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All of Me

It’s been a rough week. Not professionally, per se, but because I’ve been supporting a loved one who found himself in crisis. This means my writing time has been eviscerated. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t begrudge giving my friend even a second of my time and attention. He is very special to me, and I can’t imagine him not being around. Yet, I have to admit I also feel incredibly frustrated. Considering I’ve only just rolled out my author site and this associated blog, I wanted to keep the momentum going. What kind of a writer am I if I don’t regularly write?

Admittedly, I’ve stared at my computer screen a couple of times over the last week, but there hasn’t been anything to give. Not even a sentence or two. My fingers felt paralyzed when I attempted to stroke the keyboard, probably as a direct result of the fogginess in my brain. I justified the dearth of words by reminding myself I’m emotionally and physically drained. That said, I had a thought.

I’m beginning to realize this is simply the writer’s lot. It makes sense that a writer that pours herself onto the blank pages of her latest book-in-waiting would also wear her emotions on her sleeve. I feel the same kind of exhaustion right now that I feel after writing the last word of my latest short story. I’m depleted; running on empty, and it’s time to give myself permission to regroup.

Excavating emotions, some buried for years, in order to give life to a fictitious character can also be emotionally draining, especially when birthing a villain. Absent latent psychopathy, my bet is that most writers find themselves spent when test-driving the dark side of their psyche, but that is where we have to go if we are to produce characters our readers are interested in getting to know. And where do we find these characters? We absorb them from all the things we do in life and from the people we meet. We absorb them from what we witness, both good and bad. We continuously absorb the ebb and flow of societal norms and the histories of people who violate them. We writers have to be sponge-like if we want to write good fiction.

I truly believe every writer leaves a little bit of themselves on the pages of a story. Take Ernest Hemingway, for example. Hemingway’s character Nick Adams, who appears over and over in Hem’s stories, is considered his alter-ego by many literary scholars, because so many of Nick’s experiences reflect Hemingway’s own life. My gal Dorothy Parker’s own battles with romance, addiction, depression and suicide can be seen in her stories and poetry. Check out her poem Resume for her satirical take on suicide, which she wasn’t very good at, despite her numerous attempts.

As for me? I’m giving myself a break about the whole writing thing, at least for this week. As Forrest Gump eloquently pointed out, “Shit happens,” and sometimes there’s nothing we can do about it. Next week will be better. Absent any major catastrophe I will be able to refocus my attention on my story-telling quest. I will also be extra vigilant to recognize excuses, rather than legitimate reasons, not to write, because we writers are renowned for that.

What do you do to stay focused? Do you have any hard and fast rules about writing time? Do you make it non-negotiable?

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