Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Spring Writing

photo of tulip

I feel lost. I know what I want to write about. I’ve written bits and pieces. But it won’t gel. I’ve tried stepping back to take a break, to gain a better perspective.

What is this story about?

Normally, all it takes is a shower. I stand under the shower head, water streaming down my body, my thoughts meandering, reviewing aspects of an essay I am writing. And by the time I dry myself, I’ve figure it out. Occasionally, I have to repeat the process the next day.

When I wrote about my daughter’s struggles to pass her driving test, I thought my essay was about just that—a story about Sarah’s first driving test. But though amusing, as I’d meant it to be, it fell flat. It just didn’t quite work, it felt as if there was something missing. It came to me while I was in the shower—the story was about my tumultuous relationship with my teenage daughter. Once dressed, I sat at my computer and the words flowed onto the screen.

Over the past couple of months, my writing has felt off. I couldn’t settle into it. No matter what I wrote about. I’ve tried all the tricks of the trade, backing off for a while and coming back to it, thinking in terms of what I’m not writing about, musing about it in the shower—nothing.

Something was wrong, very wrong. But what? Why? Had something in my circumstances changed?

It was mid semester—I was tired much of the time and headaches frequently plagued me, but that was not unusual. The Spring was always tougher than the Fall semester. But in the past, I’d managed to write under similar circumstance.

Was I even more tired than usual? The semester was winding down, which was always tough. But that never bothered me to this extent. Or was it?

My lousy memory often got in the way of me trying to figure this sort of thing out. When life with the bloody brain gets difficult, a worse headache than usual, crippling fatigue that gets in the way of my daily activities, I frequently have trouble figuring out triggers and trying to compare it to struggles in the past.

Usually, when that happens, I turn to my friends Joyce and Cindy—I speak to them daily. Perhaps they could help.

Cindy’s reacted with an emphatic, “Duh!”

She reminded me of my emergency trip to Israel. It was a real killer. It took me even longer than usual to recover from it.

Joyce scoffed. “You’ve been stressing about your parents’ health, and worrying about your sister’s recovery. Then there’s Cindy—she hasn’t been doing well. And Sarah… And it is the spring semester. Need I say more?”

I mentioned my difficulties to Judy, my writing coach. “My writing is below par.”

She reminded me that my writing always suffered in the spring, and this spring was worse than usual with family issues. She suggested that I step back from writing about the tough stuff, and hold off on the larger projects. She encouraged me to stick with shorter pieces, blog posts. “What about your issues with writing during the spring semester?”

It was better, though still a struggle. I told myself that all would be well at the end of the semester—only two weeks to go.

Today is Wednesday. On Friday I gave my last lecture of the semester. Since then I’ve been experiencing headaches. There have been a few headache-free stretches, but there has not been a single headache-free day. And every day there’s been at least one stretch when I’ve been . From past experience, I know that full recovery from the stress and fatigue of the semester will take at least a couple of more days.

In the meantime, I’ll stick to shorter pieces. Like this one.