Thursday, 19 January 2012

Edits and Revisions . . .

After a rather optimistic start led me walking too far, in a bid to prove to myself and the world it was a case of mind over matter, I've been knocked me out for the last seven days. Popping painkillers in a vain attempt to overthrow the little dance my joints have been doing all week left me stuck in bed for three days - the worst possible place for me. I can safely say I overdid it and need to view my wheelchair as merely an aid and not my enemy. However, barely moving has thrown up its own set of consequences.

Northern General Hospital's Chronic Pain Management Training in Sheffield taught me a very important lesson when I attended their classes over two years ago now:

less movement = more pain = less movement = more pain

So, with this in mind, I've crawled back slowly slowly to a more manageable situation and with my morphine and additional painkillers keeping on top of things, I'm starting to feel a little more like my old self.
Sleeping on a dreadful mattress hasn't been helping and so I've invested in a new orthopaedic one which the shop assistant promises will help me get a good night's sleep. Without sleep I barely function, so you can imagine the last two weeks have been a case of dragging myself through treacle.
New mattress arrives today so I'm looking forward to a full night's sleep tonight!

Writing has been replaced with reading and research while I've not been able to sit at my lap top and I've completed (reading) three novels in a fortnight which has afforded me space to consider my own writing style.
Stieg Larsson's  'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' has been a complete discovery for me - his straight-talking lack of adverbs and adjectives in some incredibly powerful and visual scenes has me reading over my short stories and first draft of my second novel to weed out unnecessary describing words - my favourite part of writing is utilising our rich language yet can sometimes clutter paragraphs that would be more effectively written simply. I am not advocating a stripping away of all descriptive language as I know some writing academics do, but just ensuring that description is necessary. Let every word count!
I have a fridge magnet which reads Live Simply. I will be applying this in my writing from now on!
I also read 'The Birds and the Bees' by Milly Johnson, a local author whose straight talking and clever psychological dances made by her characters through the pages of this novel had me reflecting on the depth I go to flesh out my characters and consider their actions and reactions.
As a children's writer, I perhaps haven't got to show many layers of my characters' personalities, but I hope their actions and reactions reflect the research and planning that goes in to the development of my characters. As my next novel is dealing with the young Holly Dawson, a character we meet as an old landlady in Driftwood and Amethyst, I'm keen to learn lessons here and will be focusing on my main characters' lives and creation very carefully!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year!
Sorry I haven't managed to post over the Christmas period but everything got a wee bit too busy. As I'm sure you know, life can be a little like that sometimes.
As someone who prides herself on meeting deadlines and constantly striving for self-improvement (on many levels!), illness over the last few years has somewhat scuppered a track record that was not impeccable but came close enough at times to give me a warm glow inside. Over the years, I had developed a reputation I was quietly proud of.

Serious illness came along and turned my world upside down. For the last three years, personally, professionally and creatively, my life nose-dived. This in turn caused my health to worsen even further - I'm sure of that now - and although I didn't give up, depression on top of poor mobility and chronic pain made every day a struggle. My children got me through it. Both boys became finely tuned to my pain and my tiredness, remembering not to leap on me as they walked through the door and happy to choose a film to watch or book to read if mum wasn't up to a trip out. They would encourage me to get up the staircase without my sticks or ask me to play 'Piggy in the Middle' outside so I would stand without sticks to support my balance - just two examples of the many ways they pushed my recovery a little further each day.
Friends and family would gently coax me out of the house and take me off in my wheelchair to the dreaded 'MeadowHell' or Sheffield's shops and galleries, joking that they were only after me for my disabled parking badge!

As I gave up on my physiotherapy and hopes for improved mobility, my mental health worsened. Was this it? A loss of independence, personally and financially, low self esteem and increasingly being viewed as a disabled woman living out her life on benefits? Sadly, there were people who discouraged my recovery and return to work in exchange for a life at home where I 'wouldn't have to work'. Many give up and live out their lives in this way, some honestly and with good reason, but there are some who continue to claim benefits dishonestly, their health improving yet their resolve to pay their way somehow broken.

As my blog details, my life was saved by two consultants up at Northern General Hospital, Sheffield - Mr. R. Gibson and Mr. R. Atcheson - who between them reduced my medication, performed surgery that had been deemed impossible by my old consultant in Rotherham. This finally gave me hope.

In December, Mr Atcheson anaesthetised an area of my spine to improve my mobility and intends to perform a nerve abrasion later this month. This may see me dancing again before the year is out!

So my plans and resolutions for 2012? Here goes:

I am walking short distances with sticks and want to be able to stop using my wheelchair over the next six months. I'm walking a little more each day and will be starting exercising next week at an hourly Yoga class each Monday afternoon.

I want to reduce the Gapapentin painkillers I am currently taking and hope to continue reducing over the next twelve months.

My children's novel, Driftwood and Amethyst, is selling quite nicely and I have been asked to do some workshops locally and down in Redbridge, East London next month. I hope to continue with these and organise more book events over the next twelve months.

I'm working on my second children's novel, a prequel to Driftwood which tells of Holly Dawson's early life and experiences and will continue chipping away at it over the year.

As my health improves, I hope to return to teaching part-time. I am currently making moves to steadily phase back in by offering voluntary support in school, just an hour here and there. I hope to be teaching, saving, writing and holidaying by the time the year is through.

I am so looking forward to big changes this year - lots of positive moves forward with my life to better the life I will have with my boys.

It just goes to show. Miracles can happen - with a little faith and the courage of your convictions.
Never, ever give up hope!