Author and Doppelgänger in Training
In November, my back started to hurt. For a few days, I rested, applied ice and heat, and took some ibuprofen. As a regular exerciser, I've had my share of aches and pains. However, this one didn't go away. I contacted professionals. I started the work of getting better. That part is the boring part.
What I want to talk about is what happened during that long holiday season. The fast dark, the biting cold, the world washed in white and gray—they all slowly chipped away at my word count. I was sad. I was in pain. I was only truly comfortable while sprawled on my stomach. And I was stuck.
I've always used exercise as stress relief, as inspiration when I'm stuck on the plot, as a time to refill empty creative coffers. Now I couldn't do any of that. It was as though I was tired and hungry but couldn't sleep or eat.
My brain felt as frozen as the landscape.
And yet, I had a book to write. I also had another problem. I had come to The Chapter I Never Wanted to Write. That's exactly how I thought of it, caps and all. It daunted me. I thought it was the most boring part of the story, and I didn't have a clue how to make it interesting. I had plotted the entire book just so I could avoid writing this one chapter.
And yet, somehow the only course of events that made sense for the plot, that felt right, was the one that led me there, to that blank page. I couldn't avoid it. I couldn't outrun it. I couldn't even outwalk it at the pace my back was progressing.
The story languished while I missed most of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I whined about it to friends and family. I cried. But nothing put words on the page.
I lay on my back three times a day, every day for weeks and counted off the seconds of each isometric hold or stretch prescribed by my physical therapist like whispered prayers. Eventually, I got bored of being quiet, of feeling sorry for myself, of being in pain.
I got angry.
That helped me find the part of the chapter I could relate to. I knew how to be angry. I could be interested in being angry.
Over 5,000 words later, I finished the chapter. I didn’t just fill it with anger, but with pieces of myself. I was too mad to worry about being vulnerable anymore. It’s probably the piece of writing that I’m most proud of.
I don’t know about you, but my work has suffered again recently. Things are scary right now. Anger, fear, grief, hope—and all the rest. I’m isolated with these huge feelings (and three little kids—but that’s a whole other post!), and they’re getting in the way of my writing.
Do I mean the feelings or the kids in that last sentence? Yes.
And yet, I will keep at it. It’s the only thing I can do. And who knows? Maybe if I find a place for those feelings, some words for them, they’ll be quiet for a few minutes. If only that would work for the kids.
If you’re also feeling a little more alone than you’d like right now, I’d love for you to reach out in the comments on this post. I promise to write back!
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