smash the boundaries and let the new stuff in



Between each fruitful phase are long periods of exploration, faltering, learning, and working things out. – Kenneth Noland

In January 2009, I faltered: my creative life paralyzed by anxiety and ambivalence as the rest of my life came apart. My marriage had ended. Less than two months after he’d filed for divorce, my ex-husband announced his engagement to another, much younger woman.

Writing could have been a refuge for me, like it’s been so often in the past, but I found myself scattered. It wasn’t just the distractions of my personal life, but a deep-seated ambivalence about just what the hell it was that I thought I was doing (or not doing). I had the feeling that I’d pointed myself in the wrong direction. If writing fiction is a kind of religion, or the closest thing an atheist like myself even has to a religion, I was experiencing a crisis of faith.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I suppose I could have titled this How Justine Got Her Groove Back, but whether that’s true remains, from an objective standpoint (as opposed to what I feel in gut and bones) to be seen.

Perhaps I’m stepping into that groove for the first time. I would like to think so.

Because I’ve been exploring, learning, and working things out. This blog is for you, dear reader, assuming I can maintain the deep privilege of your attention. But it’s also for me. It’s a way of touching base with what I know now – or think I know — about the craft of writing. If I could go back in time to my younger writer self, these are some of the things I’d like her to know.

Or maybe I’d just tell her this: every now and again you must rebel against your own life, smash the boundaries and let the new stuff in, and swallow the bad with the good. Creation demands a clean ending in order to transform, start again.

Endings aren’t easy. Endings can be hell. But if you’re planning to rise from the ashes, it helps to reflect on the beauty of the fire.

So this is me, sifting the ash through my fingers.

This is me, getting ready for the new stuff, with the memory of flame in my skin.

Dec 13, 2009

2 comments · Add Yours

I think writing is overrated as a refuge.

It’s odd, but Schumpeter’s (an Austrian economist…I am such a geek sometimes) writings about creative destruction has always resonated more with me as a writer than as an economist.


Ugh, boy, do I ever know how that feels. My marriage ended in Jan ’05. He left me for a much younger woman, who lived across the street and called herself my friend. He asked for a divorce on New Years Day.

I couldn’t write a word for a year. It was all incoherent, scattered, meandering crap. I was completely untethered. Especially since one of the reasons he cited for leaving me was the writing.

It takes time to find your way back. I am a better writer today because of it though. And in those scattered meanderings I found a seed that I’m now using as the subject of a new book. A book which has my entire heart :)

And I had a son (a baby I’d been told I’d probably never have, as a result of polycystic ovarian syndrome) with a wonderful man actually worth my love! Ha!


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