Pushing Through

Happy trails, Fella, wish I could be there to watch you run one more time!

Happy trails, Fella. Wish I could be there to watch you run one more time…

I’m somewhere in the middle. 28,481 words down, 21,519 to go (for NaNoWriMo). Of course to reach a rough draft of the complete novel, I’ve got a lot more than that to write. 

If last week was the highpoint of this month-long intensive writing, this week I definitely hit a low. Because this week I remembered. Sometimes writing is hard. Really hard. I hit a patch that didn’t come easily and I wondered: is the story really going anywhere? Worse. Is it (any of it) really worth it? Even worse: writing this makes me too sad or I just can’t let go enough to “go there.”

This week I hit one of lowest points I can remember in my fiction writing experience. Partly because life got in the way. That’s a funny way to describe writing, isn’t it? Sometimes when things go easily and flow (and I’m loving the feeling), I think writing is my life, but it’s really not. This week I had some emotional turmoil (I won’t go into it), and it made me think about giving up. Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get much worse, they did.

We said good-bye to our beloved Abby dog yesterday. She was my daughter’s puppy, but I spent a lot of time with her. Okay. All the time. As a writer, I spend long (sometimes lonely) hours at the dining room table. But I wasn’t. Abby was always there with me.

But lately, Abby slept all the time. She could barely make it across the kitchen without her legs buckling. Robbed of freedom of movement by crippling arthritis, doomed by genetics, Abby wasn’t the most active dog in the world for the past few years—she couldn’t be—but she soldiered on through the pain she lived with daily, never complaining, always ready for a run through her favorite dog park, Twin Brook, albeit more and more slowly. Always sweet and stalwart, steadfast and kind (can a dog be kind?). She was without a doubt the best dog I’d ever met. My soul dog I called her.

I thought about quitting NaNoWriMo after we had to have Abby put down (yes, it was our final decision, one more way we had to take care of her, to help her escape her failing body—which is the only way I could think of it). MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I were with her at the end, as was her beloved Dr. Renee (if you have a great veterinarian who’s also a good friend, you know how impossibly important that person becomes in your life). We all cried.

Abby leaves a hole in my heart the size of a galaxy, and this morning I feel like I’m in a black hole, but I’m writing. I will finish this book despite my crushing sadness. I will finish this book despite the many things that feel out of my control in my life right now that are struggling mightily to control my ability to write. I will finish this book because writing is my salvation. It’s what wakes me up in the morning, keeps me going in the middle of the day, and gives me dreams and hope at night.

I will push through.


  1. Kristen says:

    Julia, I am so sorry. I know how this loss and saying goodbye hurts so very much. Those furry friends are just so integral in our lives. I hope your pain eases up in the coming days.

  2. Chris says:

    So sorry for you, Julia, and it’s a feeling I know all too well. Hang in there, my friend.

  3. Ann Mc says:

    I have no words. I’m SO sorry. Know you are in my heart and I’m here if you need to talk and cry. …I really wish I had magic words for you, tho. Hugs my dear friend.

  4. I know what you mean about not being alone while writing, and I know how damn quiet and still the house becomes after such a passing. I wish you peace in that stillness. Fill that hole in your heart with stories of Abby’s love, and her kindness (YES, a dog can be kind!). Good for you for pushing on! Sending hugs your way.

    • Thanks for your kind and understanding words and hugs, Vaughn. Support from writer friends who understand that quiet and stillness means so much. Yes, the stories are helping fill the loss.

  5. Christine M Grote says:

    Thinking of you dear friend. You know I admire and support your commitment to writing, just don’t forget yourself in the process. You may need time to grieve. Our long-time, loyal pets are family members, and you have just lost one. I have no doubt you could put the book down for a bit and then get back to it. Take care of yourself, dear.

    • Thank you so much, Christine, your support means so much. Thank you for the reminder — I’m working hard to make sure I don’t forget about myself (not easy for me). Your sympathy and kind words mean so much.

  6. I hate this. A great dog is an unbeatable companion. So selfless in their love. Such a hard decision. But harder to see her laboring so. It is a gaping space. You have to mourn but writing is an outlet for that emotion. Hug.

  7. My dear friend, I don’t know all that’s going on in your life beyond the loss of your precious Abby, but I’ll be lifting you up in my thoughts and prayers. And I’m so incredibly proud of you for pushing through this difficult time and pouring your soul out in writing. Much love to you and the rest of your family.

  8. So very sad for you. Sending buckets full of love xo

  9. Lisa says:

    My heart is with you right now. I’m watching Lizzy, my older dog, slow down more and more and realize the time will come sooner than I am ready to make that choice. I still have time though. But I admire you writing through it. I don’t think I’m going to succeed at NaNo this year. Life truly has gotten in the way.

    Sending comforting thoughts in your direction. <3

    • I know exactly where you are, Lisa, with Lizzy and with NaNo, too. I hear you about life getting in the way. I so appreciate the kind and comforting thoughts. Sending them back to you as well. xoxo

  10. Micky Wolf says:

    So sorry to hear about your Abby. Maybe she and our Frodo of years ago (yes, we are Tolkien people) are dashing about in the canine corners of the places beyond. Thank you for sharing this difficult experience with us. May your writing serve as balm in helping to mend your broken heart. Hang in there…

  11. Cherry Harris says:

    I am sitting at my dinning room table tears coming from all direction Julia because I’ve been there it’s so tough . You think you with never get through it …but you will . Keep writing I’m sure Abbey will be right at your side in spirit…Hugs and hugs more.

  12. Barry Knister says:

    I was once friends with a psychoanalyst, a very good one. He told me that other than the loss of a close (human) family member or friend, nothing was more grief-filled for his patients than the loss of a treasured dog or cat. For me, there is only one way to redeem such loss: to do my best to stay focused on how lucky I have been to know the person or, in our case, Chelsea, our rescued border collie mix. A year ago, almost nine years to the day when we brought her home, we had to make the hard choice for her that you’ve had to make for Abby.
    Please accept my sympathy. And try to think of how diminished would have been all those years, had you not known the privilege of living with your wonderful dog. And how lucky Abby was to live with you.

    • Barry, Thank you. For understanding, for your kind words, and for your sympathy. I so appreciate it. Yes, staying focused on how lucky I have been to know her is the most redeeming. My sympathies to you about Chelsea as well. Thanks again, take care.

  13. Julia — I’m so very sorry for your loss. Losing a companion animal is one of the harder things life throws at us. This post was a lovely tribute to Abby, your soul dog.

  14. Dogs can definitely be kind; some of the kindest souls I’ve known are dogs. I think this is (one of the many things) that makes their loss so painful. I hope that as you push through this difficult time, Abby’s spirit and memory will bring you comfort. And I’m so happy to hear that you’re still writing, Julia. Much love, Natalia

  15. I’m so sad, Julia. Tears came to my eyes as I read your post. This is one of the more difficult things about having pets– knowing that we will, in all likelihood, outlive them. It’s so hard to know when to help them go, but she trusted you. I believe the love of a dog is the purest love in the world. You write about it so bravely and compassionately. That’s a writer, heroically pushing through. Now Abby is over the Rainbow Bridge (as they say, you can find the poem online). She is there for you when you’re writing, still lying next to you, your faithful companion. XO

    • Thank you, Jackie (and now of course I’m crying…)…It is so hard to know when to let go but it was time for Abs. Very sad but yes, she trusted us to take care of her in every way. Again, thanks for your kind words and support. xox

  16. Nina says:

    Julia, I’m so sorry. I loved Jackie’s comment. I won’t try to say it any better.

  17. I’m so very sorry, Julia. *hugs*

  18. Barb Riley says:

    Awwwww! When I arrived at your website this morning and saw the photo of Abby and the caption, I thought, Oh nooo…

    “Galaxy-sized hole” describes the loss so well. The most difficult decision as a pet owner is knowing when to end the suffering. I’ve been there (twice), and still experience a sharp stab to my heart when I think about my trusted companions. Using your writing as salvation sounds like a healthy and healing way to push through. Hang in there, my dear. Heartfelt hugs to you! XOXO

    • Yes, it has definitely been a sharp stab to the heart, and also a slow simmering burn that comes in waves. I’m relying on the writing… and the memories of Abby. Thanks for the hugs and support, Barb, much appreciated.

  19. Hi Julia,

    I am so, sooooooo sorry to hear about your beloved Abby. I, too, spend many lonely hours at my dining room table, with my two cats, Chance and Chester, keeping me company. They are both old, and when it comes time for them to reach kitty heaven, it will leave a huge hole in my heart, and my writing days. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

    I’m sorry I haven’t interacted with you, or any other of my blogger friends, in over a year. I stopped blogging altogether to write my novel, which I finished this month. So I feel the pain you describe in this post!! It took me over a year of working a corporate, 50-hour-per-week job and chipping away at my story after-hours to finally finish it. In fact, I had to quit corporate America to complete it at all. You do hit those lows, wondering if you’re writing nothing but dribble, paralyzed in your own writer’s block, petrified that your story is going nowhere. Keep pushing on, though, force those occasional 300-word sessions, and I promise, the flow will spark again!


    • Shari, THANK YOU!!! Your condolences mean so very much. And please don’t worry about not interacting, I totally understand and appreciate your note all the more. It is a double edge sword this writing yet feeling alone, isn’t it? I am so happy you have your Chance and Chester. And I’m really happy you reached out. Congratulations on your story completion. That’s wonderful. I’ll keep pushing through the lows too, inspired and supported by you and my other writer friends. (I was having a low time today and so your words mean so much. Best, Julia

  20. Big hugs to you, Julia. Been there–we lost our beloved dog, Luci, a couple years ago. It was a gift to be with her at the end, giving her love. One thing that helped the empty silence of the house was putting an 8″X10″ photograph of her in the living room. It gave us back a little of her sweet presence.

    Best wishes!

    • Thank you so much, Cindy — and I love the idea of putting a photo of Abby in the living room as you did with Luci. I’ve kept a big box in the living room (where she always slept), full of all her things. It’s really helped to be able to go over to look inside whenever I miss her most. I also put her dog ID tag on my key chain. I love hearing its jingle. Thank you for the hugs and condolences. And I’m so sorry about your sweet Luci. xox

  21. Diann says:

    Julia, you write of this experience so matter-of-factly and yet so beautifully, and I love the way you’ve tied it with writing. Just lovely, and so sad.

    I’m so so sorry to hear you’re going through this. When I wrote of a similar situation, you told me of Abby’s failing health, so I know you must have been dealing simultaneously with the undercurrent of anxiety and worry, but also the heightened awareness of how precious each day together was. Still…oh so hard. My healing thoughts are going your way.

    We definitely have reminders/photos up as well, and that helps to make me feel our Sox is with us still. In some way, at least, though quite honestly I still miss him all the time. But over time it was become something sweeter and more deal-able, if still sad, and I’m sure Abby’s memory and reminders of her presence will similarly give you comfort. All the best, Diann

    • Thanks so much, Diann. I remember writing that to you when you lost your sweet cat Sox. Thank you for your kind words. It’s gotten easier (especially with our terrible ice, realizing how challenging it would be for Abby), but I still miss her all the time. As you say, it’s becoming sweeter and more dealable. Thank you so much, my friend.

  22. Paula says:

    Hi. I just read you on Writer Unboxed. Sorry about your beautiful lab. We once had a black lab, too. It was the hardest thing in the world when we lost him…. we still miss him.

    • Hi Paula, Thank you so much for taking the time to come and leave me a comment and condolences here. I so appreciate it. It really is the hardest thing… My best for your holiday season. Take care, Julia

  23. Julia, So sorry for your loss. I have an extensive four legged family (4 cats and 3 dogs) who faithfully sleep by my desk or curl up on my lap or jump onto my desk a few times a day just to check on me. Working from home on your own can be lonely and they make all the difference but I dread the day when I’ll have to say goodbye to them. It’s hard to say goodbye, but so worth it to have them in our lives. Take care. Shelley

    • Thank you so much, Shelley. I really appreciate your kind words. You’re right, it’s hard to say goodbye but it’s so worth having them in our lives. Give your 7 lucky guys (and girls) hugs from me today. I so appreciate your sympathy. Best, Julia