It’s that time of year where I have some of my writerly friends guest post on the blog for the holidays. This year our holiday guest posts center around perseverance. I asked my guests to tell us about their lowest points and how they made it through the toughest times in their lives or their publishing journey. So stop by throughout the month to read and get inspired by our guests’ journeys.
We kick off the series with guest, Brianna Shrum, and her story…
I didn’t do Nanowrimo last year. It wasn’t because I don’t love Nano. It wasn’t because I didn’t have a book idea ready. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the time. I didn’t do Nanowrimo in 2013, because in November, I was busy watching my dad die.
My dad was 46, healthy, hilarious, the kind of guy who could enter a room and within five minutes, everyone in the vicinity would be laughing.
(Case in point: my dad and me a few years ago, ruining the family Christmas picture with “The Chandler.”)
But Death doesn’t care a whole lot about who can make a person laugh, or if someone is a picture-perfect, storybook example of an outstanding dad. And cancer CERTAINLY doesn’t give a care. So, my dad was diagnosed with a bizarre, aggressive, rare form of cancer (bile duct cancer. Who the heck gets bile duct cancer?) in August 2013, 2 days before my husband’s and my anniversary. And on November 5th, 2013, he died.
I have never had clinical depression. But I know what it feels like to be hungry for lunch, and too unmotivated to get up and make yourself a sandwich. I know what it feels like to be numb for days. And I know the dissonant feeling that comes from having a baby 13 days after your dad dies, crying in the hospital clutching a newborn, halfway because I was so happy to have this brand new baby, and halfway because I could not fathom that two weeks ago, my dad had died, and that was why the delivery room felt empty.
But I survived. I took care of my kids. A massive part of what got me through it was my faith, kids, my husband, my amazing, wonderful friends both offline and on.
(Me to you, friends. <3 <3 <3)
But another huge thing was writing.
The only thing I looked forward to doing for months was writing. I could sit at my computer and escape into someone’s life for a while. Be in someone else’s head. Deal with someone else’s problems, problems I was emotionally capable of handling.
My approximate writing process:
I just finished writing my sixth book, and in that book, I wrote a protagonist dealing with the sudden death of a parent. She grapples with grief, and confusion about who she is, and huge questions about a faith that used to be concrete and is now just…confusing. I wrote all these little thoughts about sadness over uneaten jars of pickles in the fridge that Dad had bought, and huge ones like what I believe about God, that I had dealt with (and am still dealing with) into Serena Gutierrez. Serena, this book, have been literal therapy for me.
This was my lowest moment. But I have survived. I let myself grieve, let myself lose it for a while, let myself cuddle up with my husband and babies and cry watching Meet Joe Black under a big blanket with a cup of cocoa. And that is okay. That is good. But then I sat at my computer, and let myself be someone else for a while. And without that, I don’t know how I would’ve made it.
So, thanks, Serena. We can do this together.
Brianna Shrum lives in Colorado with her high school sweetheart/husband, two little boys, and two big hounds. She writes dark, twisted, stuff, and light, silly, kissy things, and everything in between. She is repped by the fab Bree Ogden at D4EO Literary, and her debut YA, NEVER, NEVER comes out from Spencer Hill Press in 2015.