Saturday, July 09, 2011

Unblocked, and Grateful

Here’s another entry in my Grief and Gratitude series.

Today I’m planning to submit a short story to a literary journal for possible publication, the one I mentioned in my previous post. I’m very excited about this, partly because finishing a story always moves me, but also because this story is palpable proof that I’ve become unblocked – I can indeed go on writing even after publishing my memoir.

I’ve been writing stories, in fits and starts, since I was six. My first was called “Susan the Clown,” and told the story of a clown whose big, awkward feet saved the day by outrunning the bad guys when her circus was robbed. Since then I’ve had long dry periods, but have come back to writing time and again as a way to process my experience and express my creativity.

While I was writing my original blog, and when I started to transform it into And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones, I was afraid I’d never again be able to write about anything unconnected with my daughter’s death. Then a friend told me about a three-day workshop on writing dialogue that was to be given in my area. Thinking it would help me with the book, I signed up.

Well, it did help with the memoir but, equally important, it showed me that I could still make stuff up – and stuff that had nothing to do with illness or death, at that. Since then I’ve participated in several workshops run by the same program, a writing group, and a regular writing course. These allayed my fear that I'd never write again once the book was out.

Then a new fear replaced my original one: Perhaps I could do writing exercises or even start stories, but I’d never be able to finish an entire story. Worse, all I seemed able to write was fictionalized memoir – stories so closely based on my own experience that I felt they didn’t “count” as fiction. True, one if my stories was accepted for publication in Israel Short Stories, an anthology of short fiction written by English-language writers living in Israel, but I’d written it about twenty years ago and only slightly revised it for submission last year. I was afraid the well of my creativity had dried up.

But for the past several weeks I’ve taken a short memoir that I started in the writing group and transformed it into a story with a completely different protagonist and message, as well as a main plot that I invented. And today I’m submitting it.

In my post Writing and Resilience, I related how writing about Timora’s illness and death has helped me process my traumatic experience, and how writing helped Timora deal with hers. I think that moving forward – beyond my trauma – with my writing is integrally bound up with moving forward in my life; that is, with my resilience.

And I’m truly, truly grateful for that.

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