As a writer, I bare my soul in many ways. You might be surprised to learn then, that I’m a fairly private person. Many aspects of my personal life stay hidden behind a façade of smiles and positivity. One aspect of my personal life, in particular, I thought I’d never mention, is my health. While shopping at the supermarket, however, I had this thought. What if writing about this aspect of my life helped someone? What if it motivated someone to stay positive and soldier on, even when the going got tough?
That single thought was all I needed to convince me I should be writing about this. So here goes: I have an incurable disease. In my case, it’s a blood cancer called polycythemia. The Mayo Clinic defines polycythemia as, “a slow-growing type of blood cancer in which your bone marrow makes too many red blood cells.” I’m lucky really, as this disease will probably not shorten my life much, if at all.
As medieval as it sounds, my disease is treated with bloodletting. For the past five years, my life has consisted of regular blood counts and, when necessary, draining some of it out. They call this process phlebotomy. Perhaps because it sounds so much nicer than bloodletting.
There are days when the bloodletting goes well, and other times, not so much. Occasionally they have trouble getting the blood out. Once, after jamming the needle into both arms and still not getting out the required half a liter, I was told to come back and try again the following week. I found myself praying the bruises on my arms would heal before the next attempt. Another time I passed out following the procedure, before the nurse even pulled the needle from my vein. I regained consciousness to see four nurses surrounding me; one placing ice packs on my chest, another holding an oxygen mask over my face, while a third prepared to start an IV, (and yes, this means I’m going home with two more bruises). My hematologist, a lovely man who has hugged me when I cried, sat beside me, hand placed gently over my forehead.
Mere seconds after coming to, I started throwing up. Quick, change the oxygen mask for a sick bag.
On days like this I don’t feel much like writing. Really, I just want to curl up in bed, covers pulled to my chin, and spend enormous amounts of time feeling sorry for myself. I’m sure we all have those days. And I’m quick to remember, that for some, the cause of a bad day is far worse.
The question as a writer is what to do with a day like that, and how to keep it from sucking the joy from your life, and your work.
There’s an old saying about getting back on the horse when you’re thrown, and for me, it’s a lot like that. As with my cure for writer’s block, my cure for dealing with inspiration-sapping days is to just start writing. Usually I start by looking for some emotional scene in my book that needs to be written, and pouring whatever I’m feeling into it. My last bloodletting was in early March, and on that day, after I’d spent a good hour in bed wallowing in self-pity, I picked up my current project, Exploits, and wrote the scene that explained my heroine’s fear of rejection and her desire not to disappoint the people she loves. Not exactly the same emotion, but close enough that I was feeling it.
By the time I had finished the scene, I felt a slight improvement in my mood, and moved on to more humorous scenes. Not so surprising, really. After all, what is writing if not the opportunity to vent? So strangely enough, life’s curve balls, the ones that can sap my inspiration and motivation to write, can be alleviated by doing just that.
Have an amazing day!Clara J