Mining the Wounds

Last week was a slow one for writing. I’d like to believe this has more to do with the snowy weather than my brain, but probably both were responsible.

Life gets in the way. I don’t know why I seem to forget this.

My life. Love these guys.

My life. Love these guys.

There was a two-hour school delay Wednesday, and then no school for the rest of the week, but somehow I managed to scratch out a few pages of my novel despite hitting another wall (made of brick, rather high) and almost letting it get the best of me.

I’m two-thirds of the way through this draft, and while I have a general sense where I need to end up, how I get there is blurry.

I’m trying to take it one step/scene at a time and not hyperventilate, but there is this nudging voice that says I ought to have a better plan.

That voice says LOTS of jerky stuff and I know I’m supposed to ignore it, and most days I do, but sometimes it gets a little bit loud and makes me cranky. Thank goodness for the bird feeder outside my office window and the gorgeous cardinal that makes frequent appearances. I am so grateful to my husband for what I think is the best Valentine’s present ever.

If you squint, you can see the cardinal's red tail feathers.

If you squint, you can see the cardinal’s red tail feathers.

Another thing that helps get me through winter and novel writing blahs is reading an AWESOME book. The nudgy voice tried to interrupt, of course, insinuating that my book can’t possibly compare, but I squashed it with my boot and kept on reading.

all my puny sorrows

The author writes in an almost manic style, winding these gorgeous and wrenching sentences around and around like an endless skein of yarn, which makes me a bit anxious, but that is, partly, the point.

The book is about sisters, one sane, one less so, and the lengths we go to keep someone we love alive, even when that person would much rather be dead.

But there’s humor in the pathos, which makes it bearable. Which makes life bearable.

In between bouts of novel angst and laugh-crying my way through “All My Puny Sorrows,” I somehow managed to write a draft of a new essay about reading, and writing, my mother’s eulogy.

It started out as a blog post, but as I gained momentum I could feel the roots shooting down, expanding. This was going to be bigger.

It makes sense that my mom’s eulogy was on my mind, because I was also practicing my audition essay for the Lehigh Valley Listen to Your Mother show (a live performance in 39 cities across the US) which happens to be about her death.

As I was getting “all nerved up,” to use one of my mom’s expressions, I realized with a jolt that the hardest performance of my life had already occurred. Reading my audition essay, as vulnerable as I might feel, could not compare to reading my mom’s eulogy.

The dress I wore to my mom's funeral, and to my audition.

The dress I wore to my mom’s funeral, and to my Listen to Your Mother audition.

This June will be eight years since her death. Despite the passage of time, scars remain. Misshapen ridges mark my heart, a topography of grief. Sometimes they break open and bleed.

But that’s what writing is for, to honor our wounds, to face the joy and pain of life, both real and imagined. To not look away. To scratch at the scars if they warrant another chance to heal.

What have you been writing and reading lately? Do you have any scars itching to be reopened?

typewriter-butterflies-badge-small

On Tuesday I’ll be joining Maddy over at Writing Bubble for her weekly link up, What I’m Writing. Check it out and perhaps add your own link. I love hearing what others are up to in their work.

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35 thoughts on “Mining the Wounds

  1. The ebb and flow of writing can be a challenge to master Dana. I am writing a picture book prompt and a short fiction1500 word piece for a magazine competition this week. All things delaying me from my other important projects. Yet I must stretch those writing muscles as far as I can.

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    • Thank you so much for this comment and link! He certainly knew what he was talking about 🙂 That’s great advice, and I try to keep it up as much as I can, because I know how badly I begin to feel when a few days go by…

      And I so appreciate your kind words about my mom. I think she would be proud, too. She was funny in a dark kind of way, because she used to say, “it’s good that I have multiple sclerosis because you’ll have more to write about!” which is sadly true, though I wish it wasn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Im sorry for your loss. MS is a difficult disease to have. You will always remember her words and your time together and I am sure you have become a deeper, more compassionate writer and Mum yourself, because of this experience.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Lindsey. I almost referenced the phrase, “proud flesh,” from the beautiful Jane Hirshfield poem that I read on your blog, “For What Binds Us.” That poem struck such a chord in me, the idea of our pain and wounds leaving behind marks that evoke pride, not shame.

      “as all flesh,
      is proud of its wounds, wears them
      as honors given out after battle,”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful sentiment, Dana.
    “But that’s what writing is for, to honor our wounds, to face the joy and pain of life, both real and imagined. To not look away.” It can be so difficult to not look away.

    I’ve been working on a lighthearted piece about the novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

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    • Thank you Jackie, it really can be hard not to look away. It certainly would be easier. But I think it’s good to layer in light hearted writing along with all the scar tissue stuff. I loved Confederacy of Dunces! Looking forward to (hopefully) reading your take on it.

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  3. my mom died 21 years ago already, but the wounds are still raw. I went to a Neil Diamond concert last night and thought about her most of the evening; she loved Neil Diamond!

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    • My mom liked Neil Diamond too! I don’t believe you ever truly heal from losing such a close loved one, and in a way, I find solace in that. I don’t want to be “done” mourning my mom and missing her. It’s nice to do things that bring you close, like going to a concert that reminds you of your mom.

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    • You’re welcome, some weeks pose more challenges than others (re both weather and life). I really like your steeplechase metaphor, and it also reminds me of the cafe of the same name that I loved writing at in Brooklyn before we moved.

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  4. Oh, Dana, I know those wounds especially when it revolves around the loss of a parent. This piece resonated as I approach the 6 year anniversary of my father’s passing this month.
    Loved this from your piece – “But that’s what writing is for, to honor our wounds, to face the joy and pain of life, both real and imagined. To not look away. To scratch at the scars if they warrant another chance to heal.” Sending hugs. xo

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    • Thank you Rudri, I know you understand. The anniversary is always tough, isn’t it? I know for me, I kind of feel it coming on a few weeks ahead of time. I hope you get through it with peace and love, as best you can. Sending hugs back at you.

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  5. “But that’s what writing is for, to honor our wounds, to face the joy and pain of life, both real and imagined. To not look away. To scratch at the scars if they warrant another chance to heal.” – That might be the truest and most wonderful paragraph about writing I’ve ever read. So thank you for that.
    I am very thankful for cardinals against the white (and gray) and for the words that keep coming, even when I think I can’t possibly say another thing.

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  6. That summary of writing at the end is awesome – it gave me shivers. You have a real gift. I can feel how much you love your mum in this post and also how she has inspired you. I might read that book – it looks compelling! Have you ever read any books by Rachel Joyce? I love her – she’s brilliant at finding beauty in the places you least expect it. Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting. xx

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    • Thank you Maddy, for all of your kind words. The book is really great, I just finished it and am still feeling the echoes. I haven’t heard of Rachel Joyce, but I will definitely look her up, I love how you describe her writing, that sounds like something I’d love.

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  7. You’re absolutely right in your summary of writing-it’s exactly that for me too. I also find life has an annoying habit of interrupting me-sometimes I can still find time to write, even when it’s hectic, while other times that wall is too high and is littered with too much litter.

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  8. I hear your pain about being stuck in the middle – it’s tough when you know where you need to go but not quite how to get there (I’m in a similar situation at the mo). This week must have been hard, bringing back memories of your mum. You’re right when you say that reading her eulogy was the toughest thing you will ever have to do. I couldn’t have done that – it’s extremely brave. Hope you have a better week next week.

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    • Oy, middles, good to know I’m not alone. Hopefully we head toward the end soon! Thank you for your kind words about my mom and the eulogy. It definitely was the hardest thing I’ve done. I think you rise up to occasions when you have to, at least that’s what I suspect happened to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree that writing helps make sense of the hurt we experience in life, and occasionally it can make the pain easier to bear too. Retaining your composure to read your mum’s eulogy must have been almost impossible and once you’ve got through an experience like that, other things must seem quite easy. Good luck with the writing. I love the sound of that book you’re reading, will look it up.

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    • Thanks Emily, I do agree that writing about the hard stuff helps. Still painful, but there’s something cathartic about it. The book is really great, dark yet funny too, somehow.

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  10. It sounds like you’ve had an awful lot going on, but also that you’re doing exactly the right things to get those creative juices flowing again. Reading other people’s work is invaluable I think. And hopefully once you’re over the emotional hurdle of your audition (and that snow starts to ease off) you can get back in the zone with your novel. Just keep swimming! X

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  11. I’ve always turned to writing in difficult times. When I was a teenager it was my diary, these days it’s the blog and the novel. Life will always get in the way but I’m glad to hear that you quashed that self-doubt. Here’s to a better week next week. xx

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  12. This post resonates a lot. Hugs for you for that week.
    Writing things out helps to get them out of ours heads where they’ll just go round and round and round. One of the novels I’d been working on, although trite, had been written when I was in a very different place and reading through it, when coupled with external events, was at best uncomfortable. However, it reminded me how driven and passionate those feelings were and shaped some extremely important scenes. X

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