Down time, waaaaaaaay down

At sea, acrylic on cardboard,

Last November, I finished the long process of prepping Earth for publishers and started revising the rough draft of my second novel Air. I’d been writing, revising, editing and researching the market, not to mention working with about ten writing clients, for years. For at least the past five years, if not longer, I’ve been going at quite a clip. Suddenly, two weeks into revising Air, I was unable to go anywhere near my writing desk, anywhere near my novel.

There was an aversion so deep and strong, a buzzing like a dying insect that set my teeth to chattering. I could not sit in my leather office chair at my huge bankers desk at my spanking new laptop. I couldn’t work. It wasn’t a matter of just telling myself to quit whining and sit down and just do it. Sitting in the chair actually gave me physical pain, a roaring headache, a vomitous stomach.

I decided since it was the beginning of December that I’d just not worry, enjoy my birthday and do my normal trek to Costa Rica for Christmas. That may sound normal to most writers, just take a break because it’s Christmas, but I’ve never let Christmas get in the way of my writing, neither have I let births, deaths, weddings, hurricanes, floods…I always write.

Fine, I let myself have the break. It wasn’t easy. I’m Type A. I get back from Costa Rica, and my writing schedule is so entrenched that I have hours free in the morning, and I roam my apartment listlessly. Still nothing. No Thing! I seemed to be cloaked in a black swirling cloud that sent me to bed at 8 p.m. and kept me down, waaaaaaaaaaay down. (In fact, I just noticed my last Art of Storytelling blog was written last November!)

Finally, I decide to look the beast in the face. He was such a slippery shadowing creature I couldn’t get my hands around him. I meditated, did shamanic journeys, reikied myself, got metaphysical readings, therapized myself, everything I could think of. Finally, I was able to begin to pinpoint this ogre’s theme.

Earth is all about a very difficult childhood. I thought it was something to do with finishing this opus about my early life. But it wasn’t that that’d triggered me. I realized in revising Air, I had to write about leaving my family and going abroad. As the author, I knew that beautiful, wild, open young girl would never ever be able to go back to her family again. She would struggle for decades with the concept of family. She would feel without family in a world that seemed to be based on family relationships.

It’s still a crevasse. It’s still a pit whose bottom I cannot see. But even a bit of information allowed the clouds to part (am I mixing too many metaphors here), and for me to get a couple of days of glorious writing done. Isn’t it amazing how we can find areas that have not healed at all. We hit our 40s and we think we’re over it, but we haven’t even begun to be “in” it, let alone to be “over” it.

I find this again and again working with clients. These hotspots of pain that stick us, block us, stop our creativity. All I can say is, apply spiritual pressure, go lightly, have compassion, love this crazy life you’ve lived, even the painful parts full of loss (because isn’t a lonely girl wandering and seeking family in itself a form of poetry?). Slowly the fist will open, the ink like blood will flow across the page, and you’ll heal yourself in the writing, and heal others in the reading.

I was interviewed recently by Coach Lisa Sharpe Jones about my path from journalist to writer/artist. Click here to listen:

I’m a writing coach. Contact me for a free initial consultation,,

One thought on “Down time, waaaaaaaay down

  1. I think you are right that eventually, the pain has to be faced. It’s hard to stop looking away, to put down the distractions and sit in the same room as the problem, and stop fighting the feelings — you have to embrace them, accept them, and use the tools you have to lay them bare before you. It sounds like you have some good tools to do that!

    I went through a time where I just didn’t stop — every moment had some activity built into it so that I didn’t have to reflect and come to terms with life, and my own internal narrative fell apart. Finally I started forcing myself to have reflection time — no more reading at lunch, no more radio in the car, no more cell phone in the bathroom. That has opened me back up again.

    Thank you for sharing this!


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