Saturday, May 12, 2012

Back in the saddle again...

First off, welcome to the new home for the Story Forge.  Glad you could make it.

It's been a long time since I’ve posted anything to this blog.  There are a number of reasons for that, but the primary reason goes back to a previous post called "Failure is not an Option Part 2"in that Life knocked me right out of the saddle and onto my ass so completely and so thoroughly that I started to wonder if it hadn't knocked me out of the game altogether.

Let me tell you a story.  Like most stories, this one starts out small.  It begins with a dog.

For those of you that know me, this might not come as a surprise.  For those of you that don't know me, let me begin by saying that I have spent most of my conscious life around dogs.  I probably always will.  It's not that I have anything against cats.  Indeed, I've got 4 running around the homestead (2 indoor and 2 outdoor…giving the mice no safe haven), but, for my money, dogs are where it's at, and I can say with a fair degree of absolute certainty that I will never find a soul quite like hers again.
Her name was Muse.  Here's how I remember her:

She'd play tug with you forever, and she was as swift and as sweet as a stolen kiss.  She'd sit with me on the couch and she'd lie under my desk and sleep on my feet while I was working.   It was a rare day when I could walk through a room with her in it and not stop to scratch her ears.

We lost her.

I can remember with crystal clarity the last time I saw her and I can't remember any of the 72 hours following her death except in distorted flashes.  I was a complete wreck for weeks and, in some ways, I still am.

Like I said: Knocked on my ass.  Completely. Thoroughly.

Why am I writing about it?

Part of why I'm writing about this is that for some folks, writing about loss actually helps with the healing process.  I don't know if that will hold true for me.  Right now, some parts of this feel like I'm picking at a scab with a chainsaw, but I'll let you know how it goes later on.

The biggest part of why I'm writing about this is that this is a blog about writing and that little dog was a part of my writing life that is now gone—sort of ( I am neither exaggerating, nor am I shitting you when I say that I can still feel her sleeping on my toes as I type this).

I see a lot of articles about writing, and even a few about navigating the dark times such as this, so I thought that I would describe my experience, hoping that someone might find it helpful.

Like I said, The first 72 hours are gone.  I was a passenger in my own body.  When I first managed to pick myself up off the metaphorical ground, I didn't feel like writing.  Not even a little.  Hell, I didn't even feel like eating.  Sleep?  Sleep was an escape.  It was all I wanted to do.  In the face of such a complete shut-down, not wanting to write wasn't so unusual.  The words were still there and I knew that they would be waiting for me, so I let them lie…

After a while (a couple of weeks, in fact) I started to get the itch to start writing again, but I was afraid to get back to it.  I was afraid that the magic wasn't going to be there anymore.  I was even more afraid that it was still going to be there and what that meant.  She was my Muse after all, and even though she wasn't there every time when I was writing, she was there afterwards.

More time went by…

Gradually, I began tinkering with stuff again.  I couldn't help it.  There were these short bursts of work that felt like I was trying to coax a dormant engine into starting.  This period lasted a couple of weeks.  My mind kicked around ideas—priming the pump so to speak—and, every so often, I'd sit down and try the ignition.

Finally, something caught.  That day I was at it for about an hour before I ran out of steam, but it was something, damn it.  Was it the best I'd ever written?  Nope it sure wasn't, but it didn't need to be.  What mattered was that it was there.

A few days after that first bittersweet hour, I started thinking about this blog again.  Did I have anything more to say, or did I just want to close up shop?

As it turns out, I felt like I did have more to say.  Several weeks went by where I tried to compose entire blog posts in my head at the worst times (day job meetings, and just before bed were the worst of the worst), and that sealed the deal for me.

So here I am, back in the saddle again, trying to bend this post into a more “writerly” direction.
The long and the short of it is this: Life is going to happen, whether you want it to or not.  Eventually something will come along and really knock you ass-over-applecarts.  There's no avoiding it, and what I'd really like you to take away from this post is the following advice from my perspective:

When it happens, do whatever you need to do to deal with it in a healthy way, and don't guilt yourself into doing anything before you're ready.  If you're wired to tell stories, then sooner or later you'll find yourself in front of your keyboard, or with your pen in your hand, maybe wondering how in the hell you got there in the first place.  As long as you're there and your dog is sleeping on your feet (if only in memory) why not see what happens next?

Now go write…