Saturday, November 12, 2016

Writing as therapy

Writing is a strange endeavor. It's usually done alone, but the result of that solitary labour is shared with everyone who reads it. It's the art of opening a vein and pouring our hearts onto the pages and trying not to make too much of a mess in the process.

It's a common joke among authors that writing is cheap therapy, and I know I'm not the only one who works through the challenges of my own life by writing them down and weaving a story around them to give myself a fresh perspective and sometimes, clarity or closure.

Some of you might have noticed that a couple of themes tend to show up time and again in my books: grief over the loss of someone important to my characters, and siblings who have drifted apart over the years. There's a reason for that.

Nine years and one day ago, my little brother, Corey, was deep-sea fishing for marlin off the coast of north-eastern Australian. He caught one, too. I have a picture of him reeling it in. As it turned out, that was the last picture anyone would take of him. He died in his sleep a few hours later, a victim of something called S.A.D.S. Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. There wasn't any warning. There were no goodbyes said. His heart simply stopped beating, and he was gone.

In the heart-shattering aftermath of his death, a lot of things changed for me. I'd lost my only sibling, and while we loved each other, we weren't that close. He had his life, and I had mine. I always thought there'd be time to reconnect "later." Only, we didn't get that time. I learned the lesson we all learn eventually: we don't know how much time we have with the ones that matter to us. Losing that time is one of my greatest regrets, and over the last nine years, I've worked through some of that regret with my stories and borrowed from my own experiences to write about grief, loss, and the various ways we cope with it all. I also came to understand that time flies, life is short, and if I was going to do any of the things I wanted to do, I should get on with it. That's when I decided to become a published author, and started a new chapter in my life.

I spent the last day or so the same way I do every year, in quiet reflection (and occasional tears.) I'm back to writing now, and it struck me that the story I'm working on isn't only a love story, it's about the ways grief shapes the way we think and act even years later, and the regrets that come with realizing you've lost so much time with someone you care about. It wasn't planned, but it's woven into the storyline, and I believe it enriches the story.

I know that so long as I'm writing, my brother will live on in the pages of the books I create. His smile, laughter, quirks, and maddening habits have all appeared here and there, brought back to life by the characters in my stories.It's my way of remembering him and keeping him with me until the day I see him again...and smack him upside the head for leaving us too soon.