Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writing Through Grief, Part 6

No discussion of writing through grief would be complete without my explaining how deeply I owe my writerly self to my mother.

I was reminded of this two weeks ago, and it’s taken until now for me to face actually writing about it ... and posting it. At this point, I'd appreciate being able to just move on with life, not think about things, and definitely not cry. And up until, oh, last week, every time I think about Mom, or about anything else emotional, I’d instantly tear up.

I’m trying to rebuild some momentum with the writing. Difficult at moments with some extra reading I’ve needed to do—contest judging, which I really enjoy. But writing blog posts has come more slowly, too.

Beyond that, though, I’m finding it nearly impossible to focus. Already suffering from what I term motherhood-induced ADHD (...25 years of being interrupted EVERY TWO MINUTES for hours a day), I’m finding if there’s anything else going on in the room that I might find even mildly interesting, I’m constantly distracted.

Not terribly conducive to getting a piece of story knit together.

I keep thinking how profoundly unhappy Mom would be if I gave up writing altogether. Which I’ve considered doing, at least where fiction is concerned. (We won't even discuss the "story of my heart." Almost 35 years of working on the same story series that isn’t even remotely published yet ... at what point is enough enough, and you move on?)

But ... something won’t let me. It isn’t even the thought of Mom frowning at me from heaven, because hey, the disapproval of our Creator is so much more weighty. LOL, or should be. It’s just—realizing all over again how connected my writing was to her. And now that she’s gone ...

She’s probably the biggest reason I’m writing at all. An artist as well as a voracious reader, she never minced words on what she felt I was good at, and my childhood attempts at artwork met one day with an exasperated, "You just can't can't draw!!" So, when she encouraged my early writing efforts, I took it seriously.

Through my teen years, she championed me, read anything I threw her—and found enough promise in it to ask for more. She could listen to me rattle on for hours about my characters and storyline. She was the one who first suggested that instead of having some vague, nebulous concept of “strangers” who gave the Gift—why not have THE Stranger? Their own colloquial term for God? And I remember the look on her face as she said it—a suppressed smile, full of joy and knowledge, as the suggestion took hold in me and sparked an answering excitement. For the first time, I had a storyworld I could intimately connect with my own faith ... because of her.

She also suggested plot twists. I forget how many. She even drafted a short but pivotal scene from the POV of a minor character, a scene that I kept with very little changes. Oh, and the lyrics of a song that’s also pivotal across several stories? She wrote that.

Later, after about 15 or so drafts of the story, she started refusing to read my revisions. I started writing when I was 15, for crying out loud, and every time I’d revise I’d be a little older, a little wiser, and think, “Oh, that wouldn’t happen like that” or “That’s just stupid.” :) Eventually, it wore her out.

I quit asking her to read drafts. Eventually, I even quit asking her to read new stories. But she remained the one complaining the most strenuously that nobody seemed interested in publishing me (or representing me), and she never stopped hoping to see my original stories in print. She was definitely the most excited when I got that first contract, a surprise in the opening session of the 2012 ACFW conference. Even if it was for a humble little historical romance novella.

She told everyone who would listen that her daughter was a published author. She even insisted on handing out bookmarks when she was in the hospital year before last, after surgery to repair a shattered hip and later quadruple bypass surgery.

It was so embarrassing. :)

After she lost her eyesight (not to mention the use of a computer), I read her my later novels, and the two novellas. She grew to love those as well as my early stories, and it gave me much joy to be able to put my first published volume into her hands.

I'm still hopeful that someday I'll see a version of that first story in print ... dedicated, as I used to tease her, to My Editor, the Mom.

And no, I still can't quite believe she's gone.

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