You see, on August 12, I finished my first draft of Cuddle Monsters. I was ecstatic and heartbroken at once—my little story needs work, but it's still very dear and magical to me, and the thought that it was the end of the beginning was terrifying. But—overall—I felt gratified. My hard work—those days of writing 3k or 4k or, in some blistering moments of utter stupidity, 5k—had paid off. I had the beginnings of something that could be beautiful.
On August 13, my grandfather died.
It wasn't really a surprise. He was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in July 2011, and the fact that we had this past year with him was a gift in itself, but he was such a fighter. I had been up at my grandparents' house only the day before—the day I finished my draft—and when I told him goodbye, I knew this was it. Somehow. It cut into my heart and bone, that last goodbye, but I couldn't let myself cry. I had to think positively. He could still pull out of it. Yet...I knew.
So I wasn't surprised, but it hurt. How it did hurt.
I'll write more about him later—when it's not quite so fresh, so that I can give him his due—but the point is that the Very Good Thing of finishing my first draft was immediately bookended by the death of someone I loved very much.
I cried and mourned, but I've cried in secret many times. Nothing I could do would change what had happened, and I couldn't just snap my fingers, whisk everyone up in a TARDIS and fix everything. I couldn't even dry their tears, so how could I absolve their pain?
I pulled CM open and reread the beginning. The voice was off—you know how the characters are sometimes not totally established at the beginning? Not quite themselves yet, even if you know who they are and what needs to happen? That was it.
I could fix that.
So I did, as much as I could, and I tinkered away with it. They were short, almost mindless revisions—the sorts of things I should've never missed in the first place—but still. I worked with them, fiddled and fumbled until it looked a little better. The ache never dulled, but that silly little project of mine, the child of Hamlet and Elektra and the Brothers Grimm through Science, helped. Not much, not in the long run, but just an increment. That increment was enough.
Writing is cathartic, in a way, although I can't and don't write as a release (that is—if I'm genuinely in pain, there's no way I can write). The ability to create—to make something beautiful, or something with the potential to be beautiful—salves wounds, though it can never take them away. Words give us the ability to do remarkable things, whether hurt or heal, and sometimes just the ability to do that helps. After all, language is how we communicate—how I talked with my grandfather, how he told stories about silly things like green bugs perpetually reincarnated only to be squished while crossing a road, how all those lovely memories are created.
And it was language funneled through my dear baby WIP that, however distantly, helped me in the wake of such sorrow.
Words are beautiful and powerful. Use them wisely.