When it Gets DifficultWhen it Gets Difficult

Outside it’s a Portland drizzle, the perfect excuse for staying in my pajamas and working on a scene in my book. Today I’m working on the one in which Dad is gesticulating in the kitchen, informing my sister and me that a thief broke into our home while we were at school, leaving us “something very interesting, indeed.”

The scene plays over and over in my head, and as consuming as it is, I can’t type one damned word of it. I swear my hands are vibrating as they hover over the keyboard. I take a sip of lukewarm tea and try again. Nothing. My stomach cramps at the intensity of this struggle. What’s my problem?

It’s as if I have been ripped from the comfort of my warm cottage with the window that looks out onto the emerald green of Oregon, and dumped into that tense kitchen of my childhood, as Dad’s face looms above me and his garbled words command us to follow him to view “the evidence.”

It dawns on me then, that this is like giving birth. Like a twisted vine, there’s fear and pain, relief and joy, all tangled into the same event. And like a birth, at the delivery of a story, I tend to forget pain I had to go through to get to this point.

This has been true for every scene I have ever written. At first the task seems insurmountable, bordering on self-abuse. Why would I ever want to face the pain again? But in order to tell the truth and be heard, I have to. I have to relive every minute of it, until it’s all on the page.

Do you go through the same thing? What works for you when trying to finish something that gets hard?

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