I’ve heard it said, quite often, it takes a tragedy or a dark period in life to truly get to know your Self. I guess this makes perfect sense that a writer would write far deeper when submerged in grief or emotional turmoil, because they’re thinkers. I’ve also heard of writers not knowing they’re writers until tragedy or illness strikes.
For me, this is true. I wrote a medieval adventure for middle-grade kids (and adults who love a good fairytale) – when I injured myself and had nothing better to do while the kids were at school. I was house-bound for months and when reading, housework and midday television wasn’t enough, I started to write down story plots and characters – jotting down things that crept into my imagination. I found it quite liberating; like writing in diary of sorts. I finished two manuscripts by the time my injury had repaired, I discovered there was more to come. I had started writing a romance novel – just for my own eyes and used it to re-discover my young Self. Between school drop-off, studying to be a Library Technician, school pick-up, mum duties and wifey stuff, I wrote a story of love, depression, cancer, bereavement and family. I wasn’t experiencing any tragic periods in my life, but I drew on some of my past and delved into the character of a twenty year old girl on the brink of finding the love and lesson of her life. Infinite Completion was born.
Almost two years later my world tipped upside down, with the death of my brother. And whilst I had just started the sequel to my romance novel, it brought out some very dark writing moments, for sure. My heart was shattered, and with this came grief, anger, and a lot of questions.
I wrote a lot. I wrote to complete my sequel, but I also wrote my feelings and muses during the weeks of my brothers passing – like I had to get to out of my head and onto paper – literally written on paper, in scrap books and note books, and any piece of paper I could find. Writing made sense. It helped me see in the dark. I started to take notice of the flaws in people, in our society and of course, my characters. Valentine, my brooding, handsome, singer of a local pub band opened up and boy was it messy. His story was Absolution – something neither of us were ready for.
I’d stumbled into writing kids adventures, with friendly dragons and grumpy knights – and as my newly awakened passion emerged, I found more of my Self as I worte about romance and real life stuff. Then, in my darkest hour, I uncovered a strength to pull apart my thoughts. To take each piece and develop Valentine’s character even further. I wanted to adress social issues and make the reader think. Really think. To say this was hard is an understatement. Writing Absolution drew out my pain and displayed it in someone else’s voice. It was pushing my boundaries and making me work harder. Then, as I had the finish line in sight, my husband had a severe stroke, miles away from home. My world, my children’s world and his world spun on its axis. With months of therapy; for us all, I really felt I’d never write again. I could feel it calling me, but I just didn’t have time. My every waking hour was about my husband, our kids and my Self.
Nonetheless, as time went on, I found time to sit. And think. And write. I was drawn back to Valentine and his world – where I submerged in his grief. I could have drowned myself in alcohol or drugs – at times I felt like it. But, I was a mum and wife. I wasn’t going to give in. I could, however, write without causing any harm to myself or anyone else.
I eventually finished Absolution and on October 10 2016 it went live on Amazon.com.
I am working on another couple of manuscripts, and wouldn’t wish dark times on anyone, but I know writing is my answer to grief and its many layers.
Is this something you do as an artist? I’d love to have some feedback from other writers or artists about what drives their best work.