I'm moving forward. Monday night at the Untitled Writers Group meeting was a case in point.
This was the first meeting I'd attended since the hospital--another sore point for me. I despise missing writers group and become angry when I can't go. The anger was made even worse because my absence was caused by an outside force that ripped me out of the group for a month without my consent. I was supposed to be critiqued at the first meeting I missed, and on the novel that I now can't write, and all this pushed me further into the mess of resentment, fear, and self-blame over all these events.
The group had held my manuscript over, so at my return, I was to receive critiques on it. I was both nervous and unnerved. Right now, I tend divide my life into BEFORE and AFTER the hospital. BEFORE was when my life was normal. AFTER is when my life changed. This manuscript had been written BEFORE, and I wasn't sure how I'd take a critique on it. I've been a member of this group for decades now, and I hadn't been this nervous since my very first meeting.
Before the meeting started, one of the members asked how things had been going with me post-hospital, and I told them. (These are extremely close friends, and over the years, most of our secrets have been revealed to each other in one way or another.) As you might expect, this made me feel a little better. I talk about these things with Darwin and my counselor, but talking to a group of writers made a difference.
Then the group members gave the critique. It was over a set of chapters in my WIP, and the section was a departure for me--some of the chapters were in prose, and others were written as an epistolary (in letters). It went well, and I handled it just fine, which was a further relief.
And then . . .
David, one of the members, In his critique, he mused it might be worth exploring the idea of writing the entire novel as an epistolary. In my response, I said the idea has merit, but would mean a tremendous amount of work 50,000 words in, so it wasn't something I'd probably try.
And then I walked outside.
Lenny (my counselor) takes an exercise approach to therapy. He gave me a number of activities and exercises to do that he hopes might help. When I told him about losing my writing and how terrified it made me (a lot of my identity is tied to my work), he suggested that I try writing stuff I knew would never go anywhere--pieces of a short story, character sketches, descriptive scenes. This might jog my writing forward by "proving" to myself that I can still do it. The trouble with that approach is that I've always hated writing exercises because they take up what little writing time I get each day for something that I know I'll just trash, so I didn't do anything with Lenny's suggestion. The stress of doing a writing exercise would only make things worse, not better.
Then David made his suggestion in group. And outside on the front sidewalk, it occurred to me that changing earlier sections of the novel into epistles could be the exercise Lenny suggested. It would be an exercise I could do as an exploration of a new facet of the book. If I decide it doesn't work, I'm fine with it because it was an experiment on the current work, and I would learn this idea isn't worth exploring--and I explore new facets of a book all the time with material that doesn't always go anywhere. If it DOES work, I've improved the book. Either way, it's a win.
So I'll try that and see what happens.