Craig Cloutier on Flickr Creative Commons

When I became a regular contributor to Writer Unboxed, I made a silent vow to write something funny for my bi-monthly contribution. Therese and Kath, Writer Mamas, gave me carte blanche to write whatever I wanted, but I wanted to write funny.

But, this time, try as I might I can’t be humorous. In fact, it’s hard to even laugh too much. Sure, there have been moments, like the pie-off at Snip ‘n’ Clip, where I get my hair cut. You see, two months ago as I was getting my hair done by Sue, Deb was cutting John’s hair. I’d never met John but within a few minutes we were having a rousing conversation about pie—how we each thought ours was better.

The conversation led to the aforementioned pie-off. I brought Quiche Lorraine, John brought pumpkin pie. “This isn’t weird at all, is it?” I asked a friend who saw me on the way to get my hair cut, when she asked me about the quiche. “Bringing pie to the hair salon?”

Sue, Deb, John, and I  stood in the small kitchen area—after the haircuts—and ate pie. The quiche then the pie. I won of course. (Well, in my mind I won, we didn’t actually vote, although Deb did say, “if this writing thing doesn’t work out, I think you should open a restaurant…” I took that as winning. I’m competitive that way.)

These days even the small slices of life are tinged with sadness, though. The truth is, it’s been a tough time in our house. My husband lost his job two weeks ago. That’s a funny way to put it, isn’t it? Lost, like he might find it? (He won’t). I mean he’ll find another one. We’ve been through this before. But that one’s gone for good. The company reorganized.

The company reorganizing, my husband being home, has reorganized my life, too. I’m not going to the coffee shop anymore in the mornings. I’m writing instead at the kitchen table, a moratorium of sorts. But I am still writing. It’s what we do as writers, right? It’s what I do to work through it. The happiness, the sadness, the good times and bad. The first thing I always think is: “How will I write this?”

For me, the person, the wife, life is taking an unexpected turn. That happens a lot in life, I’ve come to learn. And when it does, the writer in me writes to make sense of it all. I look for the story, what makes it universal, you know? I wonder. Is there a piece of what I’m going through that will inform others? Bring comfort? Help to understand? If not others, then by my actual writing about what’s going on, will that help me to understand?

To be honest, this is not a conversation that happens immediately or easily. This time, in fact, it took writing this blog to really dig deep and even think about it. (Thank you, Therese for helping me dig.) A part of me wants to run away and hide, to forget it all and continue to write the easy stuff, the already-mapped out sorrows and heartbreaks of each of the characters in my current WIP.

Which leads me back to being a writer. For me, the wife, I need to make sense of it all. But for me, the writer, I know what I’m feeling and the hard times that may come—harder or easier than we expect, we don’t know until they play out—will gather in my mind, will provide a new depth and more feeling, will emerge in my writing when I least expect it in ways I may not even recognize as related. And that is the basis of being a writer. Of taking what life gives us—the discomfort and heartbreak or the incredible joy—and creating stories. To allow others to peek in, to know they aren’t quite alone as we all  journey through life in our “lives of quiet desperation,” in the eloquent words of Henry David Thoreau.

Even Thoreau must have grappled to make sense of it all—retreating to Walden Pond to ponder the world and his place in it. Wondering, as we all do, how we will write it, hoping and grasping to make sense of it all. This life we lead. As a woman, a wife, my future is truly unknowable and I’ll find out as I go, but as a writer I know the answer will come in my words.

This is how I write it when funny just won’t come.

How about you? When things happen—good or bad—are you like me? Do you wonder how you’ll write it? Have you been through a tough time in life when writing helped you or the experience informed your writing?



About Julia Munroe Martin

Julia Munroe Martin (@wordsxo) is a writer and blogger who lives in an old house in southern coastal Maine. Julia's other passion is photography, and if she's not writing at the dining room table or a local coffeeshop, you'll likely find her on the beach or dock taking photos. Julia writes The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series as J. M. Maison.