By Suzy Beal

I write, it’s what I do. But recently, I went AWOL. Absent without leave. I closed the door to my writing studio and walked away.

My schedule hasn’t changed for the past eleven years. I shut myself in my studio and I write for three hours daily. I write prose and poetry. Over these years, my writing gave me hours of contentment, success, anger, and struggle. I take three or four classes every year, some of six or eight weeks, others of several hours. Most have been online classes, although I like to attend the local community college, too. I’ve worked hard to improve my style and find my voice.

For me, waiting for the muse never worked. What works is chasing the muse every day. She is there nearby, always waiting for me to find her. Lately she’s MIA missing in action. Some days, the only writing I can do is making lists or copying other’s writing word for word to understand how they accomplish their “perfect” paragraphs. However, most of the time, my own words creep to the surface and I find the keys clicking with excitement. Those days make the entire experience worth the effort.

But, another voice has been speaking to me, a voice I didn’t want to hear. In January of this year, emotional, tired, and worn out, I visited my doctor. I’d quit sleeping well, waking up in the night with words and sentences going through my head, unable to fall back asleep night after night. The doctor suggested that perhaps “stress” was the cause. How could stress be a factor doing something I loved, but my days seemed long, and I worried about my classes and meeting the deadlines? The quality of my stories and poems always concerned me. I couldn’t give myself “leave” to relax and take a few days off. I had a responsibility to my teachers, to my fellow writers, and to the idea of writing every day. Stopping my writing wasn’t an option. Who would I be without my writing? I doubted my ability to come back to writing if I paused for a few days. My headaches returned.

Like the smoke from the wildfires that swirls past and around our home this summer, I couldn’t see clearly through this fog in my head. Until one day, I reached a moment when I knew I needed to force myself to slow down. I quit writing, taking classes, and following the writing schedule I’d set for myself. Absent Without Leave because I still felt guilty, and that I was letting myself down. Nervous at the idea of passing my writing studio, but not wanting to go in, the pit in my stomach told me to walk on past. I unsubscribed to all the writing blogs and newsletters, so they wouldn’t be the first thing that appeared each morning on my computer.

It took almost a month before the sleeping pattern changed. Soon I relaxed during the day and I kept my mind occupied with things that weren’t about writing. I picked up old books and spent more time reading. I started doing needlework again. The beautiful colors sliding through my fingers as I appliqued pieces of wool to make designs gave me peace and contentment. I ‘ve spent eight months away from my writing studio while still keeping my fingers limber with needle and thread. I’ve started taking photos and spend hours looking at nature through the lens. Seeds and seed pods are fascinating and make interesting photos. They are the beginnings of great things.

By keeping the creative juices going in other pursuits, I’ve come full circle. Words smolder in the nether regions of my brain again. A slow momentum is taking place and I know the muse is extending her arm to me.

© 2020 Suzy Beal

Writer and budding poet Suzy Beal spent twenty-five years helping seniors put their stories to paper and this year just finished her own memoir. Suzy’s work has appeared on, including a serialized portion of her travel memoir. She writes personal essays and is currently studying poetry.  Her work has appeared on Story Circle Network, 101words, Central Oregon Writer’s Guild, and recently an essay in  Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon. She lives and writes from Bend, Oregon.

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to AWOL

  1. Joan Connor says:

    Yeah! Susie!! You took charge – we are so conditioned to meeting expectations….even our own!
    Excellent thoughts and I loved how you shared your appreciation of other interests.


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