A lot of writers and other creative types believe they’d have more time for their art if life were less hectic and prone to interruptions.
They are probably right about that. I should know; over the years, I’ve rearranged my entire lifestyle to be as conducive to my writing as possible.
I’ve excised almost all extraneous disruptions, I schedule my days and weeks to within an inch of my life, and go to great efforts to minimize personal drama of the sort that annoys and hinders far more than it excites and inspires.
And yet life, so it’s been said, is what occurs in between the scheduling. It’s what occurs when the best laid plans lie in ruins. Not even someone as anal and over-regimented as myself can prevent the blatancy of real life from eventually rearing its head.
In other words, as I might otherwise have chosen to title this post, there goes the summer of 2016.
For the past month, I found myself in the unexpected role of caregiver and household manager during the hospitalization and eventual return home of an ailing parent.
The change in my situation happened seemingly on a dime: one moment, I was making plans for the latter half of the summer and celebrating having almost made it two-thirds of the way through my WIP’s rewrite.
And then the next instant, I was at the airport at 4am with a one-way ticket and no clear sense of how long I’d be gone.
I left behind my laptop and entire WIP hard copy despite having debated bringing one or two chapters so I could continue revising. In trying to keep my expectations realistic during such a difficult and uncertain time, the only writing-related item I brought was a reference book I’ve been taking entirely too long to read in support of my next novel.
Highlighting my way through a text and using it to come up with at least a rudimentary outline for this new story hardly seemed unmanageable.
Right up until it did, for a full three of the four weeks I was away.
The meaning of life
The whirlwind emotions the whole experience elicited in me – companion to sleepless nights, absent appetite, and the actual work of giving care and keeping house while simultaneously working remotely on my day job a few hours a day – fairly sucked the creativity right out of me.
My mind, always at least partially residing in the metaphoric castle on a cloud wherein my WIP takes place, gradually drained of all imaginary goings-on like the colour from sun bleached curtains. In the end, there was nothing left but the important business at hand and a distant black and white memory of somewhere over the rainbow.
I’ve read numerous posts on writing blogs about accepting the existence of real life – about how you have to forgive yourself for unscheduled breaks in your writing progress, regardless of why they occur, and how the varied experiences of our lives – particularly those that are unhappy or unwanted – may come to fertilize some story of the future.
This post really has nothing new to add to those sentiments other than my own recognition that a full and fully-realized life will inevitably contain a complete range of experiences – many positive and anticipated while others still are of the sort one would rather never became necessary at all.
As much as we might perceive real life as taking us away from our art, the truth is, without life’s ups and down and ebbs and flows, there would be no art at all.
It takes the good and the bad of life to give us a deeper understanding of the true nature of the other, which is essential for being able to convey both effectively in creative works.
Life’s challenges may never directly inspire a single word of writing. That’s not the point of them anyway.
Not when they have the power to make us a better, more empathetic person.