• Melissa Olson

Getting Back to Writing After Loss


I’m finally back to my blog after taking a few months off. My mom passed away June 27th from Parkinson’s Disease. In previous posts, I’ve written about how much my mom meant to me. The last few weeks of her life and her passing left me exhausted. I feel like I’m only now catching my breath.

One of the last things I did before my mom went into hospice was attend the May, 2019 Michigan Writing Workshop. I’ve been thinking about the four literary agents I met there ever since. All of them were so receptive to my pitch for the new novel I’m writing; Middle School is No Place for Magic.

I’ve walked away crushed by these types of pitch sessions in the past, so I was surprised and honored when all four agents asked to see the novel once it’s finished. I’m nearly two thirds of the way through and was hoping to finish the first draft by fall (which starts today;).

The truth is, I haven’t touched the story since. My mom started declining right after the workshop. She was put on hospice and my focus turned to her.

There were two agents I felt I had truly connected with during the short, five minutes I had with them. With both agents, I enjoyed great conversations. We were able to bat around story ideas plus delve into the characters and themes a bit, which is something I’ve always dreamt of doing with an agent. Now I can only hope they are forgiving of my delay.

One of the four agents also asked to see my first novel, The Life-Dividing Days. In June, I broke that story out for the first time in over a year and found myself being sucked into a sixth full revision. I’ve been working on the revision here and there over the summer but I've been beating myself up over it, to tell the truth. In my head, I know I need to move on. My first novel has been through a solid round of rejections. Yet, it keeps pulling me back. I guess, in my heart, I’m not quite ready to let it go.

It’s more than my stubbornness or the lure that one more round of edits will finally do the trick. It’s the draw of the familiar. It dawned on me this morning that that’s the reason I’ve been working on The Life-Dividing Days at this particular time, instead of working on my new novel which I know I ought to be.

It takes a lot of energy to create and immerse yourself into a whole new world with new characters. It takes energy to follow those characters wherever they decide to go; to listen for their voices. I’m drained from grief and from caregiving for all four parents (mine and my in-laws) these past 17 years. The thought of working on the new novel has felt daunting. Plus, there’s comfort in revisiting a world I’ve already created in my head and resurrecting characters I know intimately.

Don’t get me wrong - there’s nothing easy about revision work. But, again, it’s felt less exhausting to me than creating new work. So that’s where I’ve been this summer, writing-wise.

However, now that I’m nearly done with the revision, I can feel myself gearing up to dive back into my second novel. Once again, I’m starting to get excited about the premise of the novel. I like where the characters are going so far. I’m thinking about new ways to research. In general, I find myself thinking about that story more and more. I’m going to take that as a good sign.

I hope your summer was a wonderful time of creativity and discovery, whether in art or in the world (hopefully both). Happy autumn equinox everyone!

P.S. I did manage to write one special piece - https://jansenfuneralhome.com/tribute/details/829/Nancy-Olson/obituary.html.

Fall was always my mom's favorite season. I think she'd be happy I'm back to writing.

Love and miss you, mom!

#palliativecare #caregiving #writing #grief #MichiganWritingWorkshop #Michiganwriters

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