The theme this month here at YA Outside the Lines is perseverance, something I know a lot about. I don’t know anything about most other stuff—car maintenance, math, the difference between an adverb and an adjective, or computers (when I push a button and my computer turns on, I consider that a miracle).
But perseverance? I know the subject well. And I’m willing to bet you know it well, too.
No one gets through this life without facing challenges, whether they’re annoying minor problems, like dealing with a flat tire on a rainy night, or stressful but often exciting life changes, like a new job or going off to college, or the toughest, most gut-punching challenge of them all, loss.
We’ve all been there, and everyone’s experience has been as unique as the way in which we’ve dealt with our challenges, and how we’ve persevered.
I’ve been at this writing thing a long, long time. The ups and downs have been many, both personal and professional. I’ve lost family members and pets, moved four times (including one jaunt halfway across the country), seen my kids graduate high school and college and move onto their adult lives, been through countless illnesses, let my hair go gray, and had some publishing success, but many, many more rejections.
I could write a lengthy thesis about how I persevered through all these challenges, but I’ll cut to the chase with the best coping strategy that’s worked for me (and paraphrasing Dory from Finding Nemo): just keep writing.
Writing is what’s kept me going, what’s helped me to escape my troubles or work through whatever is going on in my life. For example, 2009 was a dark year of tough, gut-punching challenges for my family, with the loss of four close family members, including our niece and my mother. Seemed like we were in perpetual mourning. I took to my keyboard as an escape. Up to that point, I’d been working on light mysteries, but what came out of me then was a different story and much darker.
A Moment After Dark, set during WWII, is about a young woman with a strange power, the ability to tell a person’s future with a touch. She sees the attack at Pearl Harbor and, in trying to raise the alarm, she comes to the attention of a Nazi spy and a government agent who’s head of a secret group of people with abilities. Both men see what my heroine considers a dubious gift as a weapon to help them fight the coming war. There’s lots of intrigue and romance and a big fight at the end.
The core of the story has the heroine, whose mother has recently died, not only learning to accept her ability and how she can use it for good, but also coming to terms with her loss. Kind of what I was doing as I wrote the story. Coming to terms. Not “putting it in the past” as some people advise, but accepting it. Not moving on, moving forward. Not giving up—persevering.
So, that’s my advice… Write. Work through the worries, the angst, the grief. Write a short story to take your mind off what’s troubling you or write a novel and pour it all onto the page. When you’re overwhelmed, and the undertow is so fierce it’s dragging you under, and there’s a wicked riptide whipping you out to sea, just keep swimming—and just keep writing too.