After a one-year leave of absence (and thank you for that, Kate!) I’m happy to resume blogging on Maine Crime Writers. Let me explain why I left and why I’m back. Last October my wife tripped on a curb in Philadelphia and broke her femur—for the second time in six months. The first, last March, resulted when she was hit by a snowboarder. The recent one was purely accidental: crossing the street she glanced up to renew acquaintance with a 19th century bank building she had once written an article about. Not a good idea. She had surgery in Philadelphia and managed to fly home, but, unlike the earlier injury, this time she could not put weight on the affected leg. That meant that for over three months we had to stay in our one-level condo in Yarmouth rather than our multi-level home in Newry. And since she was confined to a wheelchair and walker, it meant that I was on 24/7 caretaker duty. The writing I had been doing on a new mystery came to an abrupt end, as did my blogging. And simply being away from home for such a long time was a trial.
In the winter she regained the use of her right leg, we returned home, and I faced resuming my writing. But I found I couldn’t pick up where I had left off and became increasingly frustrated. Writer’s block is no fun, and I couldn’t bring myself to blog about it—or anything else. With her two accidents that year, we called 2019 our annus horribilis. Little did we know what 2020 would bring!
Like everyone else we sheltered in place, and my frustration at being unable to write grew alongside the other negative mental responses the lock-down brought. I envied the way my wife coped by working several hours a day on an earlier textbook of hers that a publisher contracted her to revise. She urged me to try the same approach: write. I tried, but without success, and finally realized—or accepted—that the mystery I had been working on just wasn’t going to jell. Then a new idea gripped me as I was trying to sleep, and the next morning I sat down and started sketching it out with notes and timelines. I’m now over 100 pages into it. I have no idea whether I’ll be able to finish it, but I find that for at least three or four mornings a week I can sit down at my laptop and write. When I say “write” I of course mean developing characters, creating dialogue, constructing a plot, and laying down prose. But I also know that what I’m doing is coping— coping with the pandemic and its intrusions into our lives by focusing on an imagined story over which I have complete control. Who, in these days, doesn’t want control? So if I finish this mystery and it gets published, I suppose I’ll have to credit the pandemic. And if that doesn’t happen, at least I’ll have focused my way through to what I hope we can call a normal life. Either way, at least for now, I’m glad to be back at it.