Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Story Must Go On

Last week my family and I came back from a family trip to find that our doggie had had a heart attack a few hours before we got home and died.

Everyone went through the normal sadness and shock (since we’d talked to my mother earlier in the day and the dog was fine). We comforted the kids and talked about death and made promises about future dogs.

Then I spent the rest of the week getting rid of pet beds and leashes and everything that had belonged to the mini doxie we all loved so much. But every chance I got, I sat at my computer to work because I have a deadline at the end of this month that has to be met no matter what happens in my personal life. Except there was a problem . . . I didn’t feel like writing.

Like the kids, I was sad, and after 13 years of listening to the sounds the dog made around the house, or having her lay on my favorite chair that she claimed in my office while I worked, now there was a void.

As writers, we have to be able to step out of ourselves and into a character’s head and feel whatever emotions that character is feeling. I realized that I could do that, but I just didn’t want to. I didn’t care about my heroine’s problems and I didn’t want to write anything funny or witty. I wondered how authors who have lost friends, and husbands, and parents, and the most horrible of all, children, can ever sit at their computer and write again. Then there are those that may have lost their homes and all their possessions in these hurricanes that won’t quit. There are numerable mini and major tragedies that happen to us all the time and yet we still have to produce and find inside us the story and all the emotions that are needed for a satisfying read.

So even though I didn’t feel like writing, I thought of my agent, and my editor and readers who will hopefully one day read my book – who deserved to be treated to the best story I’m able to write, no matter how I’m really feeling -- and I wrote.

By the end of the week, I thought of how lucky we writers really are. Mentally stepping out of ourselves for a while IS actually a great gift. Just like readers pick up a book to be transported to another time and place, and to leave their everyday problems behind for a couple of hours, writers do the same when they write. This is why books are so important for our souls.

Now, would I have been able to ‘get on with life’ as quickly if my loss had been a human family member? Probably not. But, I want to think that though it would have taken longer, my books and those of my friends still would have helped. For this reason, I’m grateful to all my favorite authors who continue to write -- no matter what. So, off I go polish my book, which will meet its deadline.


Colleen Thompson said...

Your post really touched me. I'm sorry about your beloved little friend, but I think you're right that writing can be a way to cope with the stresses of life. I'm glad you found your way back to it.

JoAnn Ross said...

Oh, Lara! I'm so, so sorry! If it makes you feel any better, I've no doubt our dear Allie The Wonder Hiker, who we lost to cancer a few years ago, and Cindy, our own miniature doxie, were there to greet your doggie when she crossed that rainbow bridge and now they're all running (as you know it's impossible to outrun a doxie!), chasing balls and birds, and chewing up toys together.

And of course you'll get another furry baby! I've often thought that the ability to bring a new dog into the family, when the odds are you'll be heartbroken yet again, is proof of the resiliency of the human spirit.

Good luck with the polishing!

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Oh dear, Lara. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your precious little friend. Tremendous dog love that I am, I understand this sorrow only too well. How fortunate you are, though, that you have found the strength to work through your sadness. Not everyone can do that, myself included. Really hard knocks and heartbreak tend to lame me. So I admire your ability to push on and keep working. I'll close with a nod to all JoAnn said. I, too, am a firm believe in the Rainbow Bridge. Anyone who has ever seen love brimming in canine eyes has to be believe. I also hope you will open your heart and home to a new little friend when you can. Another dog never replaces the one lost, but the heart always seems able to expand enough to welcome a new four-legged friend who we then come to love for his or her own unique and dear personality. It is one of life's saddest twists that dogs must have such short lives compared to our own. Continued good luck to you on your deadline.