It was one year ago that my mom was diagnosed with melanoma-eight weeks later I would loose her to cancer. Life felt completely out of control.
But I kept writing. I felt like I should have been doing something else like some mind-blowing fund raiser to help pay for her medical costs, or take her away to some new age cancer treatment center in the bowels of Mexico, but I couldn’t-she was just too sick to travel. I had to face the fact that there was nothing I could do to stop this ugly disease from taking her life. But she reminded me that there was something I could do. Keep writing-never give up-never. I had to keep this light shining while I was with her. It was a beautiful bond that we shared. I called her a fookin’ genius, she called me a fookin’ genius. She shared with me whatever came to her mind as I sat with her at bedside writing down poems about children and their mothers, or stories about ravens and coyotes. Writing kept both of us alive and sane. While she slept during the day as myself and my two sisters cared for her the first week, I took the time to write about how shitty this situation was.
Thursday, Jan. 17
There is no ‘me’ when someone is dying of cancer.
I am tired. Not much sleep last night. Feeling sorry for myself and feeling that flight response. I want to run away. A pattern like this, human or not, has no place here. Cancer puts everything into perspective. You are nothing. We orbit around my mother and cancer. Be with your heart, be in the moment. That is who you are right now. You are not here to change anything.
The hardest part was leaving her and to return back to my family, to my own life. My body was home, my mind and soul were not. I worried and waited for any news about her, I talked with her daily on the phone, each week that went by she got weaker and weaker.
But I continued to write. I poured my anger, frustration and sadness into a YA novel I started that coincidentally is about her and myself when I was a teenager. I haven’t looked back at that writing since.
My next trip out to New Mexico to see her I thought would be my last. But I made one more trip after she begged me to ‘help her die.’ I did not deny her that. I knew this would be the hardest trip. I began a knitting project, writing no longer held its magic in releasing me from the pain of my mother dying. My sisters and I read her poetry to her at bedside when she could no longer speak. I knew what poems she loved the most and wanted to hear. We played Beethoven for her, Mozart and Bach. My mother passed away to another life at 2:15 on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013. I loved her dearly. She was my friend, my writing coach-my mother. I miss her but what she left me was the greatest gift: the joy of writing.
PEACE to all in 2014
Go for it!
I’m back to finishing my novel after spending the last half of NaNoWriMo in a writing funk. I don’t know why-I’m learning not to question. I leave those answers up to the universe. During the past two weeks I questioned many times if writing is really what I want to do as I flipped through job listings on Careerbuilder and realized those are just ‘jobs’ and not my dreams.
I sat at my desk, but nothing came. I went for a walk in the frigid cold, came home to a hot cup of coffee and sat at my desk-still nothing. So I figured this was the universe’s way of telling me this is my time to recharge, get some Christmas shopping done, read, get some sleep. But my fear of not finishing my writing project was putting me into more of a writing coma-until I realized I needed time to just Be.
It took me these last two weeks to realize that not writing for awhile was part of the process. I learned patience. We are too eager for our writing project to be complete and we all too often compare ourselves to others who have the same goal, but we are not on the same path.
As the planets align, magic happens. Last night I picked up Julia Cameron’s book from my nightstand where yes, it had been collecting dust, The Right to Write. I opened the book to page 130.
The title of the chapter was ‘Making It.’ In this chapter she talks about if you are willing to do the work for a writing career, the odds work with you, not against you. She shares a quote from Goethe: Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it-for action has magic grace and power in it.” I so believe this. She follows up this idea of odds with a quote from mountain climber William Hutchinson Murray: “Concerning all acts of initiative or creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”
Once those planets align, whether or not we concisely, or subconsciously commit after taking needed rest for our creativity-somehow we are once again committed to our writing. We don’t ask any questions. As Julia says, “the universe follows the direction pointed by our commitment.”
Here are a few articles by a few of my favorite writers that helped me through these last few weeks:
I didn’t officially sign up with NaNoWriMo, but I am tagging along. I’m using this month to motivate myself to finish a draft where I’m incorporating a new plot. It’s a lot like tearing a part that knitting project in order to make it right.
But It’s easy to loose faith in yourself and the process. There’s a delicate balance between using the pressure to keep you accountable and not letting it overwhelm you. “You wrote this story, or started it for a reason-it came from your heart,” I say to myself. Sometimes I have to let myself daydream, whether its a walk in the woods by myself or my favorite walk on a crisp fall day with my dogs-daydreaming is the seat to creativity. You have to let your subconscious guide you and let go. I think you’ll be surprised where you find yourself, back in the heart of your story in love once again with your plot and your characters.
Yeah-we all get stuck, but don’t loose faith. Writing is a process, not an immediate destination.
Best of luck to everyone!
I’m finding it genuinely difficult to stay motivated to write these days. But a friend told me about May Days. I looked at this writing activity as ‘baby steps’. I thought I’d give it a whirl. Where do our thoughts come from when we write? I think it comes from the heart. It comes from a state of being. I missed mom today. I missed her a lot. I felt sad and out of options. But I realized from the depths of an emotion that weighs so heavy on my heart that I have to look at where I came from. My parents were both artists, one was a photographer, the other a writer and together they made books. As a kid, I’d sit and watch my mom type on the typewriter and thought that’s what I want to be, a writer. I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote poems and short stories and always kept a journal. In college I majored in English (duh) and wrote for the school paper. I couldn’t get enough of Yeats, Emily Dickinson & Kurt Vonnegut. Then the magical phase in life came when I met my wonderful husband and raised three beautiful boys who have given me so much joy and became my spark of inspiration to write picture books and more. I adore the written word. Writing frees my soul. Let us never stop creating. My mom, my mentor, my friend is gone. I no longer get those phone calls to ask me if my butt is in the chair. I’d tell her, “It would be if I wasn’t on the phone..” I’d tell her. She always told me, “Never forget your roots. Never forget where you came from.” I believe she said this so I will always find my way back. That my roots are literary roots that I will never loose. I just have to sit with my butt in chair, let my fingers find the letters to the words that my heart speaks and be a writer. Fifteen minutes a day to start. I can do that. Thanks Nancy Tupper Ling for getting me going. There’s no stopping me now!
Writing is the best therapy. After coming back from a wonderfully inspiring writer’s retreat in Rhode Island, I realized I needed to get back to writing after life had just pulled the braided rug out from underneath me.
My mother, my friend and my writing mentor died of cancer on March 12, after being diagnosed only nine weeks prior. She had just enough time to help us make plans for her own service, make peace with a few people and make damn sure that she handed me her final unfinished manuscript.
What do I take away from this? I will miss her deeply, I won’t get her daily pep-talks but I know she’s with me. I find great comfort in that. I can still hear her words,”No matter what sit in that chair and write! I don’t care if you’re tired, hung-over or just don’t feel like it-sit in that chair and write.” Mom was always right-I didn’t always listen, but I do now.I am making a promise to myself to sit down every day (no matter what) and write. Write in your on-line journal, your blog, write a letter to your character, begin a new novel, or try your hand at poetry. Giving yourself permission to create gives your soul freedom, beyond words and it may even heal your heavy heart. “Thanks mom for giving me the greatest gift ever-passion for the written word and believing in me.”
Get it Write this Summer!
Literary Agent Linda Epstein's Yakkety Yakking
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