Once upon a time and not so very long ago, I outlined an August in which I’d make final revisions on three essays, but my story took a turn I never anticipated.
Backstory: Instead of writing and hiking at my leisure, I spent the month living in a chair-bed (it wasn’t very good at being either of those things) in my husband’s hospital room. Every two or three days, spelled by my children, I’d go home to wash clothes, water the plants, and sleep through the night. Repeat for three weeks, then shift to husband’s rehab schedule: sleep at home, drive to hospital every other day. Now we’re home, with yet another schedule: home health visits, modifications to house, husband’s doctor visits.
Summary: There’s been no time to think about anything beyond immediate needs, and these past few weeks certainly haven’t allowed time for revising my works in progress or for any of the activities we usually associate with writing, such as putting words on paper. No keyboard, no social media scrolling, no research, and not much focus.
Scene shift: The novelist Elizabeth Daniels Squire told me about an event in her own life that I kept recalling throughout this time. She was the first to come upon a traffic accident where a man was dying from his injuries. Liz wasn’t a doctor or a nurse or (as far as I know) in any way trained to help in a situation like this one. Besides, it was clear that no one could stop the inevitable. So Liz knelt beside the man, held his hand, spoke to him, made sure he wasn’t alone in his final moments. While her compassion-brain did all of that, her writer-brain, she said, was making notes about this stranger’s last minutes. She knew she’d use those details in some later book.
Development: Like Liz’s, my ordinary-brain did what needed doing in the moment, but my writer-brain kept working as if there’d been no interruption at all. No revisions were made to any work in progress, but writer-brain
- made a list of titles for a friend’s series of poems (he isn’t required to use them)
- observed the people in the hospital—whether patients, staff, or visitors—and created backgrounds for them because they will surely become characters in a story or novel
- made notes for this post
- developed story ideas involving the never-ending string of emergency medical helicopters landing above us
- considered ideas for an essay about elevator rules and how they are radically different in hospitals
- created the opening paragraph for a short story
Tie it all together: This is when the writer’s brain proves its agility, switching from the writing we do when we have the luxury of time to the work that can be done in odd moments.
Wrap up: This story isn’t finished. We’re waiting to find out what happens next.
End of Chapter 1
ONE CATHARTIC THING
The Hu, a Mongolian band that speaks to me in a language only my spine understands
You can read previous issues of b.read.crumbs here.
~You can share this post on social media or receive updates on new posts by clicking one of the buttons below~