I used to be, well...chatty. I could strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. It was not unusual for me to spend long periods of time talking to total strangers while I waited at the doctors, in a check out line or at a garden center while I picked out flowers for the yard or the cemetery.
Many times I would come back to the truck where Bill was waiting patiently and he would ask me:
"Who was that?"
"I have no idea."
"Well what were you talking about?"
"How can you have a half hour conversation with someone you never met before about nothing?"
"It's a gift. Hey, pull up the road about a half mile. Stella said they might have what I'm looking for."
"The lady I was just talking too."
"I thought you didn't know her."
"And this is exactly why I don't let you out alone."
So, once upon a time, I was that girl. Open, friendly, interested in life. Now I'm not. I'm simply not. I don't know if this is temporary, or if life has just plain kicked my ass and I'm down for the count. I'm not sure I care.
The important thing is, can I still write? Well, that's not entirely true. I know I can write, I am writing, but can I write with emotion and depth of feeling? Can I write with humor when nothing, absolutely nothing in my life is funny?
I was working hard on Maeve and Sean's story. It will be a prequel to the O'Malley series. I've been asked hundreds times to write it and to write Noah and Colleen's story and Patrick and Molly's...well you get the picture. So I'm writing along and feeling okay about my skills.
With each book I improve and I know that. I find and delete hundreds of 'had" and 'that'. I do less of the dreaded 'head-hopping', although it's never been a big deal to any of my fans. After a few books you begin to recognize habits you have that need to go. You learn how to tighten up your story and get rid of unnecessary and or repetitious words or phrases. Writing is like anything else, the more you do, the better you get.
Anyway, I was working on the O'Malleys story and couldn't get past the feeling that something wasn't quite right. By now I know these characters forward and backwards, but this was different. The story begins before they are a couple who produce a horde of children and grandchildren. It's their story, how they met and fell in love. The struggles they face as newlyweds who leave Ireland to begin a new life in the United States could make or break them. Sean is, as always, larger than life, determined to succeed at anything he attempts. Maeve is fiery, independent minded, and not at all afraid to say what she thinks. Things get messy.
I froze up. Is this them? I'm going back nearly forty years. What was she like, this woman that produced Maggie, Colleen and Bridget, three of my most beloved characters. Is the young Sean more like Rory, or Patrick? I can't screw this up, I tell myself. It's too important, too close to my heart.
I sent what I had finished off to a trusted beta. She didn't like Sean. Thought he was too harsh, too controlling. Ugh! The emotion was missing she told me. So I have to wonder if that's because in my personal life my emotions are in the deep freeze.
Always before writing has been a form of escape for me. A way to distance myself, if only for a short time from a reality that becomes more and more painful. I don't want to lose that.
I don't talk to many people, at least not about anything deeply personal. I also have moments when I could toss my cell out the window. Where I used to go to the salon and chatter away the entire time, I now go in with my hair clean and say, "Cut it, no wash or blowout, just cut it and I'll be on my way." Five minutes, tops.
I've lost around 40 lbs, yet my blood pressure and cholesterol are higher than they've ever been. How the hell does that happen? Seriously, I'm off Cheetos and onto lightly salted chips. What the hell! No wonder Sean was always in such a bad mood.
I no longer post on this blog much, unless it's promoting a book. I don't go to chat, am hardly on Facebook and still haven't learned HTML so I can get my website up and running.
Look, I know I'm not the only author going through hard times. I just want to know how others handled/are handling it. Did you keep writing, even though you weren't sure it was anything good? Did you take a total break from it, and if so was coming back like stating over? Did your fans feel as though you'd abandoned them? Did you keep going because you needed the money, not really in a position to worry whether the book was up to what you'd written in the past?
What about changing your genre? Did anyone turn to writing a darker type of romance to reflect what you were dealing with? If so, how did it work out? Was it cathartic in any way? Or did it draw you deeper into the darkness?
Any and all suggestions, opinions, and insight are welcome. You can even tell me to shut the hell up and quit whining. It's not like I don't tell myself that every day.