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  • Writer's pictureDanni Petrilak

Where HAVE you been? A Creative and Personal Reflection

Life updates, creative endeavors, and personal introspective reflection.

As I sit down to write this blog post, it's hard to believe that an entire year has slipped through my fingers. The world has continued on, seasons have come and gone, and life has marched ever closer to the open, waiting arms of Death himself... But for me, this past year has been a whirlwind of busyness, transformation, and rediscovery.

To state the obvious: It’s been a while since I’ve published/posted any of my work. However! I have been writing and working. It’s just been on and off, and on things that are nowhere near finished. (i.e, the never-ending time that is spent working on my novel that hasn’t seen the light of day.) If I’m being honest, the longer the time in between from when I last shared something to now is a bit discouraging for me. I often think, “Is this normal? To not have anything to show for what feels like months and months of work?” and the answer I normally give to myself is no, I should have something to show for it. Deep down, I recognize that this self-imposed limitation is detrimental to my own growth. Writing a novel is an entirely different endeavor compared to crafting short stories or poetry, but I haven't abandoned those pursuits either.

Maintaining a single-minded focus has always been a personal challenge of mine, especially when it comes to the delicately detailed task of crafting an entirely new world and gathering the essential, intricate details for my novel. There's an unusual flow to my creative process, where I become hyper-focused on a particular character or plot point, only to have my thoughts hijacked by a new, captivating idea. This hijacking often leads me down unexpected creative avenues; I might find myself painting, crocheting, or even impulsively acquiring a guitar to rekindle my desire to learn the riff from Hotel California.

This perpetual cycle of creative diversions leaves me staring at a blank page rather than making progress on my book due to a lack of focus. However, despite these recurring detours, I believe I’ve cracked the code to force myself into a routine to make something noteworthy, and “harness” my creative energy before it slips through my fingers in discouragement.

“Dust settles around me, and just like in a blizzard, the heat sucks away the noise.” - excerpt from WIP

Now, before this gets too introspective, where have I been?

After graduating college, my fiancé and I packed up and moved across the country from rural woodsy Vermont to sunny southern California. It was a daunting task, to say the least. Traditionally, apartment hunting is a good mix of excitement and stress, but in our case, it was just stressful. Moving to an area from out of state meant that we couldn’t view any of the places in person, we just had to pick one and hope it worked out, and while our first apartment worked well enough (although it was the size of my second-year dorm room and cost nearly an entire paycheck a month) we started making arrangements to move in somewhere else once our lease was up.

During our time at this apartment, we welcomed a chaotic addition to our household: a cat named Wonton. He's the captain of mischief with the vocal capacity of an opera singer. Apart from his valiant attempts at wall-climbing, his absolute favorite pastime involves a thrilling chase after springs scattered throughout the house and gallant attempts to deflect incoming Nerf darts while perched on his tower.

a cat upside down with a shoe and a scratch platform relaxing
Wonton, being a silly little guy

Not three months after moving and settling in, Sam and I got married in Northern California. Our wedding was nothing short of extraordinary, and I’ll most likely post something separate about it since there was a lot that happened. With a gathering of dear friends who had traveled from as far as Vermont and Pennsylvania, our wedding weekend was nothing short of enchanting and filled with magical moments.

my husband and I posing on top of a mountain during our wedding
Wedding Day!

The next few months were a blur of working, visiting family and exploring our new home. Around that time, I picked up an amazing freelance gig with Champlain College and got to work with the same amazing people I worked with while I was in school. I quit my dead-end job and switched to fully remote, and I couldn’t be more happy with the change.

Being an hour and a half from LA has been absolutely wild. We’ve seen the Hollywood Bowl play the first ever live Game of the Year Concert, Nickelback (which was an absolute dream come true, and if you ask my husband, I was crying for the majority of the ride home after.) We even had the strange coincidence of being in the right place at the right time and meeting a voice actor from Destiny 2 and Jedi Fallen Order.

One of the craziest things I’ve been unable to wrap my head around is when we drive to LA, we pass Malibu and Hidden Hills and enter a city that I only ever thought I’d visit through a screen or by word of mouth. Never in my life would I have thought I’d be telling friends and family about the time we passed Beverly Hills, Capitol Records, and got to see the Disney Animation Studio and Hollywood sign on the way to IKEA. To top it off, in the center of the city is Universal Studios Hollywood, and we were able to visit for the opening of Super Nintendo World in March for my birthday.

We’ve been busy, but it’s a good busy. Yet, there's a subtle pang of regret that creeps in when I reflect on how my creative pursuits have taken a back seat amidst this whirlwind of life changes. The novel I've been crafting has been a labor of love for quite some time now, and while I take pride in its progress, it still eludes me as a completed work.

Most of my time has been dedicated to my role at Champlain and meticulously editing manuscripts for freelance clients. This intense focus on professional commitments has left me with little time for anything beyond the confines of my novel. More often than not, I’ll choose to unwind after a long day of work with an attempt at a final Elden Ring playthrough to get that last achievement before 100%ing the game, completing a chapter in Red Dead Redemption II’s story arch for the third time, an incomplete boss run resulting in yet another Bloodborne death, or a nostalgic time-wasting card battle in Wizard101 until I hit a paywall (I know, wild variety, but narrative-driven games are my weak spot)

After finally settling into our new, budget-friendly home and with a more structured plan for the upcoming months, I'm hopeful that I'll soon find the time to rekindle my writerly spirit. The prospect of crafting short stories or flash fiction is tantalizingly within reach. Yet, the paradox lies in the depths of ideas swirling within my mind, each vying for my undivided attention like a lion fight at the Roman Colosseum. The challenge now is to choose which one to embrace wholeheartedly.

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