Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stepping back -- The Chain

I'm just a link in the chain. Terri began a blog chain earlier this month focusing on the question, "Have you ever had anything cause you to step back from writing? If so, what was the cause and how long did it take you to get back into the swing of things? If not, do you have any advice for other writers about not letting life get in the way of writing?"

Sandra wrote about this topic yesterday. Christine is up next.

In order to give an appropriate answer to Terri's question, I have to modify it a little.

So, here's my modification: Have you ever had anything cause you to step back from (fiction) writing? If so, what was the cause and how long did it take you to get back into the swing of things? If not, do you have any advice for other writers about not letting life get in the way of writing?

I've been writing short stories and really bad poetry ever since I conned my mom into letting me use her typewriter when I was eight years old.

I always knew one day writing would be my source of livelihood. (Note: I didn't say abundant source.) Throughout high school and college, I kept my eye on the prize.

I went through some really tough, character-building moments right after getting married. Through all of that, writing fiction became my constant companion; an escape, if you will, from the monotony and struggles of not living my ideal life.

I eventually was hired as an editorial assistant at the daily newspaper for which I still work. This position centered on one major task: writing obituaries. This might sound really bad, but it was great. You couldn't imagine a bigger source or stories, character names and situations. There they were, handed to me by a fax machine, feeding my imagination.

But then the worst happened.

I got promoted.

Suddenly, I was no longer able to let my mind wander into scenarios about the folks who had taken their last breaths. (I mean, let's face it, writing obits isn't rocket science and even though what you put in the paper is fact, you can daydream about the lives of these folks all you want.)

I was suddenly submerged in the cold hard facts of news stories -- planning commission hearings, elections and business notes.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but believe me when I say this: Nothing will strip you of creativity and the desire to sit in front of a computer faster than cold, hard facts.

I lost my will to write.

For three years.

I didn't touch my home computer. I didn't let my mind wander into what if. I didn't write any fiction.

About eighteen months into this darkness, my husband asked why I hadn't written anything. I didn't have an answer. But on several occasions I found myself wondering if I'd suffocated that dream I once had to be a published author.

Oh, no. No. No. No.

I discovered in November 2007 that the desire merely had lain dormant inside me.

It emerged from its chrysalis in the middle of a sociology class, in the middle of a discussion about genital mutilation in African cultures.

Scenes as vivid as the instructor's PowerPoint presentation began spilling into my head.

Fresh ideas poured down like rain after a long, long drought.

I went home, retreated to my computer and have only emerged on a couple of occasions since.

I've never really been able to put my finger on why my desire to write returned with such voracity at that moment. Part of me thinks the diversion offered by the class helped throw me back into the fire. Another part of me believes it was just time.

And yet, there's this other part, a very miniscule piece of my heart, that tells me not to ask why.

That may be a very small part of me, but that's the part that speaks the loudest.

Have a wonderful day everyone!


Anonymous said...

WOW! Great story, Kat.
Three years, huh?

I think God just jolted you because He saw you were ready to step out there with your fantastic writing skills.

HE doesn't want us to squander our talents. HE gave them to us after all.....

Press on, sister

Anonymous said...

love it...thanks for the great post!!!

Sandra said...

I think it's very important for writers with day jobs to find a job that doesn't drain them to the point where they can't write. My tech writing job did that to me.

Did you save notes about characters from the time when you were writing obits?

celticqueen said...

Welcome to the chain Kat!! Great first post! You know, it was the same with me when my daughter was born. The writing just stopped...I wasn't inspired, didn't miss it, I didn't want to write - and then one day I did. And I've been writing ever since. And like you, I don't question it too closely :) I just enjoy that I am doing it again :)

Mary Lindsey said...

Great post, Kat. Maybe your muse just needed a 3 year break to fuel up for the real deal. Was the book about the topic being covered in the sociology course?

Crimogenic said...

I think we've all gone through a period or two of not writing at all. I went through about a year of not writing during my first year in college. I didn't have the time and before then I had been struggling with a sci-fi piece, one that I still love, but I realized that scifi was beyond me.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Wow, really great and cool story. Isn't funny how the urge to write can go away and then come back stronger than ever?

gzusfreek said...

And I'm glad you returned! You have such talent and such a gift, Kat! I just love reading your stuff. I can't wait for your book signing in Phoenix! :)
Thank you for sharing!

Hey, I gave you an award! If you have time check out the mess over at gzusfreek

ElanaJ said...

Wow, Kat. This is a great initial post! I love that part where you say not to ask why. Sometimes that question just gets in the way. Great job! :)

Sex Mahoney for President said...

Who wants to write fiction? There's much more reality now than there has ever been.

Also, nothing gets the blood pumping like genital mutilation.

Sex Mahoney for President

Archetype said...

Welcome to the chain! I had the same thing happen when I was a graphic designer -- I lost the urge to draw for fun. So I definitely know how that goes!

TerriRainer said...

OMG! I didn't even know you were in the chain (yes, I've fallen horribly behind) WELCOME!!!!

You crack me up Kat, "a discussion about genital mutilation " sparked your writing interest again. I laughed...a lot...when I read that little tid-bit into the mind of Kat-the-fiction-writer.

So glad I asked the question in the first place (not that I expected genital mutilation to come up).

:) Terri

H. L. Dyer said...

Sorry I'm so late to comment on this, but what an awesome initiation to the blog chain.

Yay, you!