Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tip O'Day #435 - To Wallow or Not?

Guest blogger Connie Travisano Colón on writing through grief.

I was honored when Dixon asked if I would write a guest blog, and told him I would as soon as I figured out a topic. Like any good writer, I spent a good deal of that time procrast…um…proactively researching and formulating ideas. Then I hit a major stumbling block – life got in the way. Actually, it was death.

My mom had passed away in April of 2012. After “going through the motions” during the funeral week, I was hit more and more by her absence during the subsequent weeks and months.

Not only did I neglect to write this guest blog post, but I also shoved aside my magazine assignments and let my newest manuscript take a rest. A long rest. Matter of fact, I was avoiding my office. I had gone back to my part time job but couldn’t get myself to sit at my desk and do any writing when I was home. I still read books. I answered email from my iPad or phone. Of course, as many of you know, I still spent many hours on Facebook – but not in my office.

Then it dawned on me that the phone call about mom had come when I was sitting at my computer working on my manuscript – on a scene that took place in a funeral parlor. I now knew the reason for my paralysis, yet couldn’t park my butt at the computer to write.

Okay, now what?

I emailed my agent, Jill Corcoran (jillcorcoran.blogspot.com). Surely she would give me that “kick-in-the-pants-tough love” advice that I needed, right? Wrong. Her answer surprised the pants off of me instead. In her infinite wisdom, Jill said I should wallow in it. She told me that if I rushed back into it before I was ready, then that would show up in my writing.

So there I was with my bona fide Permission to Procrastinate. I did just that for a while but knew I couldn’t continue indefinitely. Change was in order. First came a complete office makeover. My husband helped me switch around the furniture and reposition everything. While I was at it, I even cleaned and organized. (In some parts of the universe, I’m sure that could be considered a form of procrastination.) I did manage to slowly squeeze out a few more pages of that particular manuscript but it wasn’t a happy reunion. Being a writer of humor, I needed happy.

Figuring that more change was in order, I tried some new things. My friend and fellow creative soul, Art Fyvolent (www.SquirrelVentures.com), was developing a fabulous concept for a pet rescue website. I helped him tweak some of the writing and did a bit of proofreading and editing. It was for all those sweet, innocent dogs after all – I couldn’t say no. So yes, that is why you see lots of dog rescue posts on my FB page now, as a way to thank the pups for helping me get back into writing. This wasn’t my usual shtick, but hey – I was writing again. My paws were stepping in the right direction.

I also joined an in-person critique group in my area with several children’s writers I had met through NJSCBWI. Yay – deadlines, since my goal was to bring new pages to each of our meetings.

The next big change was taking a TV Scriptwriting class taught by Alan Kingsberg (www.alankingsberg.com). Yay – more deadlines! But this was totally out of my comfort zone. I had never done any writing for TV. So I was spending money to schlep into NYC each week to undoubtedly make a fool of myself in front of people who knew what they were doing. Or as my teenage son pointed out: “Mom, you’re the ‘scrub’ of the class.”

Long story short - I loved the class. The ‘scrub’ did quite well, and signed up for another session. I now have a fun pilot episode based on one of my chapter book manuscripts and I intend on writing more TV scripts. The course helped me punch up the humor, along with making every word count since there are strict time constraints for television. Everything I learned is now helping me strengthen my book manuscripts as well.

Bravo to all of those people able to continue their normal writing routines even when life’s big problems get in the way, but if you just can’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. Perhaps taking a slow detour will lead you up a path that is the perfect place for you.

Have I finished that manuscript with the funeral parlor scene, you ask? Nope. But there’s no expiration date on that one and I’m having a blast with other projects. I’m happy and productive with my new critique group. I love the way my office is set up now, and couldn’t be happier with my newfound love of writing TV scripts. (Okay, I lied. I’ll be happier when I actually start making money at it.) I’m grateful that I had the time to help with some behind the scenes animal rescue, and grateful that it helped me get a jumpstart back into my writing chair at the computer. Lastly, I finally managed to get this blog post written for Dixon - phew!

No doubt, Mom would be proud.

Connie has sold over 60 articles and 100 photos to publications including Highlights, Fun For Kidz, AppleSeeds, and Faces. She is currently developing a TV pilot script for an animated kids series.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Connie for sharing your difficulties and explaining the importance of wallowing. When something tragic or life altering happens, I think it's really important to process it. And sometimes that means not writing. I'm glad you made your way through the terrible loss and can write again. :)