Coming Clean: The Tricky Business of Writing Your Way through Loss

I have been debating how much of the personal it is appropriate to share on this blog, which is, ostensibly, a blog about writing. Two pieces of advice I frequently give out to those who wish to start a blog are:

  • Post consistently.
  • Stay on topic.

I’ve failed at that first mandate, pretty spectacularly, over the past two months, and I’m also about to unapologetically break ranks with the second.

But, here’s the thing: I’ve got reasons for both bloggy peccadillos. They’re good ones, and they’re closely related.

You see, I’ve been dealing with some, um, health issues, since early March.

And, ugh. I’ve been invoking that cloyingly vague statement ad nauseam as of late. It’s my recent catch-all excuse for explaining why so many disparate bits and pieces of my life have fallen into mild disorder. Nothing major. I’m not homeless, or jobless, or suddenly divorced. But: Unanswered emails, unreturned phone calls, a bank overdraft, a messy bedroom, a pile of laundry that it took me almost a month to fold and put away? I’ve got all those things going on in sloppy spades.

And as I regather the pieces, I feel compelled, also, to explain, with a more satisfying measure of specificity, what’s really been keeping me from keeping up. With blogging. With life. And it is this: I had a miscarriage.

I’ve gone back and forth in my own head trying to decide whether a blog about the writing life was the appropriate medium for revealing such a private tidbit. And I’ve finally decided it is as good a medium as any for the delivery of my sad news, because our work, be it street sweeping or nation building or word wrangling, is always intimately tied up in our personhood. It’s true for anyone, and the axiom perhaps goes even double or triple for those of us who write, because our kind of work is often so much about the personal, the intimate. Even when it’s not, it still kind of is.

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In a very practical sense, my freelance business has wheezed and whined over the course of my loss and recovery. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to take time off when I was suffering physically and emotionally, but of course, when I don’t work, I earn no paycheck. And when I earn no paycheck, I feel enormous stress and anxiety and struggle to pay my way through everyday life.

Herein lies the paradox of the free agent’s life. You are given two options as a writer/editor at large: lots of free time and very little money, or: lots of money and very little time, and never the twain shall meet. Some life-hack gurus and writing coaches will try to tell you that you can most certainly have both, and that if you don’t already have both, it’s because you’re doing it wrong, or because you haven’t hired them to help you radically restructure your professional life, but after almost four years as a freelancer, I’ve got my doubts. And they are abiding. Anyway.

In a less practical sense, I’ve also suffered for my inability to want to write much of anything these past difficult weeks. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block, but I’d call it something close: I needed time to understand and integrate what had happened to me, and it wasn’t a process I felt capable of or interested in writing my way through. This is a bit unusual for me. As is the case with many writers, I normally process things by putting them to paper. But this loss just felt too huge to wrangle with a weapon as puny as language. Even when I was drowning in all these big feelings and wanted desperately to get them out of me and into print.

Come on, now, reader. Haven’t you ever felt this same thing? Be honest. Words, no matter how much you profess to adore them, so often feel inadequate to describe our experiences, don’t they? For all our trying, they fall pathetically short in certain moments. Even when you’re trying to make your whole life an experiment in awkward revelation and radical transparency. Which sorta sometimes feels like what my ultimate goal is with my own writing.

Words suck. They’re snively and tiny and they can’t say half of what I mean. And I’ve decided to post this blog entry never-the-freaking-less, because you know what?

THEY ARE ALL WE’VE GOT!

Imprecise and jumbled as they may be, they’re the only way out of our own heads. They’re the only path that leads us to each other, to any hope of some meaningful experience of shared humanness. So I’m having out with it. This isn’t the forum for gory detail. I shared the story of my miscarriage with plenty of the aforementioned gore on my personal blog, and I’m sharing the contours of it here, mainly as a way back in to writing about writing.

Sometimes, our stories tell themselves, almost of their own agency. And sometimes, they fight us, or fight to stay inside of us, until they’ve formed a bit more fully, woven themselves into bone and flesh. I respect that about my own process, now. I respect it, but I am determined to fight it, just a bit. Starting now.

Buddha - Erin J. Bernard

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5 thoughts on “Coming Clean: The Tricky Business of Writing Your Way through Loss

  1. erinjbernard says:

    Yes, you’ve definitely hit on something when you describe writers as “observers” – of others, but also of ourselves. Not everything we see is nice. Not all the plot twists are welcome. In this age of incredible social connectivity, there is such a temptation to simply play the greatest hits reel and to signal to others only the quips and bits that confirm our infallibility. It’s a common critique of Facebook, et al., and I think it’s a legitimate one. I’m tired of the posturing! I think, like you, others benefit far more when we’re willing to risk Getting Real. Even just for a moment or two. Thanks for your beautiful words.

  2. fredthethread says:

    Oh my, yes, yes, yes, I have felt the same thing. Right now.

    Writing about it – publicly like this, makes you feel naked and raw but I respect and admire your courage.

    sometimes life hits us so hard that I think we are ‘winded’

    My writing life so often makes me an observer, not just of others, but my own life too – writing gives you the distance, the opportunity to dissect, examine, take up all the jumble and messiness that life is and weave it into some pattern or meaning.

    Then you suddenly get such a smack in the face by life – that its all you can do to simply breathe.

    But like all artists, when we recover from that dark place, our voice is authentic, we can write again – we can express and unravel a truth that for once is gut wrenchingly legitimate.

    It’s one thing to see a homeless guy on the street and write a story that makes him a superhero, but its another to write about something that is so deep and dark about our own pain. But to do so, is to be authentic and that is what connects us and others to what we write.

    My heart goes out to you, it really does, but I know one thing, time, and only time, heals.

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