A childhood friend who had been heroically battling cancer for five years succumbed to it within a two-week period and both his passing and the funeral service were heartbreaking. I received three rejection letters in a row for my stories and an email informing me that I didn’t get into the summer writing conference I’d optimistically applied to. In the midst of all this, we had to drive ten hours to Indiana and back to retrieve our youngest from college, throwing my normal work schedule off-kilter and forcing me to scramble to meet deadlines.
It’s extremely hard to feel like a failure on so many levels. I try telling myself that this is what separates the wheat from the chaff, but somehow I can’t bring myself to care about whether I’m wheat or not. I’m just too emotionally and physically exhausted. I contemplate spending the day in bed but the thought of lying immobile with only my racing thoughts for company isn’t particularly appealing. So I drag myself to my green corduroy chair with a cup of coffee and pick up my journal to write my morning pages. I give myself three simple goals each day.
- Get up
- Dress up
- Show up
For days that require something extra, I add
- Pick up (your pen)
- Grow up
- (Don’t) Give up
Age and experience have taught me that things will get better eventually and that writing will help that process. When times are challenging you can try to work through the forces that assail you by writing about them in a journal, a personal essay, or a poem. Or you can use your writing to escape reality, to take a break from the pain and despair and sadness in the real world by escaping to a fictitious one where you alone are in control of all the outcomes. Words are our friend. They will always be there when we need them most. It’s up to us how we choose to use them.