A year ago, after a lifetime of being an advocate for gun control, a switch flipped inside my head. I decided I needed to learn how to shoot and own a gun. I discussed it with my husband who agreed to take lessons with me and to purchase a pair of handguns. As an older American, I felt vulnerable. A gun (or two) could protect us. This thinking was such a huge departure for me. I ruminated over it long and hard, talked it over with plenty of friends and family. I was surprised to learn how many already had guns and knew how to shoot them.
At the same time, my writing also took a darker tone. As often is the case, a character I loved acted out things I had been thinking, like taking shooting lessons and buying guns for self-protection. She also felt vulnerable. The title of my upcoming novel reflects this blacker mood in my world view. I finished that book, which I am proud of despite its darker themes. That’s the way it works with writers, or with me anyway. Whatever is on my mind finds its way into my current work. The books, in my view, are always stronger for it.
Still in the pro-gun frame of mind, I began another novel with my same beloved character. I wanted her to find a way out of her darkness. I thought it could be a psychological thriller with a victorious turnaround for my damaged character who had suffered so much. There were two shootings in the first chapter. Of course my character is on the side of the righteous and wants to find the shooter and see justice done. It was my job to help her do that.
Meanwhile, in real life, I never did push for those shooting lessons. I started to think maybe we didn’t need guns in the house after all. And I noticed I was reluctant to continue with the draft of this more violent novel. I thought I was being silly, and, ignoring my inner voice, forced myself to continue writing, telling myself It’s fiction! It’s not real! It’s a challenge. The pages accumulated and I had a solid start on a new and different novel in a fresh voice. My critique group thought it was great.
Then yesterday: the mass shooting in Oregon. After much reflection and the familiar unwillingness to sit down with my manuscript, I finally admitted to myself that I may not be up to this particular writing challenge. I just don’t have the stomach for it. Not now. Maybe not ever. Sure it’s just a book, but after yesterday it hit home: I don’t need or want to add any more to the world’s darkness, or my own, not even a little bit.