Grist for the Mill

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Whenever something crappy or odious happens in my life, one of my writing mentors has an infuriating habit of patting me on the shoulder, shrugging, and telling me, “It’s all just grist for the mill, Ty. It’s all just grist for the mill.”

This, I have found, is a popular term among writers. Whenever something bad – or good, apparently – happens to you, it should be shucked down to its rawest form, and crammed into that mill you call your writing process, to see if anything good is spit out the other side.

Sometimes, however, the grist is a little too full of shit, and it clogs up mill, stopping the writing altogether.

That is where I currently find myself.

Life has been heavy, lately. And I’m not saying it hasn’t been heavy for anyone else, but relative to my normal state, several events have been weighing me down. I’ve a family member fall quite ill, the stress count with my day job has been through the roof, and I’m still carrying around the ghost of an incident that happened over a year ago and hasn’t yet been put to rest. To top it all off, last monday I crashed my little blue car (oh, how I loved that car!) and walked away with a mild concussion and a small payout for a little 4-wheeled buddy who can never be replaced (insert joke about men and their cars, here).

All of this has served to form itself into one giant, pulsating, greasy excuse for not getting any words down, or any editing done. I’ve been in a full on moping snit for the last week, and I’ve done almost nothing. For the last month, really, the only thing I’ve written consistently is this blog. I’ve had no forward movement, with either my life or my writing, and I feel as though I’ve been bogged so deep that I’ll never claw my way clear again.

Yesterday, as I was slogging through my gray mood, I saw a quote on a Mark Twain calendar my wife got me for Chistmas. It says “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

That simple, six word phrase hit me so hard that it felt as though the author himself had appeard in my living room and kicked me in the teeth. The truth, the use of the Craft, was the solution to my slogging, self-pity soaked problems.

All of the things that have happened to me lately are managable; people deal with far worse, and do far better, than me every day. Instead of letting all these things, all these negative experiences, weigh me down and hurt my writing, I had to turn them into gifts and make something with them.

The car accident will be stored away as an experience I can write directly onto the page when I need a character to get hit in the drivers door by a Nissan Pathfinder. The sorrow over the family illness, can be converted into a more useful emotion and poured into a page of writing. The old ghost that has been riding my shoulder for the last year, as of yesterday, has been turned into a non-fiction story and will be shared with the world at large, soon, so I won’t have to carry the spectre anymore, and it might go and walk on its own.

Life’s primary goal, it sometimes seems, is to slap you down and make you miserable. When that happens you can either fold up like an old map and mope on your couch while watching old episodes of Highlander (not that I, personally, would ever do such a ridiculous thing). Or, the more preferable option, is you can take all those experiences, all those heavy burdens, and turn them  into words, emotions on the page, and share them with those that are inclined to hear them.

You never know; those negative experiences that hurt you so, might be turned into something positive that will get someone else through their own hard times. It’s kind of like spinning shit into solid gold.

Now, get writing, and thanks for reading.