Guest Post Friday. It's baaaack!
Get ready to read a stellar post by writer and author (and my cousin!) Natalie Brock. Her journey includes Harry Potter, self-publishing under a pseudonym (you'll laugh as to why), traveling throughout England and more. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!
My Writing Journey/How I Came to Be Where I am Today/Why did I decide on a travel blog and travelogue of my UK adventures? Writing tips?
My writing journey. Wow. When when I look back, I can see what a long road it’s been. I’ve had the writing bug for as long as I can remember. You know- that tiny itch that just compels you to write and you can’t get rid of it until you’ve penned something. I would always be writing these short stories- so short I could count the number of pages on one hand- and skits my friends and I would perform. Whenever I had to write a short story for school- well- that was always the highlight of my week! I’d jump at the opportunity with full gusto.
And then I got obsessed with Harry Potter. I blame my sister for introducing me to that world of magic. I was newly-13. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the books since then, but I couldn’t get enough of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Even though I liked writing beforehand, this was the series that really propelled me into saying “You know what? I want to become a writer!”
Thus it began: with Harry Potter fanfiction. First, at the IMDB message boards for the fourth Harry Potter film and then, later, I did stories on both that and fanfiction.net. No, you’re not getting the link; good gravy was my writing atrocious back then! But that was the catalyst to eventually starting my own, original projects. I mean, fanfiction gave me plenty of practice. Practice makes perfect, you know?
I started with original fiction and stuck with that for several years. It was painstaking and took for-freaking-ever, but I loved the stuffing out of it. I even self-published three novels. They never really got off the ground, but I did it! I felt so accomplished and I wanted more! I kept on writing, putting fingers to keyboard my story ideas. I still have two that need editing and a third that’s nearly good to go.
Side note: the ones I self-published are not under my own name. Someone else had already published books- someone with the same name as me- that were of the smutty-romance variety. NOT my preferred genre by a long shot.
But here’s the thing- motivation can be a tricky bugger and as much as I love those three unpublished tomes, the first two need A LOT of editing and the third one some fact-checking. It’s at a state that, if I published it now, I’d get laughed at by people in certain circles.
Why do I feel so unmotivated to tackle those works?
I suppose it’s because, at one point a couple years ago, I wrote two novels back to back. I felt unbelievably burned out, you guys. I thought, “Hey! Take a break! You deserve it. Step away for a few weeks and come back to your works with fresh eyes!”
So I did.
And when I came back to those novels? I couldn’t get the gumption to finish them.
I thought, “Let’s give it some more time.”
I went back a few times. I mean, I tried. I did. But I couldn’t do it. My mind wouldn’t let me. Each time I tried, it’s like my creative juices would shut down on me. It was excruciating and heartbreaking, because those books were my babies. But I just. Couldn’t. Do it.
To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins: trying to write felt like butter, scraped over too much bread.
In short, a year and a half slid by. A year and a half of not doing anything, just waiting for that right moment, for the writing juices to punch me in the face once more.
I went to England for the second time this past April. You guys; I fell in love all over again. I yearned so badly to go back; so much so that I just HAD to talk about it with such a degree that I was afraid I would otherwise burst. The best way I felt was to write about it, and so I did, documenting everything I did every day I was away.
Do you know what? Because of that, I fell in love with writing all over again. With the simple snap of a finger, I was out of the dark, dry mode and back into the light. I felt motivated again. But not to write fiction: nope. This time, I instinctively knew nonfiction was where it was at. It was the only thing that felt real to me, know what I’m talking about?
I have enough material for my solo England/Paris trip to fill a short book, and that is my ultimate goal.
And thus was the inspiration for my travel blog. I have a consistent case of the wanderlusts. When I was just a wee kid, my parents would always take my sister and me on their anniversary vacations with them. We’d go camping, too. Road trips, summer and holiday trips… It was all so glorious and gave me an insatiable thirst to see more! I mean, I just had to get out there and experience more of what life had to offer. To see more of the world, darn it! Even now, right this second, I feel the travel bug prickling at me, and the urge to talk about it. So, if people like Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed can do it, why can’t I?
To read more of Natalie's travel adventures, head to nataliestravels.com
To buy her books: A Question of Nobility | Through the Storm
To follow Natalie on Instagram: @natster0905
August is a hard month. This time last year, I was slowly saying goodbye to my Dad. Days felt slow. Long. Painful. But joy was found as well. I spent almost every day with him and my Mom that month, laughing together, remembering together, being together. It's a gift of time God gave me that I'll always cherish.
As I navigate through the memory of last year, I'm trying to focus my attention on the present. I've been writing more than I have in years. I've found motivation in unusual places. And I've rediscovered a passion for words I thought I lost. August, last year you kicked my butt. This year? I'm kicking yours.
Here's a bit of what I've been up to this summer and what I'm currently working on/enjoying:
How's your summer shaping up? Back to school for any of you? I'd love to know! Once again, thanks for following along. HUGS.
In my dad’s last year, we traveled twice to Vegas. Once for the Super Bowl, a tradition dating back four years. And once in May, to celebrate Dad feeling well.
His health was surprisingly steady. He recovered from Whipple surgery. His cancer threats remained low. And the doctor cleared him another month from chemo. We were ecstatic. We zipped back to Vegas to celebrate.
I anticipated the same fun, the same tone, the same routine as our Super Bowl trip. After all, we were together. We were happy.
However, this trip was different. Whether I was naive or desperate to deny it, this trip was always going to be different. It came cloaked in a shadow impenetrable by desert sun.
We might never do this again.
Regardless, I cast that shadow aside and focused on the present. We strolled. We shopped. We gambled. We ate.
But on our last day, the shadow returned. We stopped at a Starbucks in our hotel for breakfast. Mom, Alejandro, and I sat at the far end of the lobby, and for some reason, Dad took to a couch a few feet away. There, his body sat limp. His arms bereft of muscle. His mouth solemn. His face carved in shadow. All warmth in his eyes, gone.
I saw all this. And I didn’t go to him.
I ask myself why I stayed. I even later apologized for it. Dad was a private person. When he was glum, he retreated behind a newspaper. I assumed this was one of those times. Let him be. He’ll be fine. But it wasn’t. It was different and none of us wanted to admit why.
He rallied that day. He smiled; we laughed. And the rest of the trip was spent roaming through hotel lobbies and placing chips on green tables.
I will never forget the way his body sat sunken on that couch. How his face revealed frown lines too deep to reverse. Today, I realize how embattled he was. How crippling that moment was. To us, it was the end of a trip. To him, it was the end.
When I asked him later if he wanted comforting, and he said yes, heat and nausea collided in my stomach. He had a need and I didn’t respond.
Today, my dad is whole and happy in heaven. I am confident he knew how much I loved him. The bond we shared throughout our lives overshadows that fleeting moment in Vegas. However, it taught me something. People are hurting and craving the comfort of others.
It’s hard to meet someone in their pain, isn’t it? We’re afraid to say the wrong thing. Or do the wrong thing. But the worst we can do? Is stay where we are. To comfort someone is dirty and confusing and scary. But it’s nectar to a hurting soul. It's as simple as a text. A call. A card. A meal. A hug. No matter your experiences, no matter your weaknesses, you have something to offer.
Whatever you do, don't stay seated.
You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp. —Anne Lamott
I am constantly surprised by grief’s all encompassing nature. One moment, I’m staring at dirty dishes, and the next, I’m crying because it reminds me of a time my Dad left a plate in the sink.
Grief permeates every area of your life whether you like it or not. Whether you expect it to or not. It knocks every bit of you down. It ignites at random moments. It is inconsiderate and gut-wrenching. My heart aches in ways I never knew possible—like mysterious muscles aching after a workout.
But, if you let it—and trust me, I’m still learning to let it—grief teaches you about life and love in a way nothing else can.
I have three vivid memories of my Dad in his last year that I struggle with. It’s a blessing and a curse, this imagination of mine. I can visualize so intensely that it leaves me emotionally distraught at times or overwhelmingly joyous. I battle with the idea—do I continue to remember these memories or do I try and ignore them? Because continuing to remember digs up the pain and the hurt and the sad. But it also breathes life on something that deserves it.
I choose to remember.
For the next few weeks, I plan on sharing each one of these memories. My hope is two-fold. To help myself heal. And to help others relate. If you’re suffering from grief, know that you are not alone.