Between the Lines

Kathy Steffen

“Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.”
— Jonathan Lockwood Huie

We have movies, books, quotes, memes — thousands of examples of not quitting, of digging down to find that spark to pull you from the gutter. Remember Rocky at the top of the steps hopping up and down to the tune of “Gonna Fly Now” with his gloved hands in the air?
But what if reading or watching inspirational stories and clips doesn’t do anything for you? What if you simply don’t have anything left? For me the dark moment happened when my publisher declared bankruptcy. My books came down off of Amazon. The court informed me that despite my contract’s assurance in the case of bankruptcy my rights would revert to me, they would not. I’d lost my books, my characters, my stories. I showed my best face to the world to keep from rolling into a ball of misery. Inside, a red burn stabbed and that ever-present critical voice told me I stink anyway, so best to quit writing and live a nice, calm, easy life of mediocrity. Slowly, I’m making my way out. And I’ve learned some incredibly valuable lessons along the way.
Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel bad. You have only hit a bump in the creative road. I found it almost impossible to write, but I decided to “waste” some time and sat in the sun, drawing zentangles. Connecting to my creative core chased that awful internal voice away.
Listen. Not to your critical voice, but what your experiences are telling you. Time to shift and try something different. Time to allow yourself to be free.
Get help. By admitting what happened, instead of the judgment and snarky comments I feared, I received compassion, support and encouragement from my friends. A lawyer helped me through the maze of the bankruptcy court, and I got my rights back. Instead of destroying them, the book distributor allowed me to pick up cartons of my books, so I took a three-day road trip to Tennessee. When I arrived, the office and dock people had read my books and came out to meet me. Such a bright light through the black hole.
Step back, re-evaluate and reconnect. And start small. Every time I tried to work on my novel-in-progress, I became overwhelmed and depressed. When I took some time to rethink my writing career, I decided to reconnect to the joy and fun of when I first started writing short stories. I bought a storytelling game and fiddled around with it. Before I knew it, I had a few ideas and felt at least my big toe was back in the game. On the heels of that I found inspiration and an idea that excites me for a book on writing, so started that again. Maybe the novel is next.
The moral? Down is not out. It ain’t over until you say it is. And no matter your decision or direction, you can always change your mind. Start over. It will do your heart and soul good.

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She writes from her home in Spring Green she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.