Home / Writing / Writing Through the Rough Parts

Writing Through the Rough Parts

We are so pleased to introduce you to WU’s newest contributor, a master wordsmith and bestselling novelist, Marisa de los Santos! This also marks release day for Marisa’s latest novel, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. Learn more about Marisa on her bio page, and through her exquisite essay. Enjoy! 

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness.” – George Orwell

Confession: I have never been a tortured writer.

It even took me a surprisingly long time to realize that I shouldn’t tell people this, that not finding writing grueling and painful marked me, in the eyes of some, as inauthentic, a lightweight. I managed to stay oblivious to this fact all the way through graduate school—which, if you’ve ever been to graduate school, you’ll realize is especially uncanny–and well after I had published my first novel. I think maybe that’s because it took years—and at least two books—for me to be authentic in my own eyes, to fully identify myself as a real, working writer, someone to whom the rules and expectations for writers might actually apply.

It’s not that I don’t find writing hard. Of course, apart from those rare, rare, vanishingly rare hours (or minutes, more like minutes) when it feels as if angels are dropping whole paragraphs into my lap, it is hard, every single sentence, every single day. But mostly it is the kind of hard I welcome; the kind of hard that makes a thing—I’m just going to say it—fun.

And this lack of suffering is also not about arrogance. It really isn’t. I don’t set out writing with the idea that everything I do is going to be a brilliant success. But I also don’t set out thinking it’s likely to be a failure, either. The truth is that, when I’m writing, I don’t think about things like success or failure or brilliance (brilliance, are you kidding?) at all. I think about these things at other times; I am pretty much a champ at being riddled with self-doubt. But never while I’m writing. Writing is just too personal to have anything to do with success or failure. Writing is me sitting smack in the middle of my story, with my characters all around me, making sentences.

And making sentences is joy. Choosing and discarding words, ordering and re-ordering them, listening to them chime or murmur or slice or bang together like rocks, achieving the right combination of vowel sounds, cringing at a hard “d,” substituting a muffled “m,” making the string of words evoke an image, a mood, a meaning, and, most importantly, making the words tell the characters’ story, the characters’ true and only story, telling that one true story sentence by sentence. I love this. I exult in this. I live inside this.

But even as I write these things down, I see that I need to amend it all, beginning with that very first sentence because the truth is that I had never been a tortured writer. Making sentences was joy. I always did love it, until the year I wrote I’ll Be Your Blue Sky.

It was a bad year, the kind of year that shakes your foundations.

My son was a junior in high school, and, although he had been dealing with generalized anxiety since early childhood, that year, it blew up, took over. In school, he watched a video about Abu Ghraib and was haunted—stalked—by nightmarish images of men with bags over their heads, of soldiers not much older than he was committing vicious acts, and, worse, by the terror that that capacity for cruelty might exist inside of him, too. He would get up and leave classrooms, unable to breathe, and, at home, would pace around the living room, my bright, hopeful, kind kid, the most empathic person I know, waving his hands, grinding them against his eyes, wanting to erase the horror and the panic. This went on for months.

My daughter, my funny, born-under-a-lucky-star beauty, suffered the kind of searing betrayal by a beloved friend that breaks your heart and sends you reeling, especially when you’re fourteen. She cried every day, didn’t want to eat or go to the school she’d always adored, and her lifelong disordered relationship with sleep tipped over into an intractable, wild-eyed insomnia and a deep fear of being alone at night. This, too, went on for months.

It was the year that my mother’s progressive multiple sclerosis went from being the constant enemy encroaching on her life to being her life, the central fact of her. Because my father was sure she was going to die very soon, my sister and I made a weeklong trip to the Philippines, where my parents lived, to see her one last time. We found her skeletal, waxen, bedridden, in a space outside of speech, maybe outside of any human connection. I hoped not. We held her hand and talked to her and told ourselves that she knew we were there, but we will never know if this was true.

I understand that other people endure worse tragedies every day. I understand that my sorrow at all of it was nothing but the flip side of the incalculable luck of having people to love. I also know that, for me, this was the year everything became too much. I went to bed and woke up with the fact that my people were in pain and I was helpless to heal them.

And I had to write a book. I did not want to. I was foggy, exhausted, sad. For the first time, I had lost interest in reading. My imagination felt flat as a dead snake in the road. But I had a contract. We needed the income. I had to write the damned book. So every day, resentfully, I would sit down at my desk and work. If you think I am going to say that the process was therapeutic, restorative, a welcome distraction, I am not. I sat down in bitterness and got up in exhaustion. I am sure there were light-filled moments, clarity, transport. But mostly not.

What made it harder was that I believed in the book. I felt all the usual tenderness toward my characters, every single one of them. And I was sure that I was screwing up their story. How could I not be? I had associated writing with joy for as long as I could remember, and I could not imagine how a heartsick, dispirited person, a person who had to force herself to write, could write a good book. Every day, when I closed my laptop, it was all I could do not to slam it shut.

But I learned a weird, unexpected truth: you do not have to love the writing to do a good job at it.

My children recovered. With help, they shoved aside their fears and fell back in love with their worlds.

My poor, sweet mother did not recover, and she lived longer than I thought anyone in such a state should have to, but the memories of who she had been—vital, laughing, book-loving, fiercely loyal—her gestures, the way her hair grew, the meals she would cook when I was a kid, her collection of ragtag stray cats she loved unreservedly: these images came back to me and they stood next to, and in the end, outnumbered, outweighed, out-everythinged the image of the silent, inward-turned woman on the bed.

I emerged, too, into my sacred, ordinary, joy-scattered, word-blessed life. And when I got there, I read my book, and in bewildered astonishment, I found that it was the book I had wanted to write, or as close as any book I write ever comes to being the fulfillment of my hopes for it. I cried with gratitude. I held sentences up to the light and wondered at them, at how a joyless, sapped woman had managed to bring them to life.

I think what happened is that when joy failed me, commitment took over. Commitment to language and music, to structure and clarity and punctuation and timing, commitment to my characters. It is better to be happy, of course, but being a mother or daughter or wife or friend isn’t always joyful, either. Still, we dig in and stay–through panic and pacing and sleeplessness and terrible stillness–and we honor our commitment to do our best by the people the universe has given us to love. Same with the work.

Same with the work.

How does your emotional state affect your writing? Do you think it’s possible to separate your writing self from your living self? How do you approach writing when you don’t feel like doing it? 

About Marisa de los Santos

A New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing, Marisa de los Santos lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family.

Source link

About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.


  1. You could definitely see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  2. Thanks-a-mundo for the blog article.Really thank you! Great.

  3. Thank you for your blog.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

  4. Major thankies for the blog article.Really thank you! Awesome.

  5. Thanks a lot for the article.Thanks Again. Great.

  6. I value the post.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

  7. I see you’re a blog owner, so please add me to your email / mailing list. My email is: mediciondigital@gmail.com – I buy websites that meet certain metrics. This site looks like it might, so please reach out to me

  8. Really appreciate you sharing this article.Much thanks again. Great.

  9. Muchos Gracias for your blog post.Really thank you! Really Great.

  10. Thanks so much for the blog.Thanks Again. Want more.

  11. My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on numerous websites for about a year and am nervous about switching to another platform. I have heard very good things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  12. I loved your blog article.Really thank you! Great.

  13. Looking forward to reading more. Great article.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  14. Im obliged for the blog.Really thank you! Want more.

  15. I cannot thank you enough for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

  16. I do like the way you have presented this particular situation and it does offer me personally some fodder for consideration. Nonetheless, through everything that I have experienced, I basically wish as the actual opinions stack on that individuals continue to be on issue and don’t embark on a soap box of some other news of the day. Anyway, thank you for this outstanding point and although I can not concur with this in totality, I regard your point of view.

  17. I loved your blog post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

  18. I am so grateful for your blog post.Thanks Again. Want more.

  19. I really liked your post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

  20. Hey, thanks for the article.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  21. “Hey there are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!”

  22. “Really appreciate you sharing this post.Thanks Again. Fantastic.”

  23. I really can’t believe how great this site is. Keep up the good work. I’m going to tell all my friends about this place.

  24. Im obliged for the blog article.Much thanks again. Great.

  25. This site looks better and better every time I visit it. What have you done with this place to make it so amazing?!

  26. Howdy Partner. You look like the type of guy who needs to have a little fun. You can have all kinds of fun at http://camgirl.pw/ That’s the most exciting site on the internet. You’ll never experience a dull moment there. Go ahead, give it a try. Just remember to be on your best behavior. Cowboys can be rowdy. Try not to drink too much time at the saloon before heading on over there.

  27. Talking to this blonde beauty is much more fun than playing the lottery!

  28. Hello friends. Are you feeling lonely? Maybe you’re in the mood to get frisky. It doesn’t matter what type of mood you’re in. You’ll always find a fine lady at http://camgirl.pw/ to chat with. You’ll be amazed by the wide selection of cam girls to choose from. Have yourself a good time and don’t forget to eat a breath mint or two. The last thing you want is to have bad breath when talking to these cuties.

  29. Are you the type of guy who likes to spend his free time drinking cold beer while talking to hot babes? If so, then you’ve got to check out http://camgirl.pw/ That site is filled with plenty of sexy girls who know exactly what guys like you want to see.

  30. “I am so grateful for your blog.Really thank you! Fantastic.”

  31. “This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!”

  32. “This article is genuinely a pleasant one it helps new net visitors, who are wishing in favor of blogging.”

  33. “Fine way of telling, and pleasant paragraph to take information regarding my presentation topic, which i am going to present in college.”

  34. Every guy out there needs to relax from time to time. You’re no different. The best way to relax is by talking to a super hot babe. There are plenty of sexy ladies at http://camgirl.pw You can do a whole lot more than just talk with these cuties. They’re also looking to have the same exact type of fun you are.

  35. There isn’t a time of day when you won’t find plenty of hotties at http://camgirl.pw It doesn’t matter if you go there early in the morning or late at night. There’s always lots of babes just waiting to talk to guys. Don’t forget, you’re just one click or tap away from the live entertainment that you’ve been craving. This is as hot as it gets and you’ll realize that within just a matter of moments.

  36. Are you smiling yet? Probably not. You haven’t visited http://camgirl.pw You’re going to have the biggest smile plastered all over your face after you visit that site. It’s jam packed with the hottest online performers. You’ve never seen or heard anything quite like this before.

  37. You need to get rid of stress. There’s no need to keep it bottled up. Have yourself a little fun by talking to some hot girls at http://camgirl.pw It won’t take you long to realize this site is filled with wall to wall babes. No site on the internet has all the cuties that this one does. Check it out and put a smile on your face. You definitely deserve one.

  38. Wow, great blog. Keep writing.

  39. “Beneficial document helps make frequent advance, appreciate it write about, this pile-up connected with expertise is usually to hold finding out, focus is usually the beginning of money.”

  40. I really enjoy the blog post.Really thank you! Awesome.

  41. Great blog post.Really thank you! Really Great.

  42. I think this is a real great blog post.Thanks Again. Cool.

  43. Wow, great blog.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  44. Hey, thanks for the article.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  45. Hey, thanks for the article post.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  46. Really informative article post.Thanks Again. Great.

  47. I loved your blog article.Really thank you! Great.

  48. I think this is a real great article post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

  49. Thank you for your blog. Want more.

  50. There are some of you out there who probably haven’t heard of http://www.camgirl.pw This is one of those must see sites. It’s full of extremely attractive ladies. You’re going to want to put down your sandwich when visiting this site. It’s impossible to focus on anything but the babes they have to offer.

  51. I appreciate you sharing this post.Really thank you! Cool.

  52. I really liked your blog post.Really thank you! Great.

  53. “I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly. I am quite certain I’ll learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!”

  54. Thanks-a-mundo for the blog post. Great.

  55. Thanks for the article.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  56. Looking forward to reading more. Great post.

  57. “It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.”

  58. “Hello there, I found your blog via Google while looking for a related topic, your website came up, it looks great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.”

  59. Really informative article.Really thank you! Great.

  60. “Enjoyed every bit of your article. Will read on…”

  61. I really enjoy the blog.Really thank you! Want more.

  62. Im thankful for the article post.Thanks Again. Really Great.

  63. Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog article.

  64. Great article. Keep writing.

  65. “”Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that Thank you for lunch!””

  66. “Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic article post.Really thank you! Great.”

  67. Thanks-a-mundo for the blog.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  68. “I appreciate you sharing this article post.Really thank you! Really Great.”

  69. Great article post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  70. I really enjoy the blog.Thanks Again. Cool.

  71. hey there and thank you for your info ?I definitely picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise some technical points using this site, as I experienced to reload the site a lot of times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and could damage your quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Well I adding this RSS to my email and could look out for much more of your respective exciting content. Make sure you update this again soon..

  72. Major thanks for the blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on…

  73. “What’s up colleagues, how is everything, and what you wish for to say about this article, in my view its really awesome designed for me.”

  74. This is one awesome article.Thanks Again. Will read on…

  75. “Fantastic blog.Much thanks again. Really Great.”

  76. I appreciate you sharing this blog.Really thank you! Cool.

  77. “Of course, what a fantastic blog and instructive posts, I surely will bookmark your blog.Best Regards!”

  78. Im thankful for the post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

  79. I loved your blog post.Much thanks again. Want more.

  80. This is one awesome article.Much thanks again. Really Great.

  81. I really liked your blog. Fantastic.

  82. “Great, thanks for sharing this article post.Really thank you! Cool.”

  83. “Thanks so much for sharing this great info! I am looking forward to see more posts!”

  84. Great, thanks for sharing this blog post. Keep writing.

  85. I think this is a real great article.Really looking forward to read more.

  1. Pingback: writeessay

  2. Pingback: Cialis online

  3. Pingback: mt57387tcyn43mtyd7td

  4. Pingback: Buy cialis

  5. Pingback: Cialis generic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *