The Business Rusch: One Phone Call From Our Knees

The Business Rusch: One Phone Call From Our Knees

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

 

In 2009, Mat Kearney came out with a song called Closer to Love, which is, apparently, a favorite of the DJs on the station I listen to. It still plays in rather heavy rotation for an older song, and I hear it at least once a week. The song isn’t one of my favorites, but it has a line that stops me every time I hear it, because it’s so true.

We are, as Kearney states, just a phone call from our knees.

Dean and I have had those calls throughout our lives together—when my father died, when Dean’s stepfather died. The calls that just take your every day life and turn it into a completely new life, one that changes things so utterly, you can barely remember what life was like before that moment.

We had one in August. Our friend Bill Trojan had died, leaving Dean as the executor of an estate so messy that a lawyer friend of mine (who handles estates) called it one of the top ten estate stories of all time. My friend did not mean that in a good way.

Our lives changed in that moment and, I swear, almost cost Dean his life one night. He blogged about this after the estate closed in February. Even though his blog is extremely clear, it doesn’t quite convey the pressures of living in this high-stress environment for months on end.

And that comes after years of dealing with changes in our profession, some of which we’ve only begun to understand in hindsight. It comes on the heels of some difficult changes in our personal life, which I’m not going to go into here. We went from high stress to high stress for almost a decade, and then, just as it seemed the stress would ease, Bill died, and we realized that we had no idea what stress was.

I’m not writing about this to complain. We’re both honored by our friend’s trust in us, and we’re trying to do our best by him. We both miss him every day that we go without a curmudgeonly phone call, filled with both complaints, laughter, and trenchant observations about the world.

It is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that Bill’s death not only caused a disruption in our day-to-day lives, tore up our hearts, and changed how we live, but it also had an impact on our writing.

Professional writers who’ve been to our Oregon workshops—the Master Class in particular—call these events “life rolls.” When we taught the Master Class, we (along with Loren Coleman) invented a role-playing game that mimicked the way a long-time professional writer’s career works. Before I go any farther, no, we’re not teaching the Master Class right now, because publishing is in such flux that we have no idea how to present it in a way that will be useful to professionals five years from now.

Maybe, some day, we’ll do it again. Once things settle down.

Back to the role-playing game, which we called (unoriginally) the Game, we had disruptive events coincide with every writer’s role-played career. Those events were called “life rolls.” Sometimes they were positive—for example, you got married (of course, you’d lose money for the cost of the wedding plus weeks (maybe months) of work, but you might not have to pay all the bills on your own any more).  More often than not, the rolls were disruptive. We took one bestseller (in the game) out for five years with a succession of life rolls that prevented her from working.

For years after the Game’s invention, our students would send us personal experiences and add, “This belongs in the Game as a life roll.”

Yep. Bill’s death belongs in the Game as a life roll.

In order to deal with this monster estate in a timely way—a way that wouldn’t permanently eat up what little funds Bill had left and our own savings—Dean let almost everything else go.  He tried to write in September and somehow managed to finish some really good stories, but as October and November came along, he simply couldn’t concentrate any longer—at least, not on something like writing.

He is only now turning his attention back to writing, eight months after we got that knee-dropping phone call. And I’m pleased he’s doing so. I also understand the struggle. When my dad died, I couldn’t read or write for six months (which plunged me into a living hell, because everything I do involves reading and writing). The counselor I was seeing at the time told me such reactions are normal, and it would ease, but in the middle of it all, it seems like there is no way out.

When we realized how hard it would be to deal with Bill’s estate, we agreed that one of us had to keep our day jobs, which meant that I had to keep writing rather than go to Eugene every week with Dean to clean up the mess that Bill had left behind.

I finished a novel, continued to write this blog, wrote some other nonfiction, and finished three novellas. The novel and the novellas were real struggles, which I blamed on the projects themselves. The nonfiction wasn’t as hard, partly because I used to work in radio on a daily (sometimes hourly) deadline, and I’d trained myself to write fact and opinion under the most difficult of circumstances.

I started the next novel on the schedule and wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote, never feeling like I was getting traction, always feeling confused and out of sorts. I wasn’t finishing anything, even though I produced my daily word count plus, and I’d often have to review what I wrote just to remember where I was.

The year from hell continued, with lots of other disruptions, so that we got to the point where we actually hated to hear the phone ring in the hours before we got up. (People who don’t know us call then; our friends call in an emergency.) I keep track of the day in my desk calendar, and not a week went by without me losing an entire workday to an emergency of one sort or another.  Yet I persevered, continuing work on the never-ending novel, taking time to write a short story or two under deadline, and this column as well.

Until earlier this week, when I swear that my brain melted. I looked at the book and realized I had 100,000 out-of-order words with no real hope of figuring out what I was doing or where I was.

I talked to Dean about it, and he finally convinced me to let him help. He would read the book and see if he could find the common thread or if I had written past my ending or if I even had a book at all.

I told him I had no idea why this book wasn’t working and why, even though I was writing, I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around what was happening.

He smiled at me. He then gently reminded me that we’d had a heck of a life roll in the fall.

I shook my head. He had the life roll. Look at that blog post of his: he went through a lot. I stayed home and worked.

“Sometimes,” he said, “being the support staff is harder.”

I disagreed then, and I disagree now. I’ve never seen a man work that hard in my life. That hard or that long or with that much focus. I was, and am, impressed.

Yet I know he was right about being support staff. My brain was busy these past eight months with Real Life. Imaginary worlds just weren’t as vivid or as important as they usually were—and that included other people’s books, television, and  movies. I had little patience for anything that didn’t grab my attention immediately.

I had an unacknowledged life roll.

And I had to acknowledge it—not just acknowledge it, but also acknowledge that for me, at least, it still continues. In the past two months, two more friends have died and so has my uncle. The friends, while not close friends, were still people I enjoyed and who passed away too soon (one at 50, the other at 62). My uncle, whom I hadn’t spent a lot of time with since I moved out West, was an influential person in my childhood, and so losing him was,  in a sense, the reminder of the loss of an era.

Plus the deaths resonated with Bill’s, and with my thoughts of late. Dean and I are putting our own estate in order, and I have started a series that will eventually appear on the blog about estate planning and small business. Part will go in the Freelancer’s Guide, because I realized I had missed that topic, and part will appear here, in the Business Rusch. And then I’ll combine it all into something that stands alone.

Yep. Another project. But one that’s necessary, I think.

The brain is starting to come back. And as it has, I realized I haven’t written about life rolls in quite this way. I wrote about setbacks in The Freelancer’s Survival Guide, but because I was dealing in general with freelancers, I didn’t talk about the way life rolls can impact writing.

And they do. Because like it or not, life rolls mess with our brains, our creativity, our energy, and our ability to concentrate.

I know this. I’ve known it for a long time. I have taught professional writers about this for more than ten years now.

In fact, I’ve just watched another friend go through this same kind of slog during the same period. Her father died a few days before Bill, and she had a novel due (and a real day job). She did her best, was just a little late, and only recently mentioned that writing feels fun again.

I reminded her about life rolls.

Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

The fact is that no one does a job at 100% when something major is happening in life. We all lose focus and concentration. Some places offer family leave or compassionate time. Others put employees on reduced duties or take the employees off the complicated problems and put someone else on that job.

It’s just, as writers, we don’t have the luxury of putting someone else on the task. We either delay the deadline, slog through, or abandon the project altogether.

In the middle of this mess, a book dealer told me about Tony Hillerman’s first missed deadline, which occurred when Hillerman’s brother died, and Hillerman became executor of the estate. Hillerman had a long career and, from what the dealer told me, this happened in the middle of it. I’m sure the dealer—who is a good friend—was offering a sideways life lesson that I was ignoring.

I did my job. I finished my deadlines—except the one, the 100,000-word novel that needs an editorial eye, which it’s getting at the moment. I’ve kept my editor at the traditional publishing house informed as to what’s going on, and he’s understanding.

I’m not. I want to be robo-writer, the person who can write through anything. But I don’t know any writers like that. That’s why we included life rolls in the Game.

Some things just slow you down or take you out for a while. And while I understand that, I sure as hell don’t like it.

The thing is: I’m not sure if that 100,000-word novel would have been a mess even without the life roll. Every now and then, I take on a project that’s a stretch. Or sometimes it’s even beyond my current skill set. And I do that with or without a life roll. Those projects get tossed and restarted, redrafted usually, because I told the story in the wrong order or from the wrong character’s point of view, or I wrote until I figured out what the story was, and then I had to actually write that story, not the story about writing the story.

In other words, even when life is normal, my process is a messy one.

It all goes back to something Neil Gaiman said once. He said that something you write with a headache is as good as something you write when you’re feeling fine. And it shouldn’t be.

But it is.

So as messy as my life has been these past few months, as hard as it’s been to concentrate, I’m probably putting out the same ratio of good to bad stuff that I always do. It just feels worse than it is.

The key is something I tell my students: You have to give yourself a break. You must look at your work as if you still had a day job. If you’d call in sick to a real job, then don’t write today. If your boss would tell you that you’re being ineffectual and you need some time off so go home, dammit, then you should really knock off writing for the day. If you’d take a vacation or compassionate leave or family time at the day job, then do so as a writer.

Oh, that advice is so easy to give. So hard to take.

Dean told me two weeks ago, as more stuff happened in our lovely little spat of life rolls, that I should take April off. Instead, I’ve written my usual number of words of fiction, my weekly blog, and a few other nonfiction pieces. I’ve also started the major research on the estate article.

I didn’t want to take April off. But I did want to quit focusing on the Impossible Book. So I started a project just for me, something fun. And I’ve knocked off early more nights than not. I’m actually caught up on my television viewing for the first time in years. I’ve read two novels on the day they arrived in the mail, something I haven’t done in longer than I care to think about.

And I’m starting to noodle the idea of a vacation. Somewhere easy. Somewhere close. Somewhere fun.

Life rolls knock all of us to our knees, whether the rolls come by telephone or via e-mail or by a simple knock on the door.  We’ll all spend some time on that floor wondering how the hell we got there.

The key is not that we’ve fallen, not even how long we remain on our knees with our hands hiding our faces, but how many times we’re willing to get up. Once we get up again, then we go forward in the new reality, forging a new path.

My students have heard me say that countless times, and I’ve spoken from experience. But it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve said it or how many times I’ve lived it: I still need someone else to remind me about how difficult life rolls are and how different we are after we’ve recovered from them.

Don’t hear me wrong: I’m not giving anyone an excuse to skip writing. I’m telling you to evaluate your life and realize that at times, the writing will be hard, the business will be hard, life will be hard.

All we can do is get through that, and then go back to what we love.

Sometimes the key to surviving a life roll is to just get through it.

I hope I will do so with the same grace under pressure that Dean has shown these past eight months. He’s been amazing. In fact, when that knee-knocking phone call came last August—and it was a phone call—I’m not even sure Dean went down. He just started moving forward with great purpose and a built-in recognition that everything had changed.

Apparently it takes me longer.

I guess it’s time to deal with the fact that I’ve had a life roll. Now I need to deal with the fallout from it.

Time to stand up and face the music.

I just hope the music isn’t a three-year-old Mat Kearney song with a devastating lyric. I’d like to listen to something else for a while.

I’ve written this blog now for three years (Jeez, as long as that stupid song has been out), and I generally focus on business. When I was writing the Freelancer’s Guide in this space, I remembered the emotional component of business. I’ve been ignoring it of late. I’ll bring bits of the emotional side back in as I continue.

Thanks to all of you who support the blog. If you like what you read, if you’ve learned something, if you’re a frequent visitor, please leave a tip on the way out. The interaction, from comments to donations, keeps me writing the blog. So thank you.

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“The Business Rusch: “One Phone Call From Our Knees,” copyright © 2012 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

 

 

 

126 responses to “The Business Rusch: One Phone Call From Our Knees”

  1. Ms T. Garden says:

    Thank you. I couldn’t have found a better way to express my current situation. Your blog said so much that spoke to me I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate it.

    Thank you!

  2. Thank you for being honest with us, Kris. My father died the same day your friend did, too young at 68, and I am the executor of his estate. It’s been a tough year and I think I’ve finally got the last of the tax situation finished (we’re in Oregon too).

    I recommend Port Townsend, WA for your little vacation 🙂

    • Kris says:

      Sarah W., I’m sorry to hear about your father. Losing a parent is really hard. I hope you ease into a better year. (And isn’t Oregon a bitch on estate stuff?)

  3. Tori Minard says:

    I just wanted to add that when I said writing keeps me sane, I didn’t necessarily mean writing for publication (or writing to that inner critic). Sometimes I have to step away from that and write stuff just for me, for fun, and if no-one else likes or understands it, that’s fine. That’s the kind of writing I go back to when the world is just too much.

  4. Tori Minard says:

    Having a baby is a major life roll–probably one of the biggest. You can learn to adapt, of course, but nothing is ever the same after a baby–the world and everything in it looks different from the parenthood side of the street. Pregnancy can be exhausting, especially if you have complications (I did), and parenthood isn’t easy even if you have an easy kid. If you have a difficult kid, like mine, and very limited funds, it can be one d*&! thing after another. This isn’t the life roll I mentioned above; it’s been going on for 11 years. I’ve chosen to give up a number of hobbies I used to enjoy so I’d have enough time to write, because even though I don’t have a day job, I’m worn out with all the Stuff that goes on around here. For me, that’s one of the keys to making it through a difficult time–paring down my activities to what’s really necessary. For me, one of those necessary things is writing. It helps keep me sane.

    • Kris says:

      Tori, thanks for both comments. I hope that Chrissy took a peek at the “having a baby” comment. And yes, writing for fun is the best way–not writing for a deadline.

  5. First, huge hugs to both you and Dean. All I can say is @#$%. Those life rolls really suck!

    Second, I hear you about the timeline for grief. I used to say, “I’ll give myself a few hours grieving time for a health problem, a day for a divorce, a week tops for a death of someone I truly loved and be done with it.” Ha! What I learned is that grief is never truly over–as in gone I’ll never grieve again for that person/event/thing. Instead it hits you again at the oddest times, happy and sad, and sometimes years later. Even if your life is satisfying and happy, it still hits you. Sometimes for a minute and sometimes for longer. And, with each new grief event, the past ones can hit you again and pile up for awhile. I’ve learned to recognize and embrace those moments for what they are and then move forward when I can. Giving myself permission to feel those moments is huge. Giving yourself time to experience it and deal with it in whatever way helps is a gift to you and those who love you.

    Finally, I appreciate your ability to share not only your wisdom about writing and the business, but I also appreciate your willingness to admit to being human. I’ve never cottoned to robots, so it’s good to know you aren’t one. 🙂

    A good friend of mine taught me a phrase I’ve found useful whenever I’m striving to be perfect but instead come out human. She said, “So, you have a belly button. So what?” Referring to the fact that only those not born of human parents (or what some refer to as angels or God herself) exist in the universe without a belly button.

    So, I say to you, You have a belly button. I’m glad you’re human.

    Maggie

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Maggie J. (I have a belly button? Really?) I do know what you mean about the moments. Once I walked into my own house on Thanksgiving, and it smelled like my grandmother’s house. I had a mixture of sadness–she’s gone (and so is the house)–and joy that the scent took me back there. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Kris says:

    Folks, thanks so much for all the kind words–personal and private–about my life rolls. The amount of support has been amazing and overwhelming. I just want to say thank you.

    I did just do the post to share how life rolls impact all of us. I will get through mine (nearly am through it, I think, since I’m one of those people who stops after the crisis, looks back, and then reacts to what happened). I hope those of you who shared about yours get through them as well.

    And thanks too for sharing here. As I mentioned down-thread, it’s good for all of us to hear that others have been in these situations and survived. Thanks!

  7. Leah Cutter says:

    Hey Kris —

    Thanks so much for posting this. I’m not in the middle of a life-roll now, but I may have one coming (change of position in the day job.) So I’m getting everything that I can possibly get done now.

    I like the idea of another poster, above, with writing chores vs. writing. I don’t always have the best health, so I frequently break off those chores off to do when I’m not well. I may pile up some of these chores, so if the new job hits (August) I’ll still be able to do something.

    Take care and be gentle with yourself. And if you ever want to come up to Seattle, I have this lovely vacation rental you could stay at, that I run out of the basement of my house. Separate entrance, kitchenette, in the middle of Capitol Hill.

    http://www.slantedivyvacationrental.com

    Leah

    • Kris says:

      Thank you for the offer, Leah. The rental sounds marvelous, and we do need to get to Seattle Some Day Soon Now, if only to see friends. I usually leave my chores for days when I know I’ll be down as well. I hope your (future) life roll is short and easy.

  8. Mercy Loomis says:

    Thanks Kris for writing this, and everyone else for sharing. Hearing things like this was a big help during some of my Life Rolls in the last few years. In particular, I heard an interview once with Neil Gaiman where he was talking about his father’s death. He’d been in the middle of writing a book when his father died, and the book just died too. He was never able to get back into it. When my cousin (who was more like my brother) died I was halfway through a challenge to write a 10,000 word novella in one week. I didn’t make that deadline. Finishing that story was hard; there were days when I only got a paragraph or two written. Neil’s story helped me a lot, so I know your post and the comment stories will help a lot of people too.

    I totally understand where you’re coming from in regards to being support for Dean. My husband is unfailingly competent. When our dog bit someone and we had to give her up, he handled everything. When our friend’s liver and kidneys failed suddenly, it was my husband he called, because he didn’t have any family nearby and he needed an advocate right now. (By a honest-to-gods miracle, his organs rebooted and he’s doing fine now.) But he knew my husband would be able to handle everything, and he was right.

    When you see the unfailingly competent person falter, you know things are really, really, really bad. And it throws you. You realize that Pillar of the Earth may not be as thick as you once thought.

    My wonderful project-a-holic husband does not realize when he’s stressed. When he’s hyperfocused, nothing gets in his way, and stress would get in his way, so he just doesn’t acknowledge it even to himself. As his support staff, it’s my job to get in his way at those times, because by the gods, he will notice me, no matter how grumpy it makes him at first. When the animal shelter he volunteers at required everyone to go to a class on caregiver stress, I asked if I could go too, because it was more important that I learn the symptoms than him. He’d never notice.

    We’re both big fans of the spontaneous vacation. We like road trips. Sometimes we’ll pull out our copy of Cafe Wisconsin and pick a random restaurant and plan a quick road trip. (After making sure it’s still in business, of course.) We usually find a winery or other small interesting attraction on the way, or if nothing else some lovely scenery. Or we’ll hop in the car and drive three hours to the Quad Cities where my husband grew up, so we can get ice cream from Whitey’s and chili from Ross’s, and then we drive home again. (I shudder to think what our carbon footprint is like.)

    Kris, the anecdote about your grandmother is wonderful. It reminds me of when we went to my husband’s grandfather’s funeral. There was a tiny, wizened old lady with an oxygen tank that we were helping out to her ride. I was holding the door and my husband had her on his arm and was helping her navigate the step. She was moving very slowly, of course, and there were people behind us, and my husband said, “Don’t worry, we’ve got all the time in the world.” And bless her, she snapped, “Speak for yourself, sonny!”

    My grandfather’s homepage on his web browser is the local paper’s online obituary section.

    • Kris says:

      Mercy, thanks for the wonderful, thoughtful comment. Your husband and mine sound quite similar. Only there are times when I can’t get through. (See that picture on his blog. ) I love your idea of the restaurant vacation. Sounds right up our alley. (We often go to historic hotels, for the experience and for the destination.) A lot to consider in your comment, so I shall. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Chrissy Wissler says:

    I’ve heard you and Dean talk about life rolls a few times and I’d always nod my head because what you said makes sense and how sometimes writing just needs to go to the back burner while the life roll passes. I understood what you meant, but I didn’t really understand. At that point, I hadn’t yet had a life roll of my own and I figured when the time came I’d recognize it for what it was because it’d be so huge and devastating how could I not recognize it? Easy, right? Yeah, not so much. I knew with the upcoming birth of our daughter in August I’d have a life roll. New little ones, first time parents, it’s a given writing will be non-existent for some time, but I never expected the life roll would start waaay before she was actually born. From my energy dropping to almost nothing and then learning all these new and exciting details about pregnancy, baby stuff, labor, infants….I just never expected my writing to drop off as much as it has. And yet, my brain is being pulled in a completely separate direction. For a while I was having a hard time forgiving myself for not writing as much (at a level/output which I knew I could easily hit) and to be honest, it’s a slow process for me to accept. I’m doing my best and learning to just enjoy the process. It’s not easy. The *major* life roll hasn’t hit yet, but what else can I do besides let go of my stress, my worries, and just accept I’ll write what I can? Now if only critical-Chrissy could so easily accept this and I’d be golden. At least until August and then I’ll be sleep deprived.
    Thanks again for this wonderful post, Kris. Every time I hear from you and Dean talking about life rolls it’s another push for me to letting go and enjoying the moment and what I’ve accomplished so far.

    • Kris says:

      Ah, Chrissy, I was wondering if that would happen. Pregnancy changes everything. A friend said that when she was pregnant it felt like someone had stolen her brain. 🙂 I’m so glad you’re going to go easy on yourself. You’ve accomplished a great deal, and you’ll continue. I’m glad you’ve decided to enjoy the moment, because it’s one that only happens a few times in life (if at all). Hugs, and thanks for the comment.

  10. Janet says:

    Kris, the layoff notice has morphed into a reassignment. I’ve been offered another job in another unit down the hall, and I’m going to take it. So lemon has turned into lemonade. Now that the weight of a potential job search is off my shoulders, I feel I can concentrate on writing.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

    The novel you describe writing is how my brain functions (or doesn’t) all the time–stress or no stress, that’s just how my Asperger’s Syndrome brain works. I’m sorry you had to experience that state, and the life experiences that produced it.

    I’m in the process of writing a grant proposal to obtain a professional Aspie coach to deal with that mental state. I’m very glad Dean has been your support through the experience.

    I appreciate you both more than you can imagine, and my prayers are with you.

    Carolyn

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Carolyn. We’ve discussed this out-of-order writing thing before. I know we share it. I do it all the time too, but I usually can figure out how to put the pieces together. This time, because my brain is busy, I got stumped. Thank you for the kindness–and I haven’t forgotten the art! I will use it soon. Thanks again for everything.

  12. Melissa says:

    Hi Kris,

    You and Dean are in my prayers. Hoping that things get better and on track soon.

    Melissa

  13. Ginny says:

    And here I thought I’d simply died as a writer. Now I realize I’ve been rolling in “tumble” mode for the last five years, one thing after another. Writing hasn’t been a priority–not because it shouldn’t be, but because it couldn’t. Even writing non-fiction has taken all I had to give, and the entire time, every cell in my body mourned my disconnect with fiction. I thought I’d simply lost everything, but your post gives me hope, Kris, that a little rest from all the rolling might rekindle that spark. It may take awhile to get back onto my hands and knees, and even longer to stand up again, but you’ve shown me it’s at least possible. To you and all these other writers–bless you for your courage. I hope this year gives you and Dean both a plethora of opportunities and all the resources you need for rest and recharging.

    • Kris says:

      Ginny, “tumble” mode does last for a long time, sometimes. Be gentle on yourself. Like Ramon mentioned below, sometimes the writing vanishes for years, but it will return. Different, and better. I’m glad the post helped, and thanks for the good wishes.

  14. Ty Johsnton says:

    Kris, thank you so much for this post. It is perfect timing for me. Going through a “life roll” right now that could last anywhere from a few months to a year, maybe longer, and trying to write fiction has been like trying to chew my way through an iceberg.

    I’m taking a break of sorts from my fiction for a while, with hopes that in a couple of months things will have settled down or I will have at least wrapped my head around everything.

    Oddly enough, nonfiction isn’t giving me nearly as much of a problem. Must be my decades as a newspaper journalist. Also, I’m still being somewhat productive by typing in some old trunk manuscripts written in longhand or on a typewriter, and maybe I can eventually clean those up and make something out of them.

    • Kris says:

      Like you, Ty, the nonfiction is easier for me as well. I do think it uses a different part of our brains than fiction does. I love your phrase “chewing through an iceberg.” Yes. Exactly. I hope your life roll is a short one. Thanks for sharing, and for sharing the ways that you’re dealing with it all. (Hadn’t thought of typing through old manuscripts. That might feel good as well.) Thanks!

  15. Ramon says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Kris. It really hit home. I had been somewhere in the middle of my second book when my dad crossed over. Before then, I was writing like it was my only job, meditating twice a day, exercising every day, etc etc. When he passed, everything stopped, and I didn’t write for almost seven years. I never thought anything could so devastate me, but it did. I’m a different person and a more professional (I hope) writer now, so I am able to gauge myself better, write when I’m sick, or know when to give it a rest. Thank you again for sharing that excellent blog. 🙂

    • Kris says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Ramon. I’m glad you’re back writing, and I do understand how an event like that can make things change dramatically. Thanks.

  16. JD Rhoades says:

    “JD, I might ask you for some of those stories as I do this estates series.”

    Give me a holler, I’ll do what I can.

  17. Thanks for posting this, Kris. It helped crystallize where I’m at in my head.

    I’ve been mentally kicking myself for not having written any new fiction, but I’m a burst writer like Dean – sometimes I write, sometimes I don’t, but when I write I am generally pretty tenacious about writing the whole book and writing it fast (crazy fast. Last summer I wrote a novel in 40 days spending no more than 20-30 minutes a day. Which is one of the ways in which I kick myself. If only I’d been writing I could have written 3 novels by now…)

    There have been other things keeping me from getting into the headspace I need to get to in order to write like that. Sometimes it’s hard to extend that kind of grace to ourselves that we would naturally give to a friend who we knew was juggling a lot of things (in my case it’s getting a handle on a bad run of migraines that have really interrupted life, even though it’s not particularly serious in the grand scheme of Life Rolls.)

    I would so naturally tell a friend “hey, it’s okay, you’ve been handling a lot of different things.” but it’s hard to tell it to myself! Hope you find the words to have a similar conversation with yourself soon. 😉 And that you get that vacation. Some of my recent life rolls have been vacationy ones, I need to remind myself that they have served part of the purpose of rejeuvenating me so I’m ready to get into that writing frenzy that I feel is just around the corner.

    • Kris says:

      Karen, I beg to differ that migraines aren’t serious. I get them as well–they’re part of that chronic health thing I talk about–and I can’t write when they hit. For those of us who work primarily with our brains, not being able to think is hugely serious. So take care of yourself when they hit. (Pot, Kettle–again. ) Anyway, I sometimes think life rolls are tougher on burst writers because you guys have to start up again at some point, and it’s easy to put that off for more life rolls. Me, I write whether I want to or not and go even crazier if I can’t write at all. It’s an addiction, as someone pointed out down-thread, and I use it to keep me going. So starting up is never a problem for me, but stopping is. I do envy you burst writers though. You get so much done in life and in writing. As for the conversation with myself–all morning, yesterday, and as I wrote the blog. I’m a tough and stubborn so convincing me is hard, even when it’s me I’m arguing with. (Thank heavens I’m a Gemini.) It’s getting through my thick head that I should get some rest. So…I’m beginning to have rest plans. 🙂 Thank you for the comment.

  18. Laura Ware says:

    Wow Kris. I knew you and Dean were going through it, but you really spell it out here. Please, please take care of yourselves.

    As you know, I got hit with a life roll last month (the death of my father-in-law). Even though it was expected it really rocked us. Things still don’t feel settled, at lesat for me, as I struggle to write a little every day (and try to be kind to myself if I fail). These things don’t seem to have handy-dandy timetables and wish I could rev up and get everything done I want and need to do, but some days it’s an acheivement to get out of bed, much less write.

    I know I am probably trying to rush things, so I will try to remember what a friend told me last month. She said the writing would go off the rails for a bit, but that was okay. The important thing was that I come back to it.

    [[[hugs]]] to you and Dean. Thanks for writing about this.

    • Kris says:

      Laura, don’t you wish these things had timetables? You know, I will be over the grieving on June 5 at 3 p.m, so don’t talk to me until then. Wouldn’t it be easier? You’ve had a life roll for years, and it’s transitioned into something new. You’ve lost your schedule for one thing. I’m not surprised it’s had an effect on you. You will come back to it. (And if we need to talk privately, e-mail me.) Hugs to you.

  19. Thank you for sharing this, Kris. I do kind of think of you as a robo-writer in that you are disciplined, efficient, and knowledgeable, so I appreciate hearing that even if you’re getting the words out, you may not feel good about them, or they may need redrafting.

    For my main life roll, I stopped writing cold for two weeks. Then I wrote an avalanche about what I was going through; the few times I paused for fiction, it seemed trite or wrong. You were the one who gave me permission to just grieve and said not to force myself to write 2000 words a day, or I’d end up hating writing. Slowly, over months, I was able to start creating for fun again, drawing and cooking and, eventually, writing fiction (although my husband read my first post-life roll novel, a romance, and said, “Why are they so mad all the time?” and I said, “They aren’t”–but of course, they were.)

    More recently, I’ve had happy life rolls, mainly my second child and some indie publishing success with non-fiction. For some reason, this has stymied me a little as well. Lots of conflicting desires–enjoy my babies! Get back up to scratch in the ER day job! Write more non-fiction! No, write fiction! And, truthfully, I feel both more content and more tired, which means I’m less likely to write a novel, more likely to sleep or watch TV for almost the first time in my life. While I mourn my previous hyper-efficiency, I am more relaxed and enjoying my life in real time. I want to store this sweetness up until my next life roll/phone call of doom. I assume my joy will make its way into my writing as well.

    Hats off to you and Dean, always role models who are willing to share your humanity.

    • Kris says:

      Thank you, Melissa. I remember your awful life roll, and how courageous you were through it. And your writing came back stronger and more heartfelt than ever. I think, as someone said down-thread, hyper efficiency isn’t always the best way to produce good work. (And that’s counterintuitive too! Dang!) But thank you for the great comment. Hugs.

  20. John Walters says:

    I have to confess that I stopped commenting on your blogs because Thursday is my busiest day-job day and it would be days later before I found time to read your latest post. This one I glanced at and couldn’t stop reading. I am going through such an intense life-roll at the moment (about which I can’t yet give details) that it makes last years look like a joyride in comparison. At least I knew the trauma would hinder my writing and allowed that factor in my planning and scheduling. And though I haven’t had time to read all the comments above I realize through skimming them that many of us are in the same boat. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories. Sometimes just knowing others go through things makes it easier. I have the idea at times that I’m the only one with problems. Ha!

    • Kris says:

      John W, I think we all believe that we’re the only one with problems, and we don’t ask for help. Sometimes help is exactly what the comments have been on this blog this week–a sharing of similar experiences so that we know we’re not alone. I hope your life roll isn’t as bad as you think it will be and you will get back to writing soon. Thanks for the comment (and feel free to comment later in the week. Lots of folks do).

  21. I am sympathetic to the robo-writer desire. When the doctors decided Randy had to have a bone marrow transplant, I had to change my life around — while he was in the hospital and then when he came home. Big changes. And I have to admit I was blocking — the possibilities were just to awful to think about. I continued to work my three jobs, write, and clean the house and make sure the pills were ready every week. It was crazy. And it didn’t work so well. I dropped the ball a couple of times during big shows last summre. Unheard of. I am perfect. Well, okay, not, but as close to it as you can come. Highly capable and reliable. The woman I work with pointed out that I was not acknowledging my feelings. It was true. He had been a miracle case, from the time he was diagnosed. But that could change in the blink of an eye and it was just too scary to contemplate the things that could happen (and did happen to others in his boat). It still is.

    At some point, I have to make some decisions about what I want to do and how I want to do it. But I feel trapped by the economics of our situation, my age, and my own selfish hopes and dreams. My coping mechanism is compromise. And I need to get on it. I just kept thinking of that while I was reading your blog.

    Thanks for sharing, and thanks for the reminder that we have to take care of ourselves when things get tough so that we can do what we have to do, what we want to do, and what we need to do. And remember, a very wise teacher told me that it’s all just words. You can always take another run at the book. I think this situation would warrant a free pass to do take that route that even more if it needs it.

    • Kris says:

      Thank you, Thea. My way of dealing is like yours: head down–charge! It works most of the time, but things do get missed, and it’s hard. You’re right about the words. (sigh) I love the way that mine are coming back to haunt me with this post. And hugs over all you’ve been through. (Best to Randy.) Thank you.

  22. Marie LeJeune-Meyer says:

    Thanks for this Kris. It was more cathartic than I can begin to say to read this…especially after the year of “life rolls” that Nathan and I have had. You wrote many things I really, really needed to hear.

  23. Steven Mohan says:

    An incredibly courageous post, Kris. Thanks for sharing. You are spot on, as usual. (So is Dean–ALSO as usual.) Hoping for better thing for both of you!

  24. Nathan says:

    Had to stop reading this blog twice. Once to go over to a journal website and start a writing log and second, to tell my wife I loved her.

    Sometimes, with some people, devestating life rolls bring out the best in them. From this entry in the Business Rusch my suspicions that you are just one such person were vindicated. This was an excellant blog.

    • Kris says:

      Nathan, you stun me. Thank you. And knowing what you and Marie have been through this past year, well, what we’ve experienced pales. Thank you, and hugs.

  25. Russ Crossley says:

    Everyone’s grieving process is different, Kris. Each of us find our path through these difficult times, you will find yours. And unfortunately, each process can be different from the one that preceded it. We like to think we made it through the first time so the next time will be the same. Often it’s not because the relationship to the person lost this time was very different the one before.

    We have such empathy for your and Dean’s situation because we too have been through these times and know first hand it’s not easy, and there are no easy fixes. People who don’t understand like to say pull up your bootstraps and carry on. What nonsense.

    Deal with these events in the way that makes the most sense for you, it will help you in end. We’re behind you 100% regardless.

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Russ. Not only are everyone’s grieving processes different, but I’ve learned that grief is different for each death. I didn’t grieve my mother in the same way I grieved for my father. And this whole Bill experience is new in and of itself. Thank you for the support. It means a lot. (And where are the bootstraps? Do I need boots first?)

  26. I truly cannot imagine a better timed post. My grandmother, who was an enormous part of my life, died this Monday. And the words dried up. I felt so alone and pathetic until I read your article. Kris (and Dean) you are my mentors, whether you know it or not. I’ve read every post on both of your sites and they are….brilliant. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Once I actually have money there will be tips abounding in your Paypal accounts. For now, I hope my thanks and appreciation will suffice.

    • Kris says:

      Oh, Tara. I’m so sorry. Be gentle with yourself. It sounds like you lost someone wonderful and important. Hugs. And no worries. Thanks and appreciation are plenty.

  27. “I’m starting to noodle the idea of a vacation. Somewhere easy. Somewhere close. Somewhere fun.”

    My experience, as a writer/mother/wife, is that it does not really matter *where* you go, as long as you go. I don’t know how it is for you, Kris, but I find that the greatest value for a vacation for this writer is not that it lets me relax, as that it lets me *recharge*. I used to think the best vacation was to lie on a beach somewhere (not hard when you live on the Left Coast) and just veg out. But instead, I found that a really good vacation was one that stimulated me with new ideas, new places, connections forming in my head between disparate elements and new discoveries that, months later, percolate to the surface as stories. For example, on my latest getaway with my own handsome (workaholic) husband, we stumbled across the former home of a literary icon of mine, on a day when it was open to the public; the subsequent tour revved me up to the point that I wrote for nearly a week non-stop. Other times, I have found myself enriched by museums, art galleries, street fairs, just about any venue when I can see and hear the creative efforts of other human beings. Almost always, they re-invigorate whatever drives my writing, and I come back refreshed (though usually in need of a long nap). So my point is that it doesn’t have to be a long vacation, or far away, but it might help if it was intellectually stimulating in some way. As writers, that’s where the wellsprings recharge — in our minds, not in our bodies.

    That’s my experience, anyway. I hope you and your Handsome Hubby have a wonderful time no matter what you decide. You have certainly given your readers a lot of your time and experience; I wish we could pay it back somehow.

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Sarah. Great suggestions all. I find that when I travel to research, I get tons of relaxation points and tons of writing fun. So that’s a great consideration.

      As for paying us back, you folks do with the comments and support of the blog. We get a lot out of that. But the best thing everyone can do is pay forward, to someone else who needs the expertise and ideas.

      Thanks again.

  28. Thanks for this, Kris. What a powerful piece.

    I hit a wall with my travel schedule last spring (I was traveling 2-3x per month to teach, and trying to launch several projects, and was working on my current book and wondering why I kept missing some deadlines –– luckily mostly self-imposed). It took me *months* to get out of this, partially because I had gigs on the calendar that had been booked a year in advance, and then, when those finally let up in late fall, because I had health issues to deal with, including complications from oral surgery.

    Now that I have cleared enough space, my work is flowing in such a way that feels good. I’m able to take all the writing I did on the book and actually structure it in a way that makes sense. Fancy that. I simply could not do that before, though I did keep writing.

    Thanks for all you offer.

    • Kris says:

      Thorn, thanks. I’ve been there. I once traveled every other weekend for a year. I’ll never do that again. It just piles up and then getting out of it because a nightmare in itself. It sounds like you’ve figured it all out, and are getting back to it. Congrats.

  29. Joshua Kehe says:

    Thanks, Kris. I needed to hear this.

  30. Tori Minard says:

    What a difficult year the two of you have had. I hope it gets much better for you soon. I’m having a life roll this year myself, and although it’s basically self-inflicted, it’s still tough to deal with. Sending happy thoughts your and Dean’s way. 😉

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Tori. All life rolls are hard, self-inflicted or not. Most of mine have been self-inflicted because “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” So take care of yourself.

  31. Kris,
    Oh, what to say?

    First, of all it is amazing how you guys are handling this, and how you can speak so clearly about it. We are all only one phone call away.

    Second, I think this kind of thing tends to happen more when you get older. I am in my late forties, and I seem to lose at least one friend a year at this point. Just this year we lost one of our dogs, and recently had a longtime friend enter hospice after 4 years of dealing with colon cancer.
    What is fascinating (if you can use that word) when this happens is how dramatically life changes. The things we thought we cared about may not matter anymore. The goals we spent so much time and energy striving for may no longer be relevant.

    Grief, you know. Things change and we grieve. It’s normal, it’s human, it just not comfortable, or fun (or anything close).

    So, I’m left here thinking about the challenges in my life. Nothing as big as what you guys when through with Bill, but big enough. I have an aging parent that is taking more and more time; a dying friend; some personal health stuff that is challenging; and on it goes. Life goes on, so these things go on.
    I’m still a full-time freelancer, and you know what saves me? What helps me deal with all of this? Writing. I get up early in the morning and write only new words, no editing (thanks Dean!), and that is what helps me keep balanced and sane. Being able to dip down into the sea of creativity is… Well, you know what it is. I can’t even imagine not being able to write at this point (and that must have been so hard on you); it’s what keeps me afloat.

    So, now I have another reason to want to meet you next week at the Superstars Writing Seminar. Not only have you given so freely of your wisdom and experience in the writing business; but the humanity you are so gracefully expressing here makes me want to know you as a person.

    Thanks Kris,
    Robert

    • Kris says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Robert. My grandmother once told me that she wasn’t afraid of dying because she had lost all of her friends. She was 90-something at the time, and speaking to her two granddaughters. (My cousin was with me.) My cousin said, “You have us, Grandma,” and my grandmother, bless her, said that she loved and appreciated us, but it wasn’t the same. Then she said, “You’ll see,” and let the matter drop. Thirty years later, I’m beginning to understand what she meant.

      And you’re right: writing does help. Writing without pressure or deadlines. Just making stuff up. I think the sense of obligation hurts because it puts pressure on. So I’m shoveling off the pressure so that I can go to the office because I want to, not because I have to.

      Can’t wait to meet you and the others either. It sounds like it will be fun. And I like Vegas a lot. So we’ll all have fun, talking writing and stuff, and seeing the sights. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  32. This reminds me of a quote from Buzz Aldrin (paraphrased and probably mangled): “Workaholism is the most dangerous addiction, because other addictions make your life visibly worse, so you can see when you bottom out. Workaholism makes your life superficially better, it makes you a success, a hero; so it’s harder to see the brick wall approaching.”

    I’m not saying you’re a workaholic; but bravely soldiering on no matter what has a lot of similarities to workaholism. You keep accomplishing goals, you keep “succeeding”, and so you never have time or perspective to see the larger fall that’s looming around the next bend.

    Take care of yourself. Take care of Dean, and let him take care of you.

    • Kris says:

      Very accurate, Martin. And yes, I know all that. The problem comes when you do what you love as your job. How to relax when movies/tv/books are part of your job–and you hate to be bored? So just sitting doesn’t work. Travel works. Just need to make some time for it now. (And it’s okay: I am a workaholic.) Love the Buzz Aldrin quote. It’s frighteningly accurate.

  33. Marvelous advice, and well-written.

    I think a vacation sounds like something that would help you both. And I’ll bet you could get a ton of really innovative and interesting suggestions if you tell folks here what the criteria for it should be. After all, getting a good long way away from the life that has been driving you nuts couldn’t hurt.

    For example, my husband doesn’t turn off the work until forced to do so. (Sound familiar?) He’ll work himself into a collapse if allowed.

    So we go sailing. We live aboard a boat for several weeks and turn off the world. (We’ve owned a boat for about 20 years, but we have also chartered, with and without captains.)

    If you like the water, and you think that might be for you, I can make some recommendations. It’s not all that expensive either, depending upon when, where and how long.

    • Kris says:

      Thank you, Marion. You’re right: a vacation is in order. However, we’ve planned three since the start of this and had to cancel all of them. So we’re gun shy. We’re thinking of a stealth vacation–spontaneously going somewhere one day. And yes, the handsome husband needs help shutting off the work. So do I. That’s the problem when you enjoy it. Thanks for the suggestion. I doubt we’ll do the water, since Dean won’t go on small boats, but we’re looking at other options. I have a birthday coming up; there might be a vacation involved with that, since you can’t cancel a birthday. 🙂

  34. Janet says:

    Kris, this resonates with me today, since I just got a layoff notice from my day job. No wonder I have trouble concentrating on my work in progress.

  35. Kris,

    This article rings very true to me. All of 2011 seemed to evaporate because of a couple of “life rolls”.

    But this year I’m getting back to it. I try hard to remember you’ll always come out the other side. 🙂

  36. Kris, I can certainly relate on that life roll stuff, especially in the last couple of weeks, since my mother’s health took a downturn. She went in for an easy surgical removal of a small breast cancer, and just over 12 hours later she was fighting for her life (bleeding at the site caused massive blood loss, and she ended up with a seizure and a blood pressure of 60/30 — how the ER staff saved her we’ll never know, but she says the Devil tossed her back!)

    Life rolls are like a wave that catches you up unawares. Sometimes you can get on top of it and ride it out pretty much effortlessly, but sometimes it’s all you can do to keep your head above water until you reach the shore.

    Like we used to say in the 70s, keep on keeping on!

    • Kris says:

      Sheila, what a life roll. I hope your mother improves daily. How scary. I like the comparison to waves. I live near the ocean and that’s a great metaphor. Sometimes waves are gentle, and sometimes they’re beautiful, and often they’re dangerous, requiring full concentration to survive. Thanks for that.

  37. Thanks for this. We’ve gone through our own version of this recently with majorly debilitating sudden events to my father and my wife’s mother in the span of two weeks earlier this year. You’ve given me good things to think about as we continue to work our way through these life rolls.

  38. Goldhawk says:

    “…which is, apparently, a favorite of the DJs on the station I listen to.”

    Nah, they getting paid to play that song so often. It’s called payola and is required for a song to become a hit.

    • Kris says:

      LOL, Goldhawk. Payola has been illegal since the 1960s. Since it’s a local station, it’s probably their taste. I live in a very small town…

  39. Robin Brande says:

    Beautiful, Kris. And so true–all of it. Having just been through my own life roll starting a few days before last Christmas, I hear everything you’ve said.

    And yes, the burly among us just want to push through and pretend it’s all fine, and we can handle anything and everything.

    But stepping back and realizing the writing is better when our brains are clear is an excellent lesson, and one we all need to hear repeatedly.

    Thanks for writing this! And best of luck to you and Dean now and continuously.

  40. Thanks for sharing this. My husband had a heart attack in January and then bypass surgery. There were a few weeks there when my brain felt frozen. I could focus on practical realities and get them done – get the kids to a friend’s house for several days, pack overnight bags, get us fed, laundry done – but I could handle nothing abstract. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write. Really felt like someone had clicked a switch: OFF.

    At some point the frozen brain thawed enough, and I did start writing again. I finished the novella I’d started. Then I started the novel I had planned. It’s going well, but I am slower than usual. And occasionally a touch of brain freeze returns.

    I’d been feeling impatient with myself. Your post makes clear that more understanding might be reasonable. My “life roll” has a happy outcome. My husband has experienced a modern medical miracle: he’s alive because of it; he’s going to recover completely. But we’ve had a brush with death, and neither one of us is quite the same. Life has changed, and we don’t really know where we are yet. What *is* the shape of this changed life?

    Like you, I want to be robo-writer! I need reminders that I’m not. And I hope we both get to listen to some different music for a while. Peaceful, happy music!

    • Kris says:

      JM, I’m so glad your husband is going to be okay. How scary. I know that the most difficult part of this life roll for me was that my normally indestructible husband had mortal moments. Then I realized that we are both mortal. I know, I know. Should have known it. But didn’t. Not on that gut level. And that does make for brain freeze. (Love the phrase.)

      It sounds to me like you’re back fast, and that’s great. I hope you can make the writing fun again. And I wish you both the best.

  41. I appreciate you including positive events in the life roll list. My daughter was born 9 months ago and my writing output dropped off to a tenth of what it was before. It still hasn’t recovered, but I did stop beating myself up for it this last month. Yeah, eight months after the obvious life roll. 😉

    Basically, I’ve decided to be gentle with myself until she starts sleeping through the night (and not kill any other parents who talk about how their kids didn’t take 9+ months to achieve that milestone). If I do *something* on writing each day, I will be happy. And if that something is one sentence, or research one detail, so be it.

    • Kris says:

      Sounds like a perfect attitude, Big Ed. I’ve watched friends become parents and as joyful as that is, there is now another human with an important agenda in their lives. A lot depends on the personality of that little human. I’m glad you’re taking time to enjoy her. These early years never return. So the writing can wait, imho. One detail sounds fine, a little per day. I think that’s a great attitude. And you’re welcome about the positive stuff. It has an impact too–a welcome one, but it does change your life.

  42. Joe Vasicek says:

    Excellent post, Kris. This one really hit home for me. I went overseas in February to teach English for a few years (I’m currently in the Republic of Georgia, where it’s nice and sunny when your Business Rusch posts come out!), and I’ve been beating myself up because I haven’t been as productive as I was back in the States. Of course, moving halfway around the world is a huge change, and it makes sense that writing would be difficult while adjusting to the new culture and way of life, but it wasn’t something I was expecting.

    I think the main key in a life roll is to not waste time and energy beating yourself up. Fortunately, it’s not like you’re letting anyone down in a huge way (except for your fans, who probably aren’t going to die from the wait). Writing goals are just a means to an end, and it’s not like you’re a bad person if you can’t always meet them.

    • Kris says:

      Great insight, Joe, thanks. For me, not writing is like not breathing. So when I’m writing under water, as I call this, I feel off. Or maybe I would have felt off anyway. But you are right about forgiving yourself. It’s quite important.

      And I must say, I envy your adventure. It sounds marvelous! I’ve always wanted to live for a year or so in a foreign country. I moved West, and from a Midwestern perspective, that counts, but it’s not quite as different as what you’re doing. How wonderful.

  43. JD Rhoades says:

    Damn. I used to do wills and estates litigation, and yeah, I can say that was a bad ‘un. The only saving grace is that at least you didn’t have five or six allegedly adult children dded into the mix, squabbling over everything in an attempt to prove who loved Daddy more. I could tell you some stories…

    • Kris says:

      JD, I might ask you for some of those stories as I do this estates series. I’m going to be talking with lawyers. So if you don’t mind, I’ll ask you as time comes around. I know that much is confidential, but sometimes the bones are not. And you made me shiver. Six adult children, all like Bill. Ack!

  44. Carradee says:

    I once received a “life roll” during final exams, while I was working on a take-home final essay for one class. A good friend of my family had been killed, possibly murdered. That semester, I was already having constant pain and/or nausea from gall bladder attacks.
     
    My teachers for the remaining two final exams were extremely gracious. I know I screwed those up. (I remember looking at one exam’s essay and realizing: “I forgot to write an introduction. I don’t have a conclusion, either. I don’t even care.”)
     
    All that to say, I’ve been there, I know the feeling, and have an e-hug. ^_^ I’ll be praying that you refresh and recharge soon.
     
    If you do take a vacation, enjoy!

  45. Sarah Wynde says:

    Last summer, I was making daily trips to a hospice an hour away from my home so I was in the car a couple hours a day. One Republic’s Good Life was on continual rotation — lyrics of which include “Hopelessly, I feel like there might be something that I’ll miss; Hopelessly, I feel like the window closes oh so quick; Hopelessly, I’m taking a mental picture of you now; Hopelessly, the hope is we have so much to feel good about.” Every time it came on, I cried. Well, I spent most of my time in the car crying anyway. I cried harder when it came on.

    Thank you for writing this. Yesterday was the first day I’d written in a month (since the week before my best friend’s memorial service, which apparently was the life roll that dropped me when my mom’s death didn’t) so it’s nicely timed for me to acknowledge the hits I’ve been taking and both forgive myself for not writing and be encouraged to keep writing anyway.

    And I’m sorry for your losses. I hope things get better soon.

    • Kris says:

      Sarah, thanks for that. Music does speak to this stuff, doesn’t it? And I cry in my car more than I want to admit. I have finally figured out that in my life there are “Pillars of the Earth.” These are people who hold the world up, and they’re not always people I’m close to. When Damon Knight died, I was disoriented because although we weren’t close, I thought of Damon as a Pillar of the Earth. I’m getting used to being surprised by who is actually holding up my world. Sounds like your best friend was one of your pillars. Hugs.

      Congrats on getting back to writing and for taking care of yourself.

  46. Mary Jo Rabe says:

    For me this is one of your most valuable posts ever. Thank you!

  47. Boy, do I feel for you guys because I know just what this feels like, even if my circumstances were different. For me it was my father getting diagnosed with dementia and all the chaos and heartbreak that led up to it (many tragic details I can’t discuss). Getting him moved to specialty care assisted living, getting my mom moved to independent living, sorting doctors, courthouses, sorting an estate that was no longer adequately managed. Coordinating with distant siblings. Dealing with my own stress and normal issues that crop up. It was a year of hell in which I rarely had time to actually grieve for my dad’s condition.

    That consumed my life last year. Still, I managed to publish the two novels my agent from years back had nearly sold. I was supposed to get three more up, but that didn’t happen. Burnout struck. I wrote one novel last year. Didn’t finish until this February and when my wife, Pepper Thorn, finished it she said, “Nope. This is broken. Rewrite it.” The stress had blinded me to problems I could normally have spotted from a mile away.

    Got my parents settled in late December and it’s only been the last month or so that I’ve started picking up writing steam again. I feel stronger now but I’m still recovering. Wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t hit my stride until late in the year because little bits of stress from this still pop up from time to time.

    Anyway, thanks for the post. It reminded me to be patient with myself. I did the best I could given the circumstances. It takes time to heal.

    • Kris says:

      You’re welcome, David. Thanks for your post as well. The more folks talk about their life rolls, the more others will understand how normal this is–and how hard. I’m sorry to hear about all you’ve been through, but thanks for sharing. It sounds like you did more than the best, and yes, it does take time to heal.

  48. Dayle says:

    Thank you for this one. I’m mostly back from my latest life roll, but there are moments when I feel like I’m still in it, still struggling with it.

    For a long time, I couldn’t write, and didn’t want to write (which was even scarier). I’m writing again, but I find I’m writing on the surface, without digging deeper. I’m avoiding emotion, especially negative emotion. So for now I’ll write fluffy things, and that’s okay, because I know the rest of it will come back eventually, too….

    (And thank the gods for indie publishing, which meant that I still had income while I wasn’t writing!)

    • Kris says:

      It was during a previous life roll, Dayle, that I learned the importance of fluffy. It is exactly what you mentioned: it helps us get by until we can look at the darker stuff. And yes, indie publishing is a godsend. Thanks for the comment. (And I’m glad you’re getting through your life roll.)

  49. Jim Self says:

    Thanks for the post, Kris. I guess I’m in the middle of a long life roll myself. Some days you forget what it feels like to feel good, but when things get better you feel like superman. Hope you’re getting to the superwoman part of your life again.

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Jim. I never felt like super woman. More like Batman. Half of me exists in stealth…(not that I’m a millionaire playboy) I do love the superman comparisons. Good luck with your life roll. I hope things get better.

  50. D. L. Kung says:

    I had just finished my best literary novel ever when the diagnosis hit: cancer and that meant The Life Roll. I didn’t sign the contract with my legacy publisher as scheduled during my chemo and now thank God I didn’t. It was a very poor deal and one might argue such poor deals in the past hadn’t exactly enhanced my health.
    Then my husband got hit with a broken spine, four operations, and nine months on morphine, meaning for me, daily hospital drives, getting our daughter through finals and to university alone and assuming all his financial tasks. Another life roll. Now we weren’t talking months lost, but two years plus.
    What did I do? I couldn’t write. I couldn’t create. But in the last year I’ve learned everything I noted on Dean’s comments (publishing Part I) on how to set up a publishing imprint and get six novels uploaded as e-books with fresh covers, etc.
    During a life roll, sometimes, you can do Chores. If you can do Publishing Chores, at least you don’t despair. I’m hoping the creative part is just around the bend.
    Thanks for this post. Love your blog. You’re both great.

    • Kris says:

      Thanks for this, DL. I’m so sorry about your life rolls. Sometimes life just takes it out of us, doesn’t it? I do love your comment, however, that we can do Publishing Chores. Indeed we can, and sometimes those are a great deal more fun than other life chores. Btw, doing the books is a different kind of creativity. I’m sure the creative part is just waiting until life settles enough for you to have space to create. Thanks for the comment.

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