Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Down the rabbit hole...and back

I'm ba-a-ack...

First of all, thanks so much to Joe and the rest of the Killers (and our wonderful blog readers) for doing a great job during my absence by holding Open Tuesdays

I've been on "medical hiatus" for a couple of months. Here's what happened: Back in May, I received an unexpected diagnosis of hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). When the MRI confirmed the disorder, I instantly reframed a number of gnarly symptoms that I'd been suffering for some time. Before the diagnosis, I thought I'd been going through a number of garden-variety ailments (mid-life malaise, vertigo, migraines, clumsy gait, plus being out of shape), so it was shocking to discover that many of the symptoms were being caused by a plumbing problem in the brain (well, except maybe for being out of shape). 

I reacted calmly at first, but then total panic set in. I froze. I stopped almost all activities--driving, the gym, reading, writing, walking the dog...you name it. I went into the hospital for tests, and surgery was indicated. Then a complication set in (the last thing you want to hear when it comes to your brain), and the next round of surgery has been postponed until late August.

So now, here it is late July, and I've decided to unfreeze. I can't change the fact that recovery is going to be a long haul, but I'm now forcing myself to resume some regular activities. First and foremost, I have rededicated myself to writing every day. I went a long spell without writing a single word. Concentration and short term memory is an issue with hydrocephalus, and for a long time, even the weekly blog post seemed an overwhelming task.

But that changed slowly. Like tiny songbirds of spring returning to a tree, I began resuming certain interests and activities. The first bird to return was reading. After a while, for inspiration, I started doing "writer's reading," which is when a writer reads books of the type he or she would like to write. Then I started jotting down notes on index cards. Next, I started triangulating on the story I'd like to be writing. (What if this happened, and then that?). Then one day I opened up my laptop and typed an opening paragraph. And so it has gone from there. 

So things are getting somewhat back to normal. It's been an interesting challenge, trying to recover both physical and creative equilibrium. On the physical side I still have a ways to go, but I'm holding my ground on the creative side, which for me means continuing to write.

So thanks again to you all, just for being here today. And I'm wondering: Has there ever been a time when you've had to really fight to keep writing, due to physical or mental challenges, or your circumstances?


  1. Welcome back, Miss Lillie. We have missed you.

  2. Great to see you back, Kathryn. You were missed by all.

  3. Welcome back, Kathryn! I missed your posts, and I'm so glad you're writing again.

  4. Welcome back! Glad you found your way back to writing again.

  5. Kathryn, you made my day! Great to see you coming back, in so many senses of the word.

  6. Yea! Glad to have you back, Kathryn!

    Yes, over a twenty year span of writing almost every day, I've run into my share of obstacles, small and large. I think there's only been a week or two where I didn't write anything. Somehow, the quota system kept me going. I have writer friends who have gone through heavy duty things, too. I like what one of them said in the midst of a very challenging family issue. She kept thinking, "This would make a great scene."

    Once a writer, always a writer. You're back and producing the words, and that's wonderful. A little brain issue wasn't going to keep you down!

  7. Thanks so much, guys! I've done my best writing when I make myself write every day, no matter what. And I'm determined to go on that way again. Jim, you're right about getting fresh material from some of life's dramas. I now have rich material for intense hospital scenes, including someone I dubbed "The Screamer" who was in the room next to mine in the neuro ward. Poor guy, I felt sorry for him, but his audio effects made it seem as though one had landed a room in hell.

  8. Welcome back, Kathryn, and best wishes for recovery of all types.

    The reasons for my experience of not writing pales in comparison to yours, but I too had to find the will to pull myself out. I essentially went through a crisis of faith in my writing. I was (am, but not for long!) unpublished, though agented, and no one wanted my story. Typical situation. But my husband and I had gone a bridge too far in the exuberance of cashing in stock options and purchasing real estate--which meant I had to go get a full-time job to keep the ship afloat for the first time in most of a decade. I was depressed and I had little time to write after going to work and keeping body and mind together.

    The story ends well, however, as I was starting to come back to creative life on my own when I got some interest from a publisher.

    Interestingly, I remain somewhat ashamed of the gap of time I wasn't actively working, as if I didn't demonstrate sufficient commitment--suffering for my art (or some such nonsense). But then again, life intervenes for a variety of reasons, doesn't it?

  9. Tammy, yours is a story of ultimate perseverance, so good for you! I wasted 10 years after college by not even trying to write fiction--I was toiling in journalism and the corporate world, thinking I didn't have enough inspiration for "real" writing. I think the only important thing is that we get back on track, even if it takes a while.

  10. Hi Kathryn,
    I'm so glad you're back and getting back on track. Your medical situation reminded me of one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping. Not that you were able to sleep because you had the Screamer next door.:)

    But over the years I've dealt with extreme difficulties related to the illness of one of my children. It made me want to withdrawl and quit everything. I've come to call those times of not writing at all "The times of when I was sleeping," because my brain just couldn't handle the stress. I don't know how I avoided a dark depression, maybe I didn't, but I couldn't focus on me because I had a sick child.

    Perseverance is key. I'm just too stubborn to quit and I refused to let the dark side win over my dreams. And Jim Bell will never know the full extent of the impact he had on me at just the right times. I call those God moments.

    Be patient with yourself, but be stubborn too. Welcome Back!

  11. Your story is a good reminder that every day is a gift from God. We're all fortunate to have the opportunity to write, and the will to seize that opportunity.

  12. Thanks Largo! Jillian, I've put "While You Were Sleeping" on my to-be-watched list. Sounds like a great movie.

  13. Welcome back, Kathryn, you were missed! So glad you're writing again. Now I feel guilty- I've spent the past few weeks clearing out garages and storage units, and haven't written a word...

  14. Great to have you back. Amazing what life can throw at us eh? Even more amazing is our ability to bounce back. Of course I say that while actively trying to get back some bounce into my own step.

    Having a full time job, part time job, kids, and wife then trying to write well enough to get noticed and sold has made me a bit weary. But it will come.

    I am certain of it...eventually.

  15. Michelle, cleaning the garage can be a metaphor for "clearing the decks" of one's mind. I usually go into a cleaning frenzy before I actually settle down to write.

  16. Hey Kathryn,
    While You Were Sleeping, is romantic comedy. I thought you might enjoy something "not serious." It'll make you smile.

    And about writing every day. I'm really just developing that habit. I've been doing what's called Novel Tracker over at ACFW and it really helped me write everyday this month accept for 3 days, which I thought was really good. I think it takes something close to a month to develop a new habit.

  17. Glad it sounds as if you are doing well and best wishes on your future surgery and continued recovery.
    Your story grabbed me. I have been impacted by a major medical event that trashed some gray matter and made me unable to continue my career working as a level one ER physician of twenty five years. I was lucky...definitely beats death or the profound disability typically the result of my event. I am now trying to become a writer and have found it stimulating and therapeutic.
    I'd be happy to help you with vetting your medical scene/story elements if you have no such resource. I find it fun and my writing interest provides me a functional slant.

  18. TJC, one of my favorite sayings is, "In every crisis, there is a hidden opportunity." Sounds like you are making the most of your opportunity to transform your path into becoming a writer. Thank you for your offer to vet medical scenes, and good luck on your journey!

  19. Yeah, Kathryn. I was bummed that I didn't get a chance to check in to Open Tuesdays yesterday, but now I'm happier because you're back. Keep hanging in there.

    I don't know that there's a trick, I don't know if anything will become of my writing or my stories, but even when I'm overwhelmed from work and everything I just keep trying to do one thing. I figure if I can keep squeezing in one more thing that I'll eventually get there.

  20. Kathryn,
    I enjoyed reading your method of starting the writing process again. I am getting back into the writing after a closed head injury 18 months ago.

    It's a long process, but one worth fighting for. I'm still not back to writing daily. It depends on how I am that day.

    Keep working at it, I wish you a lot of patience and perseverance