Saturday, June 23, 2018
Rollercoasters and Rainbows: A Writer in Recovery
It has been twelve months since my last creative writing session. In fact, over the last two years, promotion of my first two novels and development of my third novel have been sadly neglected.
After leaving my much loved teaching profession two years ago and taking early retirement due to my creaky back giving up the ghost, I had found it difficult to write very much at all. My creative muscle had turned off and the mere opening of the latest draft of my new novel would leave me staring at the screen, writing a few sentences before deleting them again over the space of a day. This was interspersed by trips to the kettle and feeding children or cats and lying down on the sofa with a book and invariably falling asleep thanks to a heady cocktail of prescription painkillers.
I soon started climbing the walls. There are only so many trips out for soya lattes anyone can manage before going slightly bonkers and after a year I knew I had to do something else.
In timely fashion, I did indeed find another outlet for my writing which resulted in my working for Northern Exposure for the best part of a year. This was spent in the company of Rachel Brown, an unstoppable force in indie music promotion right now, and before I knew it I was writing reviews, interviewing bands and attending gigs when I was able to for the best part of a year. We had a fabulous time - I absolutely loved it. Incredible woman and a time I will always treasure.
What I kept forgetting about though was pacing myself. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to reading the signs that I'm about to crash and so over the year I did crash rather regularly and rather spectacularly until I realised my health was again taking a bit of a nose dive.
Living with chronic pain and chronic fatigue is a bit like that. People often find they can manage a certain level of activity for so long and then will try to push a little harder, attempting to claw back a little of the life they had before they became ill. I hear this all the time and yet was surprised when it happened to me. I thought I'd got this pacing lark sussed.
My physio could see right through my act and was quick to explain I was just riding a rollercoaster which involved pushing myself, crashing, then pacing, pushing myself, crashing then pacing. We discussed my non-negotiables (family, friends, my cats, writing and music) and built those around me as my safety net. It may sound a little out there, but I imagined them as the colours of a rainbow around me which I knew I could turn to in differing degrees for different reasons, hour by hour. Chronic pain and chronic fatigue sometimes reduces you to a minute by minute stretch of 'This too will pass' and anyone who's experienced it will know, that phrase can be a life saver. After our final session six months ago, as I promised I'd learned my lesson, I went home determined to relax more, draw on the resources available to me and accept what my life now was.
Yeah, right. I was quite well behaved for the first few weeks but the cycle started again. It was never going to end well. I ended up in A&E with a suspected heart attack and the monster crash which inevitably followed. After a stern dressing down from my long-suffering doctor, I was sent home with a recipe for recovery.
And so, I am determined to focus down once more. Write when I can, rest when I can, sell and promote my books and accept where I am in each moment. All the motivational quotes such as: 'It is what it is' and ''Don't look backwards, you're no going that way' are carved on the inside of my skull for reference purposes.
So here is my new regime. Of sorts. When I can't write, when my imagination presses pause as often happens with the meds I'm on right now, I read. And when I can't read, I sleep. In between times I have the best friends in the world who pop by for coffee and cake (or a cheeky glass of fizzy) or take me out for that soya latte or lunch (or a cheeky glass of fizzy!)
But all is well - I may just be reading through the draft of my third novel so far but I'm on the right track I hope.
I don't think I'll ever really learn how to pace myself. But by focusing on writing from home once more I hope novel three will be well on the way again soon! 24,000 words down and counting!
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