Staring down the blank page

October 31st is not just Halloween, but it is also the night before November 1st, the first day of National Novel Writing Month. The first year I had heard of NaNoWriMo was 2003, and I spent most of September excited about the prospect of jumping head first into a novel come November. Then I met Carl, my husband, in October, and was so head-over-heels in love by November that writing a novel was the last thing on my mind.

Last November I was in Europe, having just arrived, and as I was isolated and unemployed, NaNoWriMo seemed like the perfect way to spend a month.  Yet this time the idea of sitting down to a blank screen terrified me.  I was so miserable and unhappy and writing a novel seemed like the last thing I could handle.  I didn’t feel competent to handle my own psyche, let alone create new people out of whole cloth and hope to make them believable.

(The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to just write, quality be damned, yet somehow I managed to turn it into an exercise in self-flagellation.  I’m unfortunately rather good at self-flagellation.)

So now here I am in 2010, on the night before NaNoWriMo, and am facing my scariest blank page yet.  Carl and I have been living apart, on different continents, for two months, and today we finally spoke of our separation and our marriage and our future.  And although we are not ready to start sorting out logistics yet, it really is just a matter of time before we separate for good.  (I feel like such a coward, avoiding the word divorce.)

And as much as this is mutual and amicable and a long time coming, it really just breaks my heart.  I think of our seven years together, and all the joy and love that we’ve had together, and how much optimism and hope we had when we married.  I think of all our family and friends who surrounded us with such love at our wedding, and all the support and well-wishes we had, and can’t help but feel like I’ve let them down, let Carl down, let everyone down.  We tried so hard, and just couldn’t make it work.

I could write for ages – could write the 50,000 words in a month for NaNoWriMo – and still never say enough of how hard this is, how much I regret the way things turned out.

So here I am on NaNo Eve, and I have no idea what the next steps in my life will be, what words to put on those blank pages.  I am separated and unemployed and living with my parents and feel pretty damn lost.  But I am the author of my own life, right?  I guess I need to just start writing, perfection be damned.



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6 responses to “Staring down the blank page

  1. Quinn

    Do it do it do it! I was in a very similar spot last year, single/unemployed/living in my mom’s basement/looking super cool tooling around on my bike with my backpack from high school/devastated and writing is very much the thing that pulled me out of the hole. Just remember the first draft is always shitty, as it should be, get the structure down and go from there. I’ll be holding a good thought for you!

  2. Moe

    I got a million little ideas floating in my head I’d love to put on paper (or hard drive?) but, as you know, I’m severely lacking in time these days, but I may just shoot for writing something myself next year. sounds fun

  3. You didn’t let anyone down. Neither of you did. It is a natural part of life, sadly. Beating yourself up over it or about not writing or anything, really, only makes matters seem more dismal. If your separation or divorce is the right path, I might suggest an attempt to view it as a fresh start or a new adventure rather than letting anyone down. Being honest with yourself is often difficult when it’s most important, but it is truly important.
    This past week kicked my ass in all of the worst ways, but after some serious soul searching I found that things can only get better and if they don’t? I won’t die as a result.
    I know we don’t know each other well, but I am here for you! If you need a yell or a rant or a good cry, let me know! I love you, for you! ❤

  4. Alice

    While I was a child of divorce, I never realized just how transformative it is until I got partnered (or illegally married, depending on how political I’m feeling). But one thing I took from my parents’ amicable divorce that still holds true is that a relationship that ends isn’t necessarily a failed relationship. Many things are beautiful, worthwhile and wonderful even if they don’t last until we die, and I’m still so saddened that we as a society tend to brush aside marriages (and friendships) that have lasted for years and have created so much during that time.

    I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t hurt, or to minimize your pain in any way – it sucks, and I’m sorry you have to deal with this. But when it comes to thinking about letting other people down, it’s not like you faked a marriage just to get some presents – you’re doing what’s right for you both, and anyone who gainsays that is letting *you* down as a friend.

  5. Melissa

    Best of luck with your new journey on the page and your new journey in life. I found my self in a very similar situation four years ago: living with my mother after a failed relationship, no car, no job, no plan, feeling lost and humiliated. I was blankslated and it hurt so badly i remember it as “the time i was on fire.” But, like a phoenix, i was served well by the flames. You are likely on the brink of a miraculous transformation. So cry, scream, flail, feel and have faith. And write!

  6. Funny, I stumbled on this post as I was avoiding my word count. I posted on this subject yesterday ( – so, are you writing? I hope so! I know how difficult a break-up can be; I am also going through the aftermath of one, and helping my roommate cope with a divorce. It’s very painful. Write about that, write about anything, just write and you WILL feel better 🙂

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