I’m writing this post in the hopes that it will offer comfort to others dealing with writer’s block as a result of grief. If you Google “writer’s block” and “grief,” you’ll find loads of posts telling you to write your way through it. Many people do so, and I admire them.
Really, I envy them. Because I haven’t been able to do that. I’ve barely been able to breathe.
It’s been a tough decade. My dad has a slowly advancing case of Alzheimer’s, and one of the reasons my husband and I moved to East Texas from London was to help my mom cope. And cope she did. Far longer than she should have. She made a promise to my dad that he would die at home, and she did her best to honor that promise. But eventually Alzheimer’s won. It usually does.
She made the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home in May 2015. By September 2015, she had dropped dead of a heart attack that was completely unexpected. I know without doubt that she died more from grief and guilt than from any cardiac complications. In addition to overwhelming sorrow at her loss, her death left me with the challenge of closing out her estate, becoming my dad’s power of attorney, and taking responsibility for watching over him. I’m lucky: my husband and two brothers are incredibly supportive, and I’m not sure how I would manage without them.
The year since my mom’s death has taken a toll on my creativity, and I was naive to imagine otherwise. She had a huge personality and was an important part of our lives, and I miss her very much. I’m also dealing with the challenges of having a loved one in a nursing home. One of us is there every day to feed Daddy dinner and help get him ready for bed. But there are problems. From cuts and scrapes that refuse to heal, to continuing weight loss, to problems finding the right diapers for my dad, every new wrinkle is cause for fresh grief.
Throughout this year, I’ve wanted to lose myself in the next Cass Elliot novel. The story is there, waiting and wanting to be written, and I love where it’s going. I’ve tried to write it. But every word I’ve put down — 40,000+ of them — has been its own tragedy. First drafts are supposed to be rough, but not this rough.
This is doubly frustrating because I’m an Achiever. Yes, with an annoying capital “A.” I set a goal and work my happy little ass off until I achieve it. But not this past year. Don’t get me wrong, I have achieved things. They’re just not related to writing. (I have the best organized sock drawer in East Texas and we’re currently running a champion/challenger diaper contest on my dad. That gives you an idea of my creative capabilities in the midst of grief.)
We’re now past the first anniversary of my mother’s death, and I am hopeful that the haze shrouding my creativity is lifting. Characters are banging around in my head again, offering snippets of conversation and plot for this new book, and the words are slowly coming. How long will it be before I’m hitting my word count on a daily basis? I have no idea, but at last I am moving in the right direction.
So here it is: I want to tell you that it’s okay if you’re blocked. Nobody knows your life, your circumstances, and no one is entitled to judge you. If the words don’t flow in the midst of your grief, give yourself a break and time to heal. The words will come back and perhaps be richer for what you’ve experienced.
Most importantly, hang in there and remember that you are not alone.
Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.
Gae-Lynn writes the Cass Elliot Crime Series. When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fence, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend, who makes her debut in Avengers of Blood.
Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.
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