Writing: Working Towards the Future

For many months I have been working on a manuscript called Mirror Image. It is a project I have always felt was worthy of telling – not only for the story itself, but for the underlying messages too. It is a manuscript I believe in and I know that, if I were to write it well, it is a story that would catch editors’ attention.

However, it is also a story that runs parallel with my own life. Whilst it isn’t the story of my son’s suicide, it closely travels the path of what my family went through. This makes it a manuscript that stirs emotions in me that I cannot control, cannot combat. And I doubt I’ll ever be in the situation to face the heartache that the manuscript puts me through when I’m working on it.

After much thought and soul searching, I have decided to put this manuscript aside…permanently. The pain it causes me isn’t healthy. The feelings it stirs in me makes me depressed, which leads to not being able to sleep and when I do…I have nightmares. In turn, the sleep deprivation causes me to feel irritable and angry towards other people. And I don’t mean just angry, I mean really, really angry – to the point of wanting to hurt someone, anyone. This isn’t my character at all and it scars me. I thought I could pull myself through it and I thought it would become easier with time, but I can’t and it isn’t. For my own sake, I have decided that I have to put my health first in the hope that my emotional strength will improve over time.

I have also decided, finally, not to tackle the manuscript I had planned and started to write called Suicide: A Mother’s Story. If I can’t write a fictitious story about suicide, there’s no way I’ll be able to write the true story.

Having given myself permission to stop, I feel somewhat relieved…and free. I didn’t realise these two manuscripts were like dark clouds hanging over me until the decision to stop was finally made. There’s no guilt, which is something I expected. I do not see the time spent on these manuscripts, especially Mirror Image, as a waste of time either. I can chalk the time up as writing practice, but more importantly I see the writing as therapy. Maybe that’s all I really needed from the manuscript. To face the emotions and torment I felt. Maybe I’ve spent the last two years working on something that has made me face my past so that I can move on to my future.

Knowing When the Time is Right

It’s been almost three years since I lost my son. This morning, after spending several hours on another project, my thoughts returned to the manuscript I started less than a year after his death. I thought I might pick up where I had left off and see it through to completion in the next year or so.

I thought about how I would structure the manuscript, what would be included and how I would tackle the more sensitive issues. To my surprise, I found a way around the ever present issue of the possibility of offending people with my words. I started to think, “I can do this!”

Then I sat at the computer and opened the old documents. I read through what had previous been written and by the time I got to the end, which was really nowhere near the end of the real story, I was in tears. Memories of those dark months resurfaced and I could feel depression creeping in on all sides.

I’m not ready to write that manuscript. Perhaps I never will be. I see no reason to put myself through something (again) that tore my life apart. For now, I’ve closed the documents and returned to the edit of Mirror Image – a safe story – because I know now is not the right time.

Mirror Image: First and Only Excerpt

The other day I visited Struggling Writer’s blog and found an excerpt of his current NaNo writings. I was impressed by the fact that he had posted part of his work and left his site thinking about if I could do the same thing. My answer was definitely not.

However, I found myself thinking about this for way longer than I should have done and eventually came to the conclusion that a writer should be confident enough to show a part of their work – no matter how small. I slept on that realisation and the next day I decided to post an excerpt of my own work…but it didn’t happen.

Today I’m going to take a leaf out of Struggling Writer’s book and I’m going to share the unedited opening of Mirror Image. This will be the first and only excerpt I’ll place here and I hope you like it (I won’t be offended if you don’t).

“In grief at your death, but in gratitude for your life, and for the privilege of sharing it with you, we commit your body to be cremated.”

Kirsti Fowler stared at the coffin, tears blurring her vision, a lump causing pain in her throat. Was her twin brother really in that wooden box? How could it be possible? She turned to her parents and found them huddled together. Her mother sobbed uncontrollably and tears rolled down her father’s cheeks. She had never seen him openly cry before and it made her feel uneasy. Kirsti’s older brother, Tim, stood ashen faced on the other side of them. He stared at something just above the coffin. Kirsti had seen that look many times before and knew he was a million miles away.

Her gaze returned to the framed photo of Owen sitting amongst the beautiful array of flowers on top of the coffin. The smiling face stared back at her and a small sob escaped her throat. How could he be dead? A mistake. It was all a horrible mistake. It had to be. She swallowed and turned her attention back to the grey-haired priest.

“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

They say write what you know. I know about a family’s suffering when a young person dies and I wanted to explore the emotions my family felt and the way other people reacted to us in a setting that may overlap my own life, but is completely fictional in all other ways. More than that I will not say, except, I guess you can now see why the words are flowing so easily.

My NaNo Progess:

Today’s Word Count: 2,228

Mirror Image – 23% Complete

11,580 / 50,000