Writing Through Stressful Times

I'm terribly blocked from writing fiction right now because I am under a lot of life stress. I am mostly writing up a blog post to just be writing something. Yes, you guessed it, I am writing about being blocked in order to unblock myself.

Which isn't actually terrible advice if you think about it. I've never been one of those folks who moan "OMG writing is so hard! When I write, it's like utter torture!". I mean, sure, if that's what you're into, it's a free country, but honestly, I have never seen the point in doing something I don't enjoy. You know why I don't play trombone? I joined band class in fourth grade and got handed the instrument that was available. I didn't like it, it wasn't fun, so I no longer play.

Writing is usually fun for me. I mean, I won't deny that certain scenes and chapters can be difficult to write, but it's usually a fun sort of difficult. But lately it's just not been happening. Why?

  1. I accept this about myself – I am sometimes intimidated by making major decisions. I am hung up on… the query letter. I mean, I have a completed novel and what's kicking my butt? The query letter which is like three paragraphs and only one page. I know some of the inability is the idea that it is basically attempting to sell my novel and I don't want to be rejected so I want it to be perfect and… here I sit with one sentence written.
  2. I'm having some major life stress that is creating and compounding all the stress in my life and piling it all up with guilt as well.

My dad is desperately ill. In fact, I doubt he will last much longer. I am beset by choices and decisions concerning that with what feels like no family resources to fall back on. I live on the west coast, my parents live on the east coast, and while I make a decent living, I don't have the money to casually fly out to visit. I don't have the vacation time to fly out and act as the competent adult. And I will admit, I don't have the patience to deal with some of the issues. Namely, I get completely conflicting info on my dad's diagnosis, and a nightly call from my mom that's basically an hour of complaining that often, aka always includes complaints about my siblings. There's also the "I want to sell the house and move closer to your siblings, but your father – who btw may have dementia and is certainly not making good decisions – said no, so we're staying here but its so hard when there's no family here to help."

Point – I will say it out loud because I feel guilty and perhaps I should, but here goes. I am not taking a leave of absence (it would be unpaid but I work at a company large enough for FMLA to be in play) simply because my siblings think we should take turns. Both siblings are older. One sibling is on disability, the other has a checkered work history and is currently at a temp job. They live on the east coast to the north, while my parents are in the south. It hasn't been said but I know they resent the fact that I won't casually fly out and deal with my parents, and that one sibling is annoyed that I am very hesitant to take three months of leave to act as the caregiver.

Did I mention the three months would be without pay? And that I would need to maintain my home aka pay rent, utilities etc while away? And pay for my plane ticket and cover all of my expenses and likely help out mom and dad with minor expenses as well?

Did I also mention that it's simply understood that my older siblings, when the time comes, will drive or fly down on my dime because they are drowning in debt? And have credit cards on my account because they can't get their own and yet still play dumb when they casually "accidently" take out cash advances or "accidently" use the cards for non emergencies. Why am I the one who has to budget for the travel expenses of grown adults who are not my dependents? Why am I the only one who even thinks to put money aside for funeral expenses. My siblings don't understand that in order to help them out and to help my parents, I can't afford to jet across the country twice a month and take a ton of unpaid leave.

I know, deep down, that my mom is hesitating to ask me to take leave because she understands the reality, that while I am making a good living, and while taking FMLA leave *shouldn't* impact me, the reality is that I am also covering a lot of things I shouldn't be. As it is, I was already scheduled to visit my parents in late August and then head to Dragoncon, and I am already considering giving up the con, the only vacation I take a year (because my extra money has to be saved for others to travel to help mom and dad) to spend more time with my parents,  and I am pissed and resentful that it's seriously an issue with my siblings that *I* should be stepping up more.

One sibling is worried about losing a temp job that they've only had for months, the other sibling is worried about losing their part time job that they took not because they're flat ass broke on disability and need to buy food, but because they need to pay for their child's expensive school hobbies. I know part of why they're in love with the "mom and dad should move north" plan is because deep down they're likely to end up moving back in with mom and dad.

It's a long day of driving for them to visit my folks. Between gas and food, it costs them about 200 dollars (really me because I pay for it). It's typically a thousand dollars for me to fly on short notice. Mom won't move north because Dad doesn't want to, and neither sibling will consider moving south.

And then my fair side comes in and I remind myself that I am admittedly relieved to be living far enough away to not be "on call", and that I am a terrible sibling and child for worrying about the cost of things when family is in crisis… But at the same time, I can't help but note that I'm monetarily on my own because there's no safety net with the family.

You know what I sometimes consider? Taking the emergency savings and immersing myself in writing and seeing what happens when I have the time to write full time. But there's no way I can do that, because I have to remember, no one else is working and someone has to be making money for the family crisis of the day. And the second I protest is the second I get called a selfish bitch.

And honestly, lately as I stare at the computer, trying to write, I've been feeling frustrated with all of these things and selfish, because part of what annoys me is that no one will just take my suggestions. And I am annoyed that my busting my ass at a job I don't especially care for so my bills and the bills of others get taken care is treated like I'm being selfish.

I could just walk away. Cash out the 401k, build a yurt in the pacific northwest and write. Follow my bliss instead of running the rat race. I don't, because I do care about the obligations of family. I just wish the family would at least acknowledge that I have to work in order to continue to be their safety net.

And that's why I have hardly written and haven't been throwing query letters at multiple agents. I'm dreading every phone call, and dreading my vacation, and every time I sit down to write, I am having these guilty thoughts that my dad is dying and my parents need me but making that choice means blowing through my safety net savings and there's been a lot of broad hints we're likely to see job cuts.

On the plus side, I did just write a lengthy, if ranty and possibly selfish post. So there's that.


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