When Your Muse Gets Mugged By Susan Sundwall

Death stops everything. And I don’t mean just in the person who’s died. It stops normal activity for however long it takes for those involved to recover. It’s especially hard on the creative mind because, like it or not, for those of us who count on imagination to survive, there’s often a high price to pay – like no productivity for months. My 84-year-old mother died recently. In the months before, she had been failing, but my sisters (all five of them) and I planned our first big trip together anyway. We had everything in order, the house rented, the plane tickets, the rental car reserved, restaurants chosen – and then Mom, who had rallied so many times, trumped us all by passing on to her reward. Needless to say, I did precious little writing in the time when this all happened, and didn’t even want to. Eventually, though, I had to wonder if my muse would ever return to sit on my shoulder after the awful mugging she’d endured.

Many people hammer out their grief in writing. I wrote a poem and a short eulogy piece that, combined with those of other family members, was read at Mom’s funeral service. I discovered that this cathartic manner of writing can lead us down paths we didn’t know were open to us. Writing in the moment can begin the healing process, but it may take a while before you feel you can present that writing to the world. Bear in mind, however, that your personal essay or poem may be the springboard for helping others whose muse seems also to have abandoned them.

Thinking about subject matter, consider first the children. Have you learned anything that might help young people cope with the loss of a close relative or friend? You may even have some tips about children and funerals. Four of my neices and one nephew spoke at Mom’s funeral and they were all under the age of 12 – quite amazing. Magazines devoted to the care and keeping of children may welcome your findings.

Sometimes we’re not as emotionally involved in the grief process but understand the problems others face. These may include funeral planning, wills, memorial services, insurance policies, death certificates, cremation vs. in ground burial and any number of other factors. On this, more practical level, there are also opportunities.

A few years ago, while attending my brother-in-laws funeral, I noticed the large number of teens who were there. His children were young and their friends had come for support. It occurred to me that, for some of them, this may have been their first funeral so I wrote “How to go to a Funeral,” and sent it to a teen magazine. I covered every aspect from first hearing of the death and what to do and say, proper attire for a funeral, and how to conduct yourself at the grave side and reception. In additon, anyone who bears the responsibility of seeing to the guests who come to the home after the service might need some direction. Wouldn’t they welcome some practical ideas on what to serve or how to create a memorial picture board as my nieces did for my Mom, their grandmother?

When you feel your muse once again at your side, reward her with some writing from the gut. There are many who need to read what you have to say.

Here are some paying markets that might be interested in your personal experiences:

Parents Magazine
Likes compelling human interest stories.
Pay is negotioable.

Charlotte Parent
Pays $45 – $125.

Western New York Family
Pays $35-$200, depending on type and length of article.

Pays $250 – $500 for inspirational first person true stories.

Ladies’ Home Journal
Pay varies.

Seattle Woman
Pay varies.

AARP the Magazine
Pays $1 per contracted word.

God Makes Lemonade
Pays $200.

A tender word of advise, though – be kind to yourself. Take as much time as you need to get back on your feet. Your readers will understand and then welcome the writing that comes from an older, wiser you.

Susan Sundwall is a freelance writer from upstate New York. Her stories, poems, articles and essays have appeared in many online and print magazines.