Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tragedy and the Writer

As writers, we spend a lot of time in our heads. That's where we form our stories and gestate them until they're ready to be born. But what happens when tragedy strikes and your head is so full of struggle, worry, and sadness that stories barely have room to breathe much less grow and flourish?

I've spoken to a number of writers recently who have gone through difficult situations. They report that their heads feel foggy, that they have trouble concentrating, and lack the drive needed to motivate themselves to write. Recently, I've had my own troubles. Back in July, my uncle, a person who'd been a great influence on my life, passed away. It's tough enough to lose someone, but to know it didn't have to happen makes it even more difficult. If someone hadn't chosen to drink and drive, my uncle would still be with us.

My head was full--of grief, of anger, of confusion--a fog of emotions. Instead of my stories, I dwelt on his stories--memories of times spent with him and with his family. But, also on the news stories and accompanying photos of the accident. I caught a last minute flight to my home state of Oregon, so I could grieve with my family.

The only thing I wrote during that time was an obituary and a memorial I read at the funeral. They were both unlike anything I've ever written before. But what was good to see was the healing power of words, the healing power of shared stories. When we speak or write of loved ones we've lost, they live inside our heads for a little while, just like our characters.

I allowed myself some time. Only time can clear the fog. Be patient with yourself, and allow yourself to grieve without expectations. I'm just starting to get back into novel writing. As the grief loosens it's grip, tiny story ideas sprout up. The creativity is all still there, somewhere inside my crowded head, and soon there will be enough space that stories can grow again.


Melinda Friesen writes novels for teens. SUBVERSION, book two in the YA dystopian One Bright Future series was released in September of 2016 from Rebelight Publishing Inc.


  1. So sorry to hear to hear about your uncle, that's so awful. I have a hard time writing when I'm stressed, so I couldn't imagine trying to write while dealing w/grief. I know I couldn't!

  2. Be gentle with yourself. The stories will return. Peace to you and your family.

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