The Five Stages of Grief as Applied to Creative Writing

Denial

Having just completed a seemingly promising first draft, the patient begins the editing process with hope and misplaced confidence. Upon her first reread, she is struck with the creeping realization that this piece is a literal butt, but perhaps after a few hours and Red Bulls and shame cigarettes something beautiful will emerge?

Anger

The patient recalls the hours and dollars spent on her creative writing degree. “Those bastards swindled me,” she grumbles, shoving inspiration nachos into her gaping maw and picking furiously at a loose thread that had wriggled free after the cat decided to Mission Imclawsible across the underside of the couch which Amazon willfully neglected to mention would smell like an old yoga mat after being digested by a pitbull with IBS and then shat through a withering onion. “What a joke,” she hisses, smashing the backspace with a closed, clammy fist.

Bargaining

“Maybe it’s not so bad,” the patient whimpers as she trudges home from the corner store after all her cigarettes smoked themselves. “Maybe there are a few good nuggets in there that I can salvage, a joke or two?” From the street she glances hopefully up at her apartment window, the faint light of her laptop screen glowing ominously through the frosty glass. “I’ll send it to Mark, maybe he can help.” She forces a grin and walks inside.

Depression

World-weary under the weight of abject failure and a convention-sized portion of nachos, the patient lies face down on the bed. Her cat, taking pity on the wretched creature, nuzzles her neck like a manager gingerly patting the shoulder of the accountant who always cries at his desk. “Maybe I could volunteer with animals or something,” she wonders aloud, fingering a styrofoam container of soggy tortilla chips. “Maybe I should adopt a hedgehog?”

Acceptance

The patient drags her sweatpanted body from the bed with new life. “So what if it’s not perfect?” she says with rising confidence. “Do I have to be perfect? Is this an unreasonable standard of artistry?” She hops onto her laptop and clicks Send. “Fuck it. It’s submitted. Nothing I can do about it now,” she thinks with a smile. She totters away from her laptop in triumph, pausing in the hall. She bites her lip and picks at her cuticle, her eyes flitting across the desk strewn with mascara-blackened tissues and Slim Jim wrappers. The patient rushes to her inbox, which remains unchanged. “I should have removed that comma,” she sighs. “Do I still have that bottle of Jack?”

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