“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” That brilliant line from Charles Dickens never meant more to me than it did this year. That’s because I got body-slammed with tragedy at the start of 2012 just as I began what was supposed to be one of the most hard-fought and exciting times of my life.
You see, I was going to begin crafting a marketing plan for my YA debut Hooked while also putting the finishing touches on the second YA that I was contracted to write for HarlequinTEEN. It was supposed to be a cool year for me. But I was an emotional wreck.
My Dad passed away from a stroke shortly after Christmas. It was sudden. We were very close. And it felt as if someone sliced open my chest and stomped on my heart. I had been so lucky to have such a wonderful father, and I couldn’t picture a Universe without him. As if Dad’s death wasn’t tragic enough, my mother’s Alzheimer’s condition took a nose-dive, mostly due to Dad's death I'm certain, and it was like we'd lost both of our parents. For anyone with a loved one who battles Alzheimer’s, these words will make sense. If not, count your blessings that you do not know this cruel disease.
Meanwhile, in between all of The Bad, Reality kept knocking on my door, softly at first and then louder as Spring approached. I had to get myself back in the game. But I wasn’t sure if I could. Some days I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to.
Medical bills, doctors visits, care givers, death certificates, hospice care, sorting through possessions--none of these are fun activities during the best of times. Imagine them when your world is broken.
It’s a blessing and a curse that writers get to live inside their heads. Unfortunately my head had become trick-wired with emotional landmines. I never knew when one of them would explode, when I’d burst into tears for no reason. In the car, grocery stores, in front of my laptop--I've cried just about everywhere. Somehow writing teen stories seemed damned impossible.
But it turned out that writing saved me.
My stories began to call to me again, nipping at the back of my mind. So I started writing a little at a time. One day I’d manage a paragraph. The next, I’d pound out 2000 words. Some of it was actually pretty good; a lot of it was pure crap. But for that five minutes or hour or afternoon, I began to feel like I was getting my life back. Slowly, but surely. One word at a time.
Times are still tough and will likely remain that way for a while. The tears still come, usually when I least expect it. But just like it’s helped me before, writing will get me through the rough times like the loyal and patient friend it’s always been.
Everyone experiences tragedy at some point in their lives. Unfortunately it usually comes when we least expect it. How do you keep going down the road when the going gets rough?