Ironically, just as I was getting excited about diving back into my novel after a summer of frivolous and fun short books, I had a horrible fall that’s left me bruised, battered, and a bit disabled. My right shoulder hurts something awful; I anticipate a lengthy period for rehabilitation. I’m getting good at hanging up the wash one-handed. Thankfully, I can still touch-type. My Christian faith reminds me: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Phil 4:13
A VERY SHORT WRITING AND MEDICAL HISTORY
I started writing when I was pregnant with my second child and by the time she turned into a toddler, I started having deadlines. Then came migraines, sporadically at first, then frequently, until I was sick 20 out of 30 days. I’m writing to give you hope that I’ve been able to forge a writing life that’s deeply satisfying. And so can you, with whatever ails you. I will pray for you as I do for all my readers.
ASK FOR ASSISTANCE
My husband supports my writing dream and from the beginning, took care of the children on the weekends when I had deadlines to meet. He also made supper with extras so that we had leftovers. From the time the children were small, I included them in all the cooking and cleaning. It was highly inefficient at first but as they grew older, they became a huge help. When I won a couple of scholarships to attend writing workshops, my mother-in-law offered to care for my family, and it was win-win for all.
It was so freeing when I heard our priest say, “You are a human being, not a human doing.” I would get anxious about not being able to do many things that others could, but his words freed me to focus on the present moment, truly a gift. I define productivity in small steps—reading, writing a scene, studying publisher guidelines—and set realistic goals. On a good day, I can read and write, pray and play, cook and clean. On a bad day, I may stay in bed, pray, read, write an encouraging note to a friend. I know it’s enough.
CUT OUT EVERYTHING NON-ESSENTIAL
Being chronically ill has been a blessing for me because it forced me to take stock and focus my limited energy only on what’s necessary. My essentials are 1) God 2) Family 3) Writing. I didn’t know it at the time, but writing saved me from being even more debilitated—it helped me to forget the pain. When I had only 7-10 good days each month, I gave up teaching, even though I love it—it’s in my bones. I limited travel and workshops, not offering any some years. I stopped going to movies and concerts. It was hard missing out on so much with my family and friends, but I gained solitude, essential for this writing life. Saying no to non-essentials meant that I could dive deeply into the work I’m called to do. And I discovered the truth of this statement by St. Francis of Assisi: Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
I’m an expert at taking naps. It gives the brain time to synthesize ideas, dream possibilities, and be rejuvenated. My writing life began during naptime with my children and I doubt I would’ve made it without them (both the naps and the kids). When I started writing this piece, it turned unwieldy with ideas rushing, enough to fill a book. The structure for this piece came to me while I lay nursing a migraine, with my purring cat, three days before it was due.
A writing life is one of leisure in the truest sense. Being chronically ill slowed me down so that my life became one of essentials and allowed me to enjoy and celebrate the little things—a poem, a fact, a story. I hope you do, too, because as Amy Tan says, “Writing is a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone else.” God bless you!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write to me at email@example.com.
Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain by David Hanscom is a game-changer. Learn about the development of chronic pain and how to manage it. Writing *is* part of it.
Writing with Chronic Illness: Improve Outlook and Productivity by Kristine Katherine Rusch is a short book that’s inspiring and filled with tips to manage writing while ill.
My reviews/summaries of a few books for people who live with chronic pain.
Vijaya Bodach is a scientist-turned-children’s writer with over 70 books published for children of all ages: TEN EASTER EGGS for the youngest, MAX AND DAGNY for beginning readers, and BOUND for young adults. She has just as many articles, stories, and poems in children’s magazines. Her newest picture book, LITTLE THIEF! CHOTA CHOR! is just out from Reycraft. She serves as Critique Coordinator for the Carolinas and as a moderator on the SCBWI message boards. Vijaya lives with her husband and pets in beautiful Charleston, SC. To learn more, visit https://vijayabodach.blogspot.com