When a Writer's Heart is Broken, When You've Lost Your Spark
Sometimes, when a very bad thing happens to a writer, something so terrible and shocking that you feel you can't go on, you think, That's it, the light has gone out. I'll never write again.
You really feel that way, too. Like something that was there is gone or perhaps it died. No more flames, embers, sparks, just a cold, dark place where something once lived.Maybe someone you trusted betrayed your trust or perhaps a child or lover died. Whatever it may be, the world changed forever and you know it.
I once had someone whom I thought was not only my lover, but also my best friend, tell me that there was someone else and she didn't feel she could talk to me like she talked to him. I was young and naive and felt like my heart was broken. It was. As we sat discussing it, I looked out the window at our front yard and thought, "It doesn't look the same." It was the same yard I'd looked at for years, but suddenly, it was different. Then I realized that the whole world looked different to me. It always has since then. My perception and my writing changed in that moment.
But let me tell you something I've learned about writing, not just from my own experiences, but from watching other writers as well. It never really dies. It's like a seed that's covered over by concrete to make a sidewalk. People think, Well that's it, nothing can grow there anymore. The seed lies there in the dark, pressed down under the unrelenting weight of all that cement. It is still a seed, but its world and reality have changed.
Then, a small crack appears, due to weathering, use, age, in other words, the passing of time. A few drops of rain filters down along with a little warmth from a ray of sun, and the seed starts reaching for that tiny sliver of space, an opening. Then a bit of green appears and the next thing you know, there's a small plant and maybe even a flower. The seed's world did change forever, it is now surrounded by concrete and struggles to survive, but you just can't stop it. It's always there, even if it's covered by cold, hard concrete. Writing is that way.
It can't really go away because it's who you are, but it does change when you have life changing events. After the blast, the shock, the crisis, you may feel empty and cold inside, dark, used up, and you think, It's gone. The problem is that you didn't know what it was in the first place. Writing lives within you. It's a living thing, like the promise of the plant in the seed.
It changes as you change, so if you go through a life changing event, don't expect to look back and find writing in the same old place looking just like it did before your attention was drawn away. It will be different and you may not recognize it, but it's there. If you've grown harder and more cynical, don't expect your writing to be fuzzy, cute, and warm, or even friendly. It may not like the changes, may not like the changes in you, but there it is. It needs you and you need it.
A while ago I had a health crisis. A specialist looked at my EKG and said, "You have some heart damage. Apparently there has been an event. Did you have a heart attack?"
I assured him I hadn't had one that I remembered, but smiled wryly and thought to myself, There have been lot's of events. The line from an old song came to mind, "This old heart of mine has been broke a thousand times..."
But my heart and my writing have survived, evolved, endured. Apparently, though breakable, the human heart is quite a survivor after all. It reminds me of Claude Rains in the Movie, "Casablanca." Humphrey Bogart reminds him that he is pointing a pistol at his heart, to which Claude Rains, playing the part of Captain Renault, suavely replies, "That is my least vulnerable spot."
Many writers have very active emotions centered in their hearts and they may feel those emotions more intensely than some people, but just remember this, all that exercise builds up the heart so it can take a beating and keep going, keep reaching for a bit of light, will survive. That's good news because the best writing is always from the heart.
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