Today, please welcome guest blogger, February Grace! She is a published poet, writer, and artist living in Southeastern Michigan. She is obsessed with colors, clocks, and meteor showers. Her novels, GODSPEED and OF STARDUST, were published in 2013 by Booktrope.
I’ve lived with chronic pain all of my life. In fact, my earliest childhood memories involve being in pain.
No one knew at the time that I was/am suffering from a rare genetic condition that is destroying the collagen in my body.
Did you know that your eyes are made up mostly of collagen? I didn’t, until my eyes were nearly destroyed by my condition and I went blind.
Did you know that collagen is needed to keep your connective tissues, well, connecting? I didn’t, until they realized why my joints are falling apart.
I didn’t understand any of what was happening to me, not until a few years ago when the genetics department at a major university saw me and said “Yep, we’ve seen people like you before.”
That was new to me, because so many of my doctors had said to me over the years “We’ve never seen anything like your (fill in the blank) before.”
Twenty years I’d searched for answers to all of my health problems: they wouldn’t come until the age of 38.
So, what has this got to do with writing, you wonder?
I’m a writer, and writing has been a means of coping with illness but also a struggle during extended periods of severe health problems.
What does this all mean for you?
Well, if you’re one of the many, many people out there who are suffering from physical ailments or disabilities as you try to write, then I hope this post will speak to you.
I’m here today to say, at the end of it all, three most important words: don’t give up.
I came so close to giving up, so many times, on stories and poems that would later become published works.
I came even closer to giving up on the stories that would become my two published novels.
One of the hardest times I ever had battling illness and trying to write was in 2010. I had lost my eyesight slowly over time at first and then rapidly, and by the end of 2008 I was blind. In 2009 I began a series of surgeries (that would total six in all by 2011) to give me back some use of my sight. I was blessed to have some of the very best surgeons in the world, and even they were doubtful in the beginning they’d be able to help me.
Then, in 2010-2011, I had nine more surgeries, too gruesome to get into here, but let me explain that I also battled a major infection during that time . After months of failed therapy on regular antibiotics, I took 33 days of potent IV antibiotics to kill the infection.
At times, I really thought it was going to kill me.
Through it all, whenever I had a moment of clarity where I could battle the pain back far enough to try, I kept writing.
At times when I was blind and recovering from eye surgery this meant dictating notes into an iPod to be used later (I’m rubbish at dictating actual storyline or dialog, sadly.) Sometimes I typed with my eyes closed and with my head propped up on pillows because I couldn’t hold it up. Sometimes I blindly wrote ideas on sticky notes with a huge Sharpie and shoved them all in a binder to be used later.
To my surprise, I ended up using almost all of them.
I was driven to finish the book I was working on, GODSPEED, and though it took nearly two years from beginning to end, I did finish it.
As I sit here now and glance over at the bookshelf where the beautiful new hardcover edition, just released by my wonderful publisher, Booktrope, sits, I marvel at it. How did I manage to finish it, as sick as I was?
I just kept trying.
You see, there really is no secret, or magic fix as to how to keep writing if you’re battling health problems, whether they are physical or in the realm of another set of issues I deal with—battling your own mind. You just have to keep trying.
I’m here today to tell you that all the trying can turn out to be so worth it.
If nothing else, you end up with a story that you can be proud of because you didn’t give up on it when times were tough.
Or you could end up like me, with two published novels to your name after persevering through mental and physical challenges you never thought you could face.
These days, in addition to dealing with chronic pain and health issues due to the genetic condition, I am also in another struggle to find the words: one that is directly related to medications that I take to deal with Bipolar disorder.
My medications force me to sleep at night (when I used to do so much writing) and calm the frenzy of my thoughts: stilling the storm where I was once used to finding the words. They are doing their job, but that is not helping me as a writer.
Now the battle has escalated to a whole new level. Still, I can’t give up.
You see, I’ve left two of my characters in quite a predicament, and I can’t just abandon them there.
I have to keep fighting for the words.
Whatever your battles may be, I hope that you will keep fighting, too. Your characters need you—you’re the only one who can give them the life they deserve.
I wish you luck and courage on the journey, and the discovery of many, many words you never knew that you had in you.