How Writing Saved My Life – A guest post by Phoebe Darqueling

art is why i get up in the morning twitter

Greetings all, especially to those who have come to my humble blog to read this! The following is a guest post by Phoebe Darqueling, a fellow steampunk author who I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with over several book tours and write-a-thons. Check out her recent release – Riftmaker – out on February 14th!

As for me, I’ll enjoy reading the post as well. 

“Art is Why I Get Up in the Morning”

The sun hadn’t even thought about rising yet. But there I was, wide awake on a Saturday.

I’d been having trouble getting out of bed for several weeks already. I would play chicken with my clock every day, waiting until the last possible second to get up and face my life for a few hours. Besides a job that I had worked hard to get deteriorating from a pleasure to bureaucratic drudgery, and on top of the three-hour daily commute, I was recovering from a debilitating shoulder injury.

The surgery, though obviously no fun, wasn’t really the problem. This was my second major surgery, so I had experience with pain, but the long recovery meant I had to postpone getting pregnant. I’d never been all that interested in kids before the age of 25, but at 26, my body decided that this was something we seriously needed to discuss. I felt like I was being nagged constantly as my hormones pointed out each tiny outfit and pudgy fist, while assuring me this was absolutely the most important thing I could possibly think about.copy of title only with portal

On top of the necessary evil of the painkillers that made conception unsafe, my tendon was severed and I was permanently disabled by the injury. It would take at least year for me to regain strength and control in my right arm, and I would never be as strong as before the injury or without pain if I pushed myself too far. So, even if I’d suffered through recovery without the meds and took the plunge into motherhood, I wouldn’t be able to hold or care for my baby without searing pain for a long time to come. This seemed like cruel and unusual punishment all its own, and we put our plans on hold.

I swept the shards of my broken heart under the rug and did my best to soldier on through the recovery with the promise of “someday.” All the same, in those solitary minutes after waking, I would lie in bed weighing the benefits of calling in sick just to avoid seeing my flat stomach in the mirror as I struggled into my sling.

But this pivotal Saturday morning there was no alarm clock blaring, no real reason I even needed to open my eyes. Yet at that early hour they burst open, and I immediately put feet to carpet.

So, what made the difference?

I was writing a story.

This newfound enthusiasm for rising and shining had been going on for a few days already. A stray thought I’d had while out walking raged like a wildfire in my mind, its smoke obscuring the ruins of my plans and allowing me to forget my unhappiness for a little while. I’d spent every free moment since that walk working on my story. I wrote on a tablet during my commute and I emailed myself new paragraphs during my lunch break. It was the last thing I thought about every night and the first thing on my mind every morning. Now it was the weekend and I had nothing else to take up my time that day but my writing, so with my canine sidekick for company, I sat down at my laptop to work.

No. “Work” isn’t the right word. That morning, I sat down to play.

As my eager fingers answered the beckoning of the keys, a lyric from a long-forgotten song suddenly whispered at the corners of my awareness. Ani DiFranco had been the mouthpiece of my angsty youth, but I hadn’t really thought about this or any other of her songs for years. The voice that sang in my head was quiet, but demanded to be heard.

“Art is why I get up in the morning…”

I sat there for what felt like an hour, tears blurring my vision and fingers curled over the keyboard but stunned to stillness. Of course, I’d understood the meaning of the words before that day, but on that fateful morning I realized for the first time it was true.

Somehow, I’d found myself living a life that was undoing me brick by brick. My gray little corner of reality made me grateful for the moment every night when I got to lose consciousness and then dread the return to wakefulness. As my limbs grew heavy and my head sank beneath the waves, my mind had thrown me a lifeline. For the first time in years I was in touch with my oldest and most trusted friend, my own creativity, and I would be a fool to turn my back on my salvation.

I knew what I needed to do and I announced to my husband, who was ten time zones away at that moment, that I intended to quit my job. My parents had just bought a fixer-upper back in Minnesota and they offered to let us stay there in exchange for work on the renovations. He thought this notion of picking up and leaving California was just a phase, something to do with the loneliness of his absence or a particularly thankless week at work, but when he came home a few weeks later I was even more certain than ever that this was the right thing for me. Once he could actually look into my eyes and see how I’d changed—the spark of life that had been rekindled while he was away—we both knew that we were in for a new adventure together.

When I was fifteen, I had big plans to be a published author. While other aspirations have come and gone, the writing has remained at my core. For the first time I’m ready to truly commit myself to improving my craft in a way that my teenaged self could never have appreciated. I have lived another fifteen years since those first daydreams of becoming an author, and the experiences I’ve gained are invaluable to my understanding of the human condition and how we interact with the world. Everything I have done until now aids me in my pursuit of that special kind of Truth that isn’t dependent on being “true,” that uses people and events that aren’t “real” but carry real meaning. The beauty of fiction is that it can be transformative for both the reader and the writer. I, for one, no longer see life as an exercise in trudging acceptance. Instead, I see possibilities stretching all the way to the horizon.copy of recent headshot

Six years have passed since that Saturday morning. Quitting my job gave me the flexibility to follow my husband as he chased the siren song of a steady paycheck, and the time to write and explore my inner voice. I’ve continued to collect new experiences as I moved between states as well as hopping across the Atlantic a couple of times. We may not have the “American Dream,” no house or kids still, no clear trajectory for our careers, but there are also times I am so happy I think I’ll burst. The highs now make it hard to believe that I ever let myself get so low, but I am even grateful for the time I was at my darkest. I could have slogged away in an office my whole life and never reached the tipping point that set me on my current path. Now that I’m doing something I love, I can’t imagine another way to live.

My lifeline story grew into a novel, and that novel is Riftmaker. Publishing is a journey fraught with rejection and self-doubt, gatekeepers and naysayers. It’s hours of poring over the same couple of paragraphs so you can get the most compelling possible synopsis, and days of searching for agents who might take a moment out of their busy schedules to glance at your work. It’s long weeks of telling yourself not to panic when you don’t get a response, and months of being told, over and over again, that you just aren’t the “right fit.” Now, Riftmaker has found a home with Our Write Side, and soon I’ll get to hold my book in my own two hands.

Because once you realize that it’s art that gets you out on your feet each day, everything else falls away.


For a limited time, Riftmaker is available for $1.99 from Amazon and a variety of other e-book retailers. So grab your copy before Feb 14! Print price is $18.99 from Amazon and the Our Write Side store.

Find more character spotlights, book reviews, guest posts, and interviews with Phoebe Darqueling during the Riftmaker blog tour, Jan 24 – Mar 6.  

Do you like free books? Sure you do! Get a FREE COPY of The Steampunk Handbook right now.

You can find more of Phoebe’s antics on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks to Phoebe for that post, I know it was a good read because it spoke to me as an author and a person. Life is full of struggles, but we can always use art to overcome them. Stay warm out there!

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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