the power of grief: writing and living through it

Sometimes, there really are no words.

Sadly, my Grandma passed away last month so the pens have been dropped, my plans have been cancelled, and I headed home from Belgium to be with my family.

What I didn’t even think about at the time was the effect it would have on my writing ability. With little under two months to go until I have to be ready to hand in my manuscript, I wasn’t prepared for a complete lull in my writing.

But, the show must go on.

Change is something we all have to adapt to, and this was something I knew had potential to happen as she had been ill for a long time, but still wasn’t fully expecting. And finding my way back to my creative mindset was really tricky.

Initially, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t write, I didn’t make plans, I didn’t leave the house that much. I wasn’t depressed, and it wasn’t an active choice, I think I was just confused and my way of dealing with it was to shut away from the world for a while whilst I tried to process the massive change. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

A few weeks passed and my lack of writing started to niggle at the back of my mind. I started to meet up with friends who were around, tried to keep myself occupied and busy with other projects, and ultimately hoped that after a creative break the juices would start flowing again. They didn’t.

One of the most frustrating things as a writer is being unable to write. Whether you’re at your writing desk, sat on a bus, or scribbling on a napkin in a cafe, it can be blooming difficult. The glossy life of a writer, the one people imagine (lots of tea and cake in coffee shops, and lots of long chapters written in short hours) is totally false – unless you’re a writing god. So, when you can’t write, it’s often hard for people to understand why.

With my deadline looming, and my manuscript tutor worrying about my word counts, I had no choice but to get back to the basics, pen and paper, and write.

Firstly, I wrote about mundane things, like what the tree looked like from my bedroom window, or what I had done the previous day. Then, as this opened my head back up to writing, I began thinking of how my characters would act in the same situation. Would they sit on their grief? Would they showcase it in anger? Would they cry? Writing with pen and paper was more fluid and I enjoyed just being able to keep the pen moving, even if what I was writing wouldn’t be going anywhere because it was pants.

These things helped me work the niggle out, and got me back on track. It wasn’t easy – I’d often manage a whole paragraph over two or three hours – but I knew that it was working, so tried to stick at it. Some days, it was soul destroying, and I just wanted to give up. I’d try writing at home, writing out of the house in cafes, writing outside in the garden. Nothing seemed to make a difference.

Having just moved back home from uni for the first time in four years, this also saw a huge change in my lifestyle. Living at home is something I am finding really hard now that I’m here for good. Or until I find a job which means I can afford another option. As my mum works from home, I find trying to do work nigh on impossible without being interrupted by noises, or without having to plan my day so it fitted with her routines.

After a few weeks of feeling defeated, I took some time away in my Grandma’s house, which was standing empty. She didn’t have internet, there was barely any signal, and it’s not near a busy town centre or somewhere I could get distracted.

I didn’t know how I was going to find it, so originally just went for a couple of nights, but the first time I was there I managed 7000 words, the most I’d written in weeks.

I stayed a few more times, longer length, to try and bash out as much as I could. With my manuscript meetings every Friday, I got into the routine of staying for four days and then coming home to use the internet and Skype.

Being away from the world for that amount of time, and being left to just write at my own free will was priceless. It gave me back my confidence in my novel, and on my writing breaks I’d often flick through the photo albums left out in the living room from when my grandma was younger. It motivated me and cheered me on, and I really appreciated the time I spent there.

Having my independence back, to a certain extent, also did wonders. Running off my own schedule, without being questioned over my plans for the day or where I’d be for dinner, really helped me crack down on the word count.

I ended up changing the plot of my novel towards this period too, as I didn’t want to include my grief in it at the time, as it was something I was still dealing with. I took out a huge part of the story, something I’m looking at editing back in at a later stage, when I feel more comfortable.

I didn’t initially realise how much grief would effect my novel, but then again I never thought it would.

I’d definitely recommend taking some time away from your writing, unless you have the urge to write about what you’re experiencing, as I know that can sometimes help.

For me, having my own space, without the distractions of social media, was a saving grace.

It makes me sad that my grandma will never get to read my novel, or any books I write in the future, but I’m sure she’ll be pleased I stayed in her house and it helped.

love sophie

 

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