They Died in a Fortnight: Four Writing Tips in a Tragedy
The last two weeks have been dark in my sunny Arizona town.
The string of funerals will begin tomorrow afternoon. On a day I was to watch the graduation of a childhood friend, instead I will help bury another.
On April 30th at around 6:30pm a friend of mine took his final breath at the age of 30… and with that, it is almost as though a door was opened that I should hope has finally closed.
Six families in this community have lost Loved ones in devastating, tragic ways over the last two weeks. All of which were under the age of 35, the youngest being a 12 year old boy… Grieving the loss of one was surreal but after so many, there was a moment I wondered if I had fallen into someone’s disgusting novel.
As a fell asleep on Wednesday, after hearing that day that a friend had died cold, alone and scared, it was almost as though I could hear the lamentations of the entire city. I felt that entire town was weeping. Crying out for their children, brothers, fathers, mothers…
I don’t suppose I grieve in a normal manner. I am the one the mourners call. And after two hours on the phone, listening to someone cry and consoling them with anything from a joke to a prayer to a nice memory, it feels quite selfish to take the time of my own to cry.
Why wet someone’s shoulder when they so desperately need one as well, ya know?
Last night it all burst though. As the last hour of the night rolled around I found myself weeping uncontrollably. I could not stop. Feeling absolutely helpless, I was reminded of everything I had taught my students in class earlier that evening about having faith and hope, especially when it is all that you have.
This afternoon in the sober light of day, I’ve begun to think about how a tragedy affects the way I write. I don’t care to announce another death in the paper and the idea of writing copy on some stupid product you don’t need is just mind-numbing in this perspective. Instead, I want to write about grieving.
So if you are ever on the other end of the grave of a Loved one, I would like to give you something positive to look at.
How a Tragedy May Affect Your Writing:
1. You Will Cry and that’s perfectly okay. Maybe it won’t happen right away, maybe it won’t be as much as you feel it should be. Maybe you’ll think you’re crying about something else, but when it hits you, just let it happen.
Your tears for your Loved ones are not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of a strong heart. Let your weeping fill the pages of something that will mean something to you. May your pen hit the paper in the dramatic fashion your tears will. Cry on paper (metaphorically and literally if it helps!)
2. Question Everything I do not bring my religion into this blog often, but if you know anything about my beliefs, you know that the religion I identify with has had a bad streak of people with power trips and false teachings. The kind of people who say garbage like “the Lord told me _____. Don’t question it” or whatever as an excuse to get away with horrible behavior.
Growing up in churches where I met more than my fair share of people like this, I used to question everyone about everything. Even the things everyone says I’m “not supposed to.” It would enrage some people and I got my share of abuse over it but today, I still have a brain and actually use it too which may not be true for all of those sheep that couldn’t be bothered. So, if you’ve encountered nothing but pharisees in your life that tell you to do what you’re told, you’re hearing it from from a “religious” person right now: QUESTION EVERYTHING! Then write it down!
Write down every question you have. Give it space in your journal. Nothing is off limits. No idea too absurd or taboo, just ask it! If you even want to ask “why did they have to die?” as a part of your grieving process, then ask it… though here is where I hug you and say that I cannot promise you will ever get an answer to such a question. Which brings me to point three.
3. Just Don’t Expect An Answer Every Time because you may not get one. Life is full of mystery. In fact, most of life is a mystery and we’re all perfectly okay with that. No one knows what tomorrow will be like, absolutely no one. And yet, we willingly accept that mystery because we work our lives around trying to ensure that whatever tomorrow is going to be like, it will be successful and happy. Think about it, this is why we have goals, work jobs, make outlines for five year plans. It’s because no one knows what tomorrow brings. It’s a total mystery and we’re okay with that.
And yet, we’re not so okay with other mysteries Mysteries like “why in the world would a 12 year old die? What was the point of this? How could this happen?” Questions like these can haunt us forever. They can put us in the grave with the child because we will live our lives with this harmful perspective and it will suck the life right out of us… I can’t answer this question for you, just as I could not answer it for his mother when she cried that day… just like I can’t tell you what will happen every minute of tomorrow. What I can tell you is to rest in all of the good, certain things you had. Rest in the fact that you had 12 good years with this person and that he knew he was Loved so much by you the day the sun set on his life…
And that once you’ve found your resolve, whatever it may be, you should write about it.
4. Rest Together because at the end of the day, there is nothing more you can do. Let yourself off the hook for a change, okay? Think of the very best day of your life. You had such hope then, believing that something good was in your future… that has not changed just because today may have been the very worst. There is nothing you can do to change what happened and you’re not even promised tomorrow. All you have control over is how you’ll live your life today. Rest in a wonderful memory of the on you Love. Rest in the fact that your rationality will give rest and peace to the others and I hope that is a bit of what this post may be to any of you who need it.
But there is always a tomorrow. We have no less days in a lifetime than we ever had to begin with. Perhaps ours will be shorter than what seems fair, or maybe we’ll outlive every Loved one. No matter how it ends, we must never lose sight of the joy and hope we had in the very beginning.
We will all die one day. It is a concept we can all connect with and therefore a subject that has been written about since the dawn of time.
I guess what I am saying is that these tragedies are new to us as we live through this dark fortnight… but for those that came and went before us, eventually the sun rose again.
Life is good, even when it’s bad. There is beauty to be found even in a time of grieving. We must never take the moments we have breath for granted…
now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play some music, eat some sweets and hug as many people as I can.
All My Love -Sara
Greater Things Are Your Horizon
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
If I may, I would really like to tell you the story:
About 9 months ago my life looked different than it does today. Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I take that for granted.
I am very particular about what I read so when I stumbled upon a fancy little mag titled “WHITE” I thought nothing of it. Even though I was intrigued by the beautiful design — composed of my favorite colours — I didn’t expect to become a huge fan, maybe just a reader.
But I fell in love before I made it to the 10th page. I began reading as many of the old issues as I could find.
One day I got bold and decided I’d shoot the editor an e-mail submission for an upcoming issue. I didn’t hear back for a few days but when I got a response, to much excitement, it was a positive one! She offered me the chance to write for their extended Anniversary issue in October. I jumped on the chance.
My heart was so full the day I got to see my own article in this magazine I loved so dearly. I didn’t expect it to ever happen again and I would have been okay with that but I just figured it couldn’t hurt to keep emailing the editor to let her know I was more than willing to write for them again. After a few emails back and forth I began to realize that not only did I like the magazine, I really liked the editor.
Her name is Sara Young and she is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known.
I got a chance to be featured again in the December issue expecting her to be bored with me when she’s got hundreds of writers to choose from at any given time… but then I got an email!
It was inviting old writers back to have a shot at being featured in the magazine for its 2013 relaunch.
The last four months have been a blur of excitement. The magazine has grown so much and I have been so inspired by the vision of its wonderful founder/editor.
Last Monday, after a weekend of emails, details and a whole lot of joy over the relaunch, I got the email that offered me an opportunity and with that, in 24 hours it turned it into reality.
The opportunity? I barely believed it — and it is still with tears of joy that I tell you this — she offered me the position of Assistant Editor.
I’m still in disbelief.
I still can’t believe that I’ve been blessed with this opportunity! I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that this is a dream come true to work with this talented, beautiful team and an editor I learn something from every time we talk.
My heart is so full right now!
I don’t say this to brag, but to encourage those of you pursuing a similar dream! For those chasing their dreams, I just want to say that it is every bit as wonderful as you’re hoping it will be when it catches you. And then some!
You see, I don’t think we catch our dreams. I think if the dreams are really ours to keep, they catch us while we’re trying to catch them. If our dreams were people, I think they would be longing for us just as much as we’re longing for them! Because these are the things placed in our hearts for a reason. These are the special abilities, the special little things we’re made to do!
Take it from a girl who’s dreams are coming true, if you keep at it, it will happen for you too! I don’t just think it or hope that, I believe it with every chamber and depth of my heart!
It has been the most amazing ride so far and I just can’t wait to see where the mag is in another 9 months! :)
Your dreams really can come true, even when you’re not expecting them to! So don’t give up and don’t let yourself get down! I’m cheering for you! I’m believing with you! There are greater things on your horizon, you just have to set your sails!
XO - Sara
Writer/Assistant Editor of WHITE Mag.
Quote of the Day, from Mr. Rogers
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
― Fred Rogers♥
While others are hurting and afraid, remember that you can be the voice that ushers in healing and comfort… in a time when there is nothing that can be done to make it all better, sometimes words can be enough. See words can own every ounce of faith and meaning when words are all we have. They can go every place we wish them to and can help in ways that sometimes we can’t. As a writer you have the chance everyday to be the help that someone needs even if a single word is all you have to give
Speak hope -Sara
Breakthrough Challenge #10: Be Thankful
Hi pretty people,
Is anyone else fighting off a cold? This thing was after me yesterday like that was its job (which if you think about it, I suppose a cold does make its livelihood in finding someone to infect. I guess it can only really thrive if it has a host. How interesting to think of an illness though humanistic characteristics. Like a mugger or a terrorist or just that pig-faced kid that used to make fun of you all the time… someone should probably write something about that. I’d totally read that) If so, I wish you well. If not, I still wish you well!
As I have spent the day in bed with a box of tissues, my laptop, phone and assorted beverages, I’ve had a lot of time to myself to think.
Though the world is crowded with news today, I managed to write only one article (which was not put up for revision, either by the grace of God or because my editor just might be hitting the sauce) and it took me close to four hours because my brain has been mush. I also did some revisions, answered some e-mails and felt sad because I couldn’t go visit my friend (it’s her birthday) and her new baby (she’s a month old today) with flowers and cupcakes like I had planned because I don’t want to get them sick.
As I sat there, I scrolled through the pictures on my phone. I take a lot of photos, most of which are never seen by anyone. I don’t really show them off publicly. My friends and family love to look through them but I mainly keep them as a reminder of the beautiful things that happen from day to day.
It’s like a timeline of happiness and every time I scroll through it, here’s what I come up with:
Life is amazing!
I don’t say that to brag, I am saying it to express gratitude. I feel a thankful heart can change everything for you and the world around you! This week, let’s try to stay focused on reasons to be thankful.
Whether you know it or not, you guys make up a part of the reason I find life so amazing. That is why I would like to share a few of the reasons I am thankful with you.
From the view of my phone’s photo album, here are some reasons I am thankful:
I get to do what I love for a living.
I get to play music every week (sometimes every day) with these wonderful people.
And sing/pose strangely at like 7am with this guy!
And take cheesy Instagram photos with their shoes.
I live in a beautiful town
in the most beautiful desert.
I love the food around here!
In fact, Taco Tuesday is almost a holiday,
and sushi Saturdays (though far too rare) are sacred.
Even so, I get to see the world. Sometimes through the eyes of dear friends…
Sometimes through my own adventures.
I get to have water gun fights with random people sometimes
then act like a bold, hardworking, sickening, pale, poor person while playing a round of Apples to Apples.
Sometimes I hide under mattresses at Sams Club with some of my best and oldest friends until unsuspecting customers walk by.
Other times, I cry, laugh and celebrate with them as they welcome their gorgeous first child into the world.
I often get to listen to inspiring, world-changing people speak about things that cause me to see the world for the beautiful place that it is and all that it can be.
I also get to call this cute, little artist and that tall, funny survivor my parents.
Sometimes I make a mess of cake pops
other times, I just go ahead and buy the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten.
Sometimes I wear necklaces creative people make out of old piano keys.
or my new favorite dress (which also happens to be the first really nice article of clothing I’ve ever been able to pay for completely with writing money!) and a petal headband!
Other times I wear gorgeous handmade bows that make me feel completely special!
Sometimes I am privileged enough to run around town with a wild group of people, care packages of soap and rolls of quarters so we can bless various people at laundromats and let them know that someone cares and they are loved!
One of my favorite places in the world is Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. You’d better believe I’m going to be there this month and while I’m there, I’m hitting those all-you-can-eat seats where the hot dogs overfloweth! I’m thankful for that!
I’m thankful for cute Easter displays
and completed storyboards
I’m thankful for the day last year when I realized people were actually reading this blog. I’m thankful for everything that has happened since. Words can’t describe how excited I was to see even just a few hundred of you so it is with nothing but honestly when I say I’m overwhelmed by all of you that read it now! haha
I’m thankful for quotes like this
and ideas like this!
I am perhaps most thankful now, though, that this raw garlic is supposed to help me kick this thing even faster! Hooray for feeling better by tomorrow!
With every photo, there is a story. With every story, a reason to be thankful. With every reason to be thankful, there is a brand new story. So, the cycle continues.
I could write to you all day from the perspective of thankfulness, even about topics I have no reason to be happy about or thankful for.
“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps…”
- John Henry Jowett
Don’t know what there is to be thankful for? Start with the little things.
Take a picture of something at random. Write a sentence about something that happens to you each day. After a week, you’ll look back and realize your life is actually quite funny, lovely, dramatic and interesting for one reason or another.
Stay thankful and the rest will fall into place.
Thank you -Sara