Art, Life, & Writing the Hard Stuff

maya angelou, bearing an untold story, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

Being a writer – particularly one who writes novels about love, family, and relationships – is a double-edged sword. Though I wish I could say it’s not always the case, sometimes my best writing comes through pain and heartbreak. I know I have some fellow writers that follow my blog. Can I get a witness? There are times when I write something that doesn’t fit my situation or experience exactly. That’s very true. But often, the richness and depth in my writing just wouldn’t be possible without heartbreak and loss.

Writing about grief, in a novel about losing a child, came from a few different experiences for me. But the bottom line is, that when I wrote Chasing Hope, a novel about grief and family – I couldn’t write about grief without experiencing it. I can’t write about heartbreak, without experiencing it. If there could be a little less of it, however, that would be cool. Ha. I wrote a novel that isn’t my story, but I certainly know how to write about the protagonist’s heartache. The new novel I’ve started (temporarily being called Sea Glass Hearts), is probably a little closer to my story than A Thousand Years.

Nonetheless, writers can be known for being a dark sort of soul. While not all of us are empaths – I think many of us probably are – even if we’re closeted empaths :). We can easily put ourselves in other people’s shoes. We can feel what they feel and we take on their experience. As an artist, I sort of live in places like that, in order to keep writing. Which is rough when then you go through your own painful experiences, losses, or heartbreak. Not everyone writes novels that have painful or dark themes of course. I wish that was true for me. But no matter what I write, it will always factor into my writing in some form or fashion.

I’m feeling it today, folks. I don’t want to write today. Today, I want to focus on what’s happy and good. Because in my real life, my heart is taking a beating. It’s hard to focus on what I think makes my writing better, when personally I am bearing the agony of an untold story and trying to be okay with hurt I can’t make sense of. It sucks. In one of my favorite movies of all time, Something’s Gotta Give, Diane Keaton – a playwright – famously writes her greatest work, while heartbroken and literally crying every step of the way. It’s one of my favorite movies. But she’s also one of my favorite actresses and I adore her portrayal of the life of a writer. And while the crying scenes are utterly ridiculous, they crack me up. I might relate a little is what I’m saying.

As I gear up to enter a writing related contest – with a deadline that’s just a week away – I’m struggling ya’ll. I don’t want to dig into this now. But in my heart of hearts, I know I must. For my writer friends, what do you do, to work on and keep up with self-care and healthy habits if you’re writing the nasty shit that’s just hard to face? What about those of you who write really dark stuff? How do you find yourself able to balance what you write with real life?

But here’s the thing, the agony of not telling the stories is far greater. So here I go . . .

Sea Glass Hearts

elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, sea glass, sea glass hearts

~ One ~

“She reminded me of the sea; the way she came dancing towards you, wild and beautiful, and just when she was almost
close enough to touch she’d rush away again.”

―Glenda Millard

I am made of salt and sand and the deep jade green of the Atlantic. The salt air courses through my veins. This place, these waves, the sea glass, and shells with rounded edges, beaten constantly in the surf, are the pieces and places of my very soul. The heady scent of the ocean air tells me I’m finally home, though I’m not at all conscious of having lived near this shore. In the setting sun of a July evening, the billowing thunderheads in the distance play with the sun. Shadows and light dance on the surface of the ocean at once bringing out the sparkle, and then moments later shrouding the light in darkness. “So this is it?” I ask no one. Home. The word and all of its implications fill me with competing emotions. I look back toward the car, parked a hundred yards away, in the parking lot of the town’s traffic circle. It’s the center of this beach town, on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I turn back to the ocean and breathe deeply, taking it all in. Just up the road is the house I bought, sight unseen, sitting first row, pointed towards the sea. I have spent a lifetime, nearly forty years, dreaming of what it would be like to find the place where I began, to return to my beginnings. To the place where I had been knit together in my mother’s womb. When I was a child, before I had been adopted and floated between countless foster and group homes, I made day trips to the beaches of Southern California. In the course sand of those crowded beaches, I convinced myself that I might as well have been a mermaid for all I really knew. One thing I knew for sure, in the deepest part of my being? I belonged to the sea. Somehow, as I would stand there, as a kid, wearing my church charity last year’s style bathing suit, I knew that the sea called me, and would continue to call me . . . home.

Written by Elaina M. Avalos

**This is from my new work in progress – waiting for me once I’m finished with A Thousand Years. I’m currently doing a little work on it this week, while I take a mini-vacay from A Thousand Years.**