We all have that project, which has basically become our baby, that we’ve worked on for years and years and years. Whether you’re a writer working on the last chapter of your book, a painter brushing on the final strokes of your magnum opus, or even a carpenter adding the final details to a cabinet you’ve been working on for your grandchildren, finality is always a bittersweet feeling.
On one hand, you’re relieved. You’ve poured blood, sweat, and hours into the project. At times, it’s consumed you. At others, it’s alluded you. I bet, if you’re anything like me, you’ve had friends and family accuse you of being obsessed or complain because you never see them anymore (let’s be honest, despite us trying our best to make time for family and friends, they’re probably right. We probably have been neglecting our social lives, but it physically hurts our souls when we neglect our creative lives). To those family and friends, we’re sorry. Or at least I am. I don’t do it because I want to. I do it because sometimes I have no idea how to balance this itch at the back of my mind with the realities of mundane “outside” life.
You’re also relieved because there have been times where working on your baby has been horrible on your mental health. It takes its toll. Really, it does. When you aren’t working on it, just like if you were to neglect your actual, real-life, breathing, pooping, puking child, you’re flooded with guilt. When you are working, it’s maddening. There’s a rush of excitement, your cheeks flush with passion, you move at the speed of sound, until you don’t–until you crash. And when I crashed, I crashed hard, sometimes for weeks at a time. There’s nothing like the feeling of inadequacy in your art if need an ego check. Self-esteem at an all time high? Go ahead and embark on a creative endeavor, let me know how you feel after the fact.
On the other hand, you’re at a bit of a loss for words. There’s suddenly this void, a feeling of emptiness. It says, “I’ve done the damn thing, now what am I supposed to do?” Maybe you go for a walk, watch a movie, or call an old friend. No matter what, none of it feels the same. Don’t worry, the void won’t last long.
Because the void is quickly replaced with something even better: sheer and utter terror. Is this story complete crap? Have I just wasted three years of my life? What if I actually get this published and my family reads it and finally realized what a wack-job I am? And the best one of them all, what if this is the pinnacle of my life’s accomplishments? What if it’s only down from here? Don’t worry, at least you’re not close to the piece or anything.
When I first traveled up north to our family’s cabin–luxurious as far as “cabins” go, complete with Wi-Fi, central air, and a well-stocked fridge–I never imagined I’d be struck with the inspiration for my first novel. I also never imagined I’d spend the next three years going through a roller coaster of the above emotions as I simultaneously completed the novel and learned how to be a writer. Whew, it was exhausting, before taking into account all the other stuff going on in my life (which I’ll talk about sometime in the near future, because all of that stuff is important, too), but I’d do it all again without hesitation.
It all started with a shrine. And, appropriately, it all ends with a shrine: the Our Lady of the Woods Shrine at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mio, Michigan. If you’re ever up that way, stop and check it out. It’s one of those humbling, unexpected places that you stumble upon when you’re lost, but it will have a lasting impact on your life one way or another. For me, it took me from someone with a Creative Writing degree who pretended to want to be a writer, to a published author with about three thousand projects coming down my creative pipeline. For me, it changed my life.
There was also a sign somewhere along the route off M-33. It might have been one of the common signs people put outside their homes, indicating who lived there, it might have been a radio advertisement, or something entirely different, but it struck home. It’s been said some of the best writing ideas are simply the combining of two, seemingly unalike ideas. In this case, a reverent, holy place and a sign that simply read, “A.M. Blood”–grim and foreboding, yet undeniably intriguing.
Thus, Morning Blood in Mio was born. The details filled themselves in after the fact. If you were to ask me where I got the inspiration for my characters, why I took the story in the direction I took it, or how I arrived at my wacky, weird version of our world, I’d shrug and say emphatically, “Yes.” These things just sort of happen sometimes. As an artist, you’re struck by lightning in the night, while taking a shower, or stuck in traffic on the way to your day job. Sometimes, it’s such an intense flash that it sends ripples through your body, shocks your heart, and blinds you. Other times, it’s subtle. It builds energy inside of you until you can no longer contain it. It changes from this amorphous idea to something concrete:
Chase Cross, a lonely man, blundering through life, knocking dishes off tables with his hips and tripping over his two right feet, is called to a small town in the middle of nowhere to make a huge impact.
Sheriff Grace, an intimidating, powerful woman who runs her town with a passion only an artist can match.
The Statues, proving that sometimes there’s more under the surface than one can see with a mere superficial glance–showing us that sometimes we just don’t pay enough attention.
Stan and Anaya, a reminder like a fist to the gut that concepts such as life and death, Heaven and Hell, are just as tangible as hot and cold, love and hate.
Over the next couple of months, while I’m putting the final touches on Morning Blood in Mio, I want to talk about this journey in vivid detail. I think it’s useful, even if you aren’t the creative type, to see what goes on in the background. Also, maybe I’ll say something insightful that you can take and apply to your own journey. That would be really great. If it happens, please tell me. I might be able to use it to touch someone else’s life, too.
When all is said and done, I’ll come out on the other side with a book–the first of many. I hope you read it. I hope you enjoy it and talk about it with your friends. I hope it brings enjoyment to your life or makes you question your fundamental beliefs in a way. Even if you don’t read it, even if you do and think, “God, this is rubbish”, I hope you find your own path to whatever it is you’re pursuing, while understanding that you’re not alone unless you choose to be.