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The longer road back
The passage from death to life
My word for 2023 is “resurrection.” After a messy, vision-clarifying 2022, I wanted to choose something that reflected my desire for a fresh start. I wanted to rise from the grave — figuratively, yes, but literally, too. I wanted to step into the next era of my life, wholeheartedly and without regret.
Then life happened. My health took a turn for the worse. I lost access to Evrysdi, a disease-modifying therapy for SMA, resulting in a pretty significant dip in energy. Shelving TSATS in May led to a months-long creative crisis that I’m only just emerging from. I haven’t accomplished half the things I set out to do in January, which is the way of things, but still demoralizing in the worst of ways.
All this to say I don’t feel very resurrected. If anything, I feel like one of those boxelder bugs, flat on its back and flailing mercilessly. It’s almost comedic, watching those little limbs go to town, single-minded in their goal yet failing big time. I, too, am flat on my back, grasping at nothing and suffering because of it.
We’re halfway through the year or something, which is also not helping my crushing sense of failure. I was supposed to query this year. Cue sad trombone. Now I’m gearing up for yet another book, freshly outlined and glittering with possibility.
About halfway through plotting this project, I doubted my decision to shelve TSATS. I doubted my decision to work on something new, as opposed to finishing a half-written book from 2021. I doubted everything from my vision for the book — it feels too YA, I told my friends, to which they said, you haven’t even written it yet — to my future as a writer.
I wanted desperately to commit. To feel excited about something again. But I couldn’t.
I wrote about trust before, back when I was bouncing between book ideas. I had come upon a fork in the road, and I had to choose between the familiar (half-written book from 2021) and the unknown (nebulous idea in the form of a Pinterest board). After much waffling, and a whole lot of angsty brooding, I went with the unfamiliar, thinking — erroneously — that in making a decision I would regain some trust in myself.
And I did. A little. But not as much as I’d hoped. The more I played with this nebulous idea in the form of a Pinterest board, the more I did not trust myself. Your ideas are dumb, said the voice in my head. You’re writing adult fiction. This is too lighthearted and sweet. You should give up now instead of wasting God knows how many months on a draft.
I told this to a friend, who, in all her wisdom, responded with, “You realize you’re still plotting, right?” In other words, your book is still in the oven, so why are you judging the finished product? I hemmed and hawed and kicked a mental rock because, by God, she was right. So I put on my big girl pants and got back to work.
The more I played around in the sandbox of my creativity, the more I realized this nebulous idea in the form of a Pinterest board wasn’t YA but in fact a dark fairy tale in a space fantasy trench coat. My brain wasn’t broken! My ideas were good! I just had to trust that things would come to fruition.
“Trust” rattled around my brain like a coin in a pinball machine. Trust that things will come to fruition. Trust that even the most nebulous of ideas will take shape with time. Trust that I will find my way back to myself, even in moments of crisis, when resolution feels far-off and doubtful.
I’ve never changed my word mid-year. I haven’t felt the need to. But “trust” feels right in ways that “resurrection” never did. Will I rise from the grave? Sure, I do it all the time. But first I have to trust that resurrection is even possible.
First I have to trust the passage from death to life.
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