had any doubts. Looking forward to your memoir. I that something you are planning for 2017?


    • Thank you my friend. I am always stunned when people reaffirm my role as writer, because I fought against letting myself be one for so long. I have been planning the memoir for several years, but now I’m actually writing it. I’m doing it! This will be the year of writing!


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