I’ve been stagnant here, and for that—as well as my lack of participation in the blogging community—I’m sorry. I’d a single writing goal over the summer, and that was to FINALLY finish my horror novel, that beast that’s been keeping my mind and soul occupied when other things should have been. I’d promised myself it would be done during the Christmas break, but I struggled with it so much. Looking back on it, I think it had more to do with the responsibilities I have at work that linger in the back of my mind all the time, even when I’m not teaching. We’re all still “on,” what with the general school community duties and student emails that we get bombarded with at the end of every term (lots of sudden interest in grades and outcomes…lots of “I don’t understand why I got…” “But I need an A to…” “If I don’t get a passing grade, I’ll have to…”). My summer would have to be THE time to finish what I’d put off for so long.
I did it, finished it in its entirety for the most part. While I’ve been getting feedback from beta readers, I’ve been cleaning it here and there. There’s a pacing issue in the first half of it and some continuity problems that popped up due to my having changed the ending (three times!). I love my ending as it is now, but it’s caused more trouble for me than I’d predicted. That’s mainly due to the fact the ending’s a twist that turns things all topsy-turvy with one scene – just one – that sets it in motion, but even still, it makes sense to me to have it that way.
Anyway, the whole point of this entry isn’t to babble on about excuses and novel endings. Over the summer, I had something…remarkable…happen while finishing this thing, and I think it has more to do with the company I kept and genre I chose than anything else. I’ve been meeting monthly with a group of wonderful women writers in my area. We spend more time discussing methods and life-work balance than we do critiquing each others’ work. When we get around to critiquing, it turns into an idea exchange more than anything else. All of us, for the most part, are writing in different genres, which makes it tricky to respond in spots; that said, however, we all have a commonality that has resonated with me: We follow the adage ‘Write what you know.’
I know. I know. What else would we write? There are two memoirists, so the adage for them is obvious. However, for those of us writing fiction, even with our fiction, we incorporate characters we’re familiar with, situations and settings we’ve found ourselves in, dialogue we may have heard before. It lends viability, credibility, in our work, even when things go nuts as they do in my own novel. Call it ethos. Call it author empathy. I don’t know. But I can say, from what I’ve observed and heard from my fellow authors in this group, and most importantly, from my own experience writing this, of all things, writing what we know is fantastic self-therapy.
I thought that by writing here, writing essays and brief “bits and bobs,” I’d be cured of my number one ailment, the fact I just couldn’t let go of the man I’d been in love with for almost 18 years, the man who blatantly didn’t care. It didn’t work. I simply could not rid myself of that gnawing ache, the painful breath that escaped me every time I thought about him in his happy marriage, happy life, minus me. I spent so many nights wide awake, wondering why he never cared, begging the metaphysical, the Great and Powerful Oz, the big kahuna, the entity-in-charge-of-entities, to rid me of my feelings for him, to make me feel as empty inside as he did when he thought of me. I wanted to feel…nothing…for him. Rather difficult for an empath.
One of my writer friends in the group jokingly said something along the lines of “Keep writing and killing them off in your work.” I’d told them how I felt before, and it became an ongoing thing, something that, perhaps, horror could cure.
In my horror novel, I had my protagonist suffer much more horribly than I had, and she’s still suffering in a way. I can’t explain it without spoiling anything, but she and I had that same ailment. We couldn’t let go of “him,” and while I didn’t have her kill “him” off (even metaphorically – well, he doesn’t even appear in the novel), I swear, as soon as I finished writing the novel, on THAT day, something happened to me. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. All I know is that whenever he pops up in my thoughts, and he only does when I talk about this, there’s nothing there anymore. Nothing in me. That feeling I had, with the horrible gnawing, aching breathlessness…
….it’s completely gone.
I’m not kidding around. It’s no longer there.
There are other, more logical, factors to consider. I’ve made new friends, had a new (now ex) love, been heavily involved in my work, started working out again (well…sort of, yeah), been dating a bit… all of which could be considered “distractions,” but I’ve been experiencing all of these things for years now. I just find it extraordinarily coincidental that the completion of my (first) horror novel marked the official end of…well, him.
Maybe it’s true that art, in whatever form, is the greatest therapy. I just wish this sort of thing had happened much earlier in time as I feel as if I’ve wasted too much needed energy on someone I, frankly, don’t care about anymore.