Death Of A Challenge

I told myself so.

I told myself as soon as I made this crazy writing challenge public that something unforeseen—and very likely untoward—would hinder my efforts.

I knew we had a trip planned to DC when the Accountability blog was posted. Turns out I did some of the best writing of the challenge in the early mornings while the guys were getting ready for the day. Sitting on the balcony overlooking the courtyard of our Airbnb apartment building, listening to the big city waking itself up for the day’s adventures. That was quite a nice change of pace.

I also knew that there’d be bumps and days of low word counts. But overall, I figured I’d average a good amount of writing time around those bumps.

Ha. Bumps.

Oh, please, please, give me back the bumpy days. Turns out , bumpy days are easy.

What we had in September was the Everlasting Gobstopper of bumps. Multiple Gobstopping bumps.

Two hospitalizations (we crammed the DC trip in between those hospital stays at the insistence of the entire family that we not cancel our plans), lawyers, case workers, skilled rehab facilities and the waiting. Endless waiting on someone—anyone—to provide us with answers of any sort at all regarding our loved one’s progress or lack thereof. And the footwork it takes to find paperwork for these matters was unreal. I logged more steps around town and the hospital than I did in DC—at least the emotional toll coupled with the stress sure made it seem that way.

And the rollercoaster of emotion. Wow. When you’re swimming in doubt, regret, anger and fear, there’s little room for joyous outlets. I think—no, I know—that I boohooed in more public places last month than in the last twenty years. Really weird places, and I got caught by total strangers and vague acquaintances.

And the scenes I wrote—or tried to—those mornings after a dark day were all antagonist scenes. Dark ones. A few I deleted because the cynicism and gloom spilled over into scenes that didn’t require such darkness.

Then things started happening to other people I care about. Really awful things. Things that made my Gobstoppers look less like slender, evil hands reaching from dusky corners to choke the creativity out of me and more like bumps. Goosebumps at that—simple and nothing to complain about.


I found the perfect image for this blog. That balloon cracked me up. The challenge is over. Dead in the water and no orange fountain pen for me. But that balloon. Bobbing with just a bit of hope and lessons learned and, yes, a little morbid, but it matched my mood.

I learned perspective—a lesson that I am forever learning. Likely none of us fully learn it nor do we keep it at the forefront of our brain because perspective always seems to hit us in the face in the middle of a whine fest.

I did get words in. I did make progress that absolutely wouldn’t have happened had the challenge not existed—otherwise the writing would have been the farthest thing from my mind in September. Likely October, too. So, I’m happy with that, and I’m on sort of a roll with the WIP. No short stories, but that’s okay.

I gleaned story fodder. A myriad of bits and pieces to weave into backgrounds and lives of my characters. Tiny details like how the streets around the apartment in DC filled with dogs pulling their owners to the nearest tree or hydrant after the all-day rain finally stopped.

Emotional details like how it felt to write my grandmother’s name in her clothing as I was stocking her room at the rehab facility. Which turns out to not feel one bit like writing my kids’ names in their clothing when they went to church camp…

Sensory details like being too tired to sleep—and when sleep does come, it serves up nightmares of future outcomes—or terrors of the past.

And that day ten people followed me into the elevator—and someone says we could fit four more—and the sweaty palm thing happened. White and blue sparkles flashed in my periphery warning of impending doom. When the merry riders cleared the doors on the first floor (as if nothing at all terrifying had just transpired), my feet were firmly cast in concrete blocks and it cost much effort to exit to the air…

Yeah. Not a fan of the claustrophobia details. But there they are. Gobstopping fodder.

And I decided I’ll try it again. Another challenge.

An orange fountain pen for winning.

Another “Dead Balloon” graphic and a pile of lessons learned if I don’t make it.

Taking a breath in October. Cleaning up messes and adjusting to a “new normal.” Reset. Reset. Reset. Boy that flash fiction piece from last week rings true, doesn’t it?

November? NaNoWriMo? Maybe. Maybe you’d like to join me…We can dodge Everlasting Gobstoppers together…

I’ll keep you updated.

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog and the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.