On Death and Doorways.

I write about death.

That is to say, it seems to factor into all of my projects. When I was at WFC, I had the immense pleasure of spending time with Rae Carson (GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS), and she asked me WHY that was. I told her I thought it was because death fascinated me, the way it changed and shaped a character and their world, the way they cope, or don’t, the holes it makes in their lives…

But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I write about death, but not finality. To me, the two are different. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m terrified by the notion of loss, of the ensuing “never.” Never again seeing someone, never hearing their voice or feeling their touch…perhaps that is why, in all my projects, the dead are never truly gone. Whether they exist through memory, journals, or in a more physical form, they have a presence. Maybe it’s because, in life, the dead DO impact the living, or maybe it’s because I’m too frightened by the idea of permanence, of the unchangeable, of ever and of never.

For whatever reason, I never treat death as an end so much as a transition. And I think that speaks to the way I live my life, too. I call it wanderlust, but more often than not my constant travel is a distrust of the static, a fear of staying still and growing stiff and then being unable to change and move, becoming too attached and too grounded, a need to be in control of the change because that is less frightening…

In tarot, the card of Death rarely represents an end alone. It is a sign of change, of transition, the omen of an ending, yes, but also of a beginning. And maybe that’s why I love writing about death. It represents a shift. It is permission to change, to transform, to reinvent. It is a doorway. I write death into books to give my characters doorways to walk through.

And now I’ve written myself a kind of doorway.

Too often in life we are forced into change. Some drastic event, some massive shift, be it a literal death, the end of a relationship, a cusp, an opportunity, something big. And something beyond ourselves. Crossing the threshold is involuntary. But see, to me, the ACT of opening the door and walking through, is the most important part. Too often we wait for change to be imposed on us, we are REACTING instead of acting.

So this move? This is me acting. This is me walking through a door for no other reason than want of a new room.

And in case I sound sure of myself, in case I sound confident,

I’m not. I am still, more than ever, a slave to the notion of temporary, to the comfort of short-term. You probably don’t know this, but in my house, I don’t let anyone refer to the NYC transition as a MOVE. I make them call it a TRIP. Permanence is still the monster under my bed. I will jokingly refer to my restlessness as a Peter Pan Complex, an unwillingness to do anything meriting the mantle of “adult.”

But that’s okay. Just like it’s okay to be terrified. There’s a difference between fear and paralysis. And I’ve learned that I don’t have to “grow up” to be open to opportunity, to be willing to step through doors without being pushed. I just have to be brave. I just have to be slightly braver than I am scared.

And I am. It is the promise of the room on the other side, and the knowledge that once inside it, I can find another door, or make one.

That tarot card looks grim, but it is truest thing in my life right now. It is a period of change and chance, a time of ends and beginnings, and the scariest, unknowns. It is a time of doors.

And it’s time to step through.

**An aside: I often say that perspective is a thing rarely gained through pleasantries. We find it most often by exposure to events that sadden and disturb and put our lives into, well, perspective, showing us that all things, be they sorrows or joys, are relative. Perspective can be an awakening, a permission to change. Perspective can be empowering. I hope that, if you’re looking for perspective, you’re able to find some without suffering. I find perspective sometimes by walking outside at night, and looking up.**


9 thoughts on “On Death and Doorways.

  1. What a great perspective. Joy would not be possible without sorrow to define it.

  2. Pamela says:

    “This is me walking through a door for no other reason than want of a new room. ”

    I want to say something powerful and resonant to make you understand how much this phrase spoke to me, but instead I’ll just write:


  3. Rae Carson says:

    After chatting with you, I came away thinking that you might actually be writing about life, but using death as a mirror or change agent–which is rad. So… carry on. Write me more death stuff pls k thx.

    (I think Neil does this, too. Yes, we’re totes on a first name basis with him now.)

  4. Angel says:

    I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum–I crave permanence and roots, but only because I’ve moved halfway across the world twice in my life and it gets exhausting. This post is especially poignant for me, because I’ve lived that temporary life and I love seeing how you’ve made that a part of your identity and your work.

  5. You are amazing and brilliant. I don’t even…

    I needed to hear this. I’ve been dealing with an unexpected death lately, and I hope I can take advantage of your words of wisdom to gain perspective and look at this as a beginning instead of an ending.

    Thank you. ❤

  6. Howey McAuley says:

    I understand this wanderlust.between the ages of 18 and 29 I lived in 6 different states( 3 of them more than once ) and 11 different cities. Then after I got married I was in one place for almost 10 years. We just made a temporary move ( 2 yrs or so ) and it is so much harder now. Granted, this time is with two very young kids. I miss how trying out a new place was so much fun- and always temporary.

  7. Nicole says:

    I love this. Thank you.

  8. This is amazing! You are amazing! 🙂

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