Writing Through the Hard Times

As many of you know, my dear friend–our dear friend–Rick Walton, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called gliosarcoma. I’m heartbroken. Every conversation is about Rick and my worry and concern and sorrow. Anytime anyone asks me how I am, I want to say, “Not so great. My friend is really sick.” (Sometimes I do speak of this, sometimes I don’t. But I want to, every time.) As I sit here now, I’m having difficulty breathing. My eyes fill with tears. I’m worried and misspelling things–typing more badly than I usually do.

Part of me wants to sob–has been sobbing. Every day since the diagnosis. All day on Thursday. Any time I allow myself. Now.

I want to cry out to God. And I have. Tell Him how unfair this is. How, for the last nine + years, Rick has been so ill with Parkinson’s. AWFUL things happening with him. Why this, now? Why this, too? He wants to get married again. He wants chocolate ice cream. He wants to be able to talk, not just whisper in my ear over and over and over until I understand him.

Yes! I know this is the way of things. This is life. “Every true story ends in death,” Ernest Hemingway said. But I don’t want it to. In the last few months good friends have lost lovers, fathers, spouses and children. I know this is life!


A few months back, I was shaken up by something in the family that knocked my footing loose. I was sobbing all the time then, too. I became so sad I couldn’t write. In fact, I didn’t write fiction for almost three months. When more bad news came, I was brought to my knees. At the beginning of this family thing, I was too anxious to write. Then the desire to write left. I realized I had to repair my heart. Or at least try to.

I’m not a scientist, nor do I claim to be one. Going through grief is different for all of us. But looking back, this was my process during those three-ish months when I couldn’t write like I wanted. It may be different during this newer sorrow. I don’t know. Each grief is personal.

Be patient. You will write again.

If the urge comes, be ready. Don’t worry about how well you’re writing. Just write.

Push yourself a little if it feels okay to you. Five minutes might be all you do. Or you may sit at the computer and do nothing. That’s what I did. Sat there. It was how I pushed myself. It was all I could do.

Do only what’s necessary. I graded student papers and fell exhausted onto the sofa. I made short work of the extra work my teaching job brings.

Count all writing as writing. I wrote for the blog even when I couldn’t write fiction. I wrote a few words–or no words at all–with Ann Dee on our book. I took days off. I didn’t write on Sundays. I counted tweets. (Not so many of those as I still don’t know what I’m doing on Twitter!)

Think about your work. How was going I to end that middle grade I started a couple of years before? What about the book for Zondervan? That needed a huge rewrite. How would I get through that?

Let your brain help you through. I’ve solved more writing problems not thinking and worrying over them, but letting the troubles stew in the back of my head. When I get to the part of the book that’s troubled me, many times it’s worked out because my brain did the work when I wasn’t fretting over it.  I see the way.

Do that thing, whatever it is, that lets your mind veg. For me, that’s TV. For some, it’s cleaning. For some, it’s reading. (I had a hard time reading fiction, too, so this wasn’t a help for me.)

Complain. I bet my friends are good and sick of me. I whine a lot. About everything. And while I usually keep my mouth shut about serious family issues, this time I talked. A lot. Too much.

Shut up. I don’t even need to give an explanation for this.

I relied on God. No, the problems didn’t go away. I didn’t expect them to. But believing, having faith, hoping, it’s important to me. I needed that foundation to stand on.



These are just off the top of my head–some things I see when I look back over my life these last few hard, heartbreaking months.

By the way, when I finally eased back into my writing at the end of the three months, I finished two novels and began editing two more. I’m not sure if I could have pushed myself and written straight through my grief. Maybe I could have. But I didn’t have the creative energy I needed to even try. (Maybe just pushing along, no matter how hard, will work for you.)

Here’s another truth for me, for now: I know Rick wants me to keep on writing. “We’re going to make a million dollars,” he used to tell me. “We’ll build a writing commune. We can live there and writers can come and stay and create.” In fact, we spoke of this not so long ago.

Oh, Rick.

How I want that. With you. How I do.


Filed under CLW, Depression, Family, Life

16 responses to “Writing Through the Hard Times

  1. Love you Carol. So so sad.

  2. Carol, this post…. It is so beautifully written, so tender and full of fear and despair and wanting. I do not have a friend like your Rick, so I don’t know how this would feel.

    But, I have been paralyzed in the day to day, the not knowing what to do or how to do it, so that part I do understand. I know far less of what to do now than when I was overwhelmed with the rearing of children. This has gone on for a couple of years. So I can understand your not being able to write as I have not been able to do much worthwhile.

    I also can understand the sadness of family problems. I have that in raveling edges that seem to disintegrate into dust. I feel sadness for you and yet hope for you too, as I know your strength. It may never resolve the way you (or I) want, but we will both go on, loving our family as only a mother can.

    I am so very sorry about Rick. He is a kind, talented and loving person. You are a kind, talented and loving person. No wonder you are best friends. Both of you will be added to my pleading prayers.

    May God bless you in ways that only you will understand, and may you eventually be comforted.

    Thank you for always trying to help others. Thank you for your faith, which helps strengthen me. Thank you for your perseverance and for your great love. Only those who love deeply can be brought so completely to despair. How did a little girl from Florida become such a fine woman? Thank you.

  3. This is beautiful, Carol. I’m so sorry you are hurting. And I’m sorry about Rick.

  4. benschwensch

    I wanted to say to you . . . so much . . . but then I read the other comments . . . you already have my message. And a companion to cry with. Thanks for sharing good words about our wonderful “writers’ friend”.

  5. ally condie

    I’m sad and sick about this too. I don’t know Rick as well as you do but what a kind man. It was when you and I were visiting his class that I first got to really meet you, Carol. Please let me know if you find that there is anything I could do to help.

  6. Thank you for this, Carol. You and your Rick are in my prayers.

  7. Oh, Carol. Thank you for these beautiful words. How good and kind you are to be such a friend. Dear, sweet Rick. I’m so sad and sorry about all this…so I just cry. Doesn’t help, I know–but please know that my heart is breaking…with yours.

  8. Rachel Coleman

    What a beautiful support system you have, Carol. I can’t help but feel this is a result of the love and care you’ve shown others throughout your life.

    I didn’t know Rick personally, but I am deeply moved by your words. Writing through my own grief, for work and for school, has seemed impossible but necessary, and so I write. Badly. Slowly. I do the best I can. Thank you for sharing your grief with us. What a

    I live in Utah County and work in downtown Salt Lake (at the Church Office Building on Temple Square) so I’m happy to courier any people or things if necessary for Rick.

    Prayers for peace, comfort, and joy for you and Rick and all.

    Let Evening Come

    Let the light of late afternoon
    shine through chinks in the barn, moving
    up the bales as the sun moves down.

    Let the cricket take up chafing
    as a woman takes up her needles
    and her yarn. Let evening come.

    Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
    in long grass. Let the stars appear
    and the moon disclose her silver horn.

    Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
    Let the wind die down. Let the shed
    go black inside. Let evening come.

    To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
    in the oats, to air in the lung
    let evening come.

    Let it come, as it will, and don’t
    be afraid. God does not leave us
    comfortless, so let evening come.

  9. My heart is with you and Rick. And what you’ve written here works for me. It worked when our youngest had cancer at 14. Talking helped. It still does. Writing in her diary helped our daughter make it through the cancer. Keep talking and writing to us.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s