When grief and writing collide

Writing is like any hobby-turned-passion.  There are days you don’t want to do it anymore.  There are days when “old school” is better than modern methods.  Like any writer, I have my days where a good pen and notebook – preferably tape bound as I’m a leftie – is preferable to the sterility of a keyboard.  There are other days where the words flow like a raging river but, lately, I’ve had little desire to write and couldn’t figure out why.

Then it dawned on me:  I’m still healing from my father’s death.

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How Max looks at me when I can’t write.

Yes, I have to say it now – my dad is dead.  Gone from this world almost a year now.  He passed away when I was away from him, though I was there in some of his final hours.  It hurt because it’s a loss and created a void, one which has no time limit.  My grieving hasn’t stopped, it has just changed.  Rather than looking to the heavens for answers, I’ve begun to look inward, but not for healing.  I find myself replaying those last hours in my mind, wondering if something I said or did was wrong.  Still, I know that beating myself up is useless, so I find myself instead looking within and finding the long-unnoticed pieces of me which are so much like my dad.  Every day there’s something which makes me think of him; a smell, a sound, the way I say or react to something.  He’s always around, even when I wish he would mute the feed.

 

It’s nothing personal, but few things on this earth grate a writer more than someone who has zero ability getting their shot because of “right place, right time, but no talent at all” (can you say A Million Little Pieces?)

Oddly enough, it’s not just the grieving which has me not wanting to write, it’s just that I don’t know what to write, and that leads me to another point.  There’s been an increasing number of writers, particularly independents, who are beginning to behave like the elitists they used to rail against.  Adding to this irony is that they are far from best-sellers, yet take the attitude of “I’m an elite full time writer and I don’t have time for part time amateurs, or people who moonlight as writers, but have day jobs.”  It’s an attitude which has permeated the writing world of late and, more concerning, people who once regarded themselves as the “revolutionaries,” on the outside looking in, are the ones engaged in the condescension.

photo of a woman writing on paper

Yes, there are days I still do this.    Photo by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.com

Look, I get it; writing is a rugged, difficult occupation in which to survive.  I know plenty who are just not making a decent living or, in other cases, barely getting by.  Many others simply don’t have the budget to afford major marketing campaigns, social media ads, or the materials for a simple street crew, yet are chastised because they live paycheck-to-paycheck.  I’ve also noticed some of the “neo elitists” out there are running in circles akin to high school cliques, or are in situations where they can afford to devote their lives to their craft.  Whatever floats your boat, I say, and bully to those who do have the means to support their work while waiting for their day to walk in the literary sun.  Still, that’s no excuse for poor attitudes and rudeness towards those of us with day jobs or, worse still, are unable to devote a significant amount of time due to family issues or personal challenges.

Let me be clear – I’m not aiming this at writers who get irritated with those who claim to be “professional writers,” but whose prose is the stuff of fourth grade grammar, only with twice the comma splices and refuse to see their “work” for what it is.  Those sorts of writers should stay in the sandlots of coffee shop amateur nights; they simply aren’t ready for prime time.  It’s nothing personal, but few things on this earth grate a writer more than someone who has zero ability getting their shot because of “right place, right time, but no talent at all” (can you say A Million Little Pieces?)  This blog is focused more towards those who dismiss as “unworthy,” anyone who “brings it” but, due to personal issues or concerns, cannot bring their best every single day.  While there are writers who do have this ability, they are few and far between, and were actually like the rest of us for a very long time.  I remind the neo-elitists that success in writing isn’t just about hard work vis-à-vis editing and marketing (though that is a requirement).  There is an ugly truth to writing which neo-elitists either seem to forget, or don’t want to acknowledge.

Much of any success enjoyed in this field, like any other, is predicated on blind luck.

A good writer, a dedicated writer, knows there are two things in the world which must always come first:  family and self-care.  When those two things are compromised, the work no longer matters, and quality suffers.  I would rather blast out some work every few months that’s high quality and focus on self-care and family matters the rest of the time than crank out content constantly that’s riddled with inconsistencies while sacrificing my family life and endangering health.  I could care less what others say, and my contracts be damned – family is paramount.

I know Dad would be proud of this, because that was the last bit of wisdom he shared with me before he left.  Funny thing; somehow, I feel him sitting next to me, patting me on the shoulders, saying “that’s my son, the writer.”

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