Monday, February 10, 2014

Doing Hard Things

Nearly a year has passed since I was officially diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There have been ups and many, many downs. Living with this disease has been harder than I thought it would be in a lot of ways, but I've discovered I'm tougher than I ever imagined. While this is not a curable disease, it doesn't have to be the default winner in the ongoing tug of war it initiates.

The cycle of life this past year has very much been
  1. try something to see if it's still possible
  2. fail
  3. try it in a different way
  4. repeat steps 2 & 3 until I'm either sure I can't do what I set out to do or I've found a way to do it within the limits I now have
Sometimes the experiment is exhilirating. I discover ways to overcome and beat this thing. Sometimes it's simply discouraging. There are inevitably things that cannot be done at all. There are other things that require such an enormous change of approach that the difference is stark and impossible not to notice. RA has taught me a lot of things, not the least of which is the importance of patience.

This past week I reached a milestone in learning to live with this disease. Although I had three books released last year and two already on shelves this year, I haven't written a full-length novel since RA entered my life. All of these releases are works I had already finished. The work I did on them last year was editing--while not an insignificant effort, it wasn't as all-encompassing as crafting a story anew.

I can do some typing, a small amount for a small amount of time before my hands simply can't manage it any longer. I use dictation software to speak the words my computer types for me. It isn't always accurate, is far slower than I used to be able to type, and stands as a glaring reminder of how much has changed. The physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion of chronic illness has sapped me of the energy I used to tap into when drafting a new book, and I found over the past year that I simply didn't have it in me. I wondered, honestly, fearfully wondered, if I would ever be able to write another full length novel again. And if I managed it, how long would it take? At one time I could knock out three novels in a year. On my best year I completed 4 1/2. Here was yet another adjustment, another change I would have to learn to be okay with.

I spent the early fall outlining and researching a new story idea, hoping against hope that I would be able to see it through to the end. I dabbled in the beginnings of the story, moving slowly & feeling pulled down by so many weights. After a break to finish up a short story, and on the heels of a firm talking to by author and good friend J. Scott Savage, I told myself I'd never know if I could still do this if I never even tried. So in December I buckled down and got to work.

Last week I finished the first draft of a novel, the first I'd written beginning to end since Rheumatoid Arthritis changed so many things in my life. A first draft is far from done or ready or even good, but it is a start. It is something I wasn't sure I'd be able to do again. Having a better understanding of my new pace, I realize I won't be releasing books as often or as quickly as I once did. I'll not be as prolific as I once imagined I'd be. But I know now that I'm not finished telling stories. Even with a stiff, pained, uncooperative body, I can keep doing this. And that is a wonderful, wonderful gift.

I began each writing session with this song from one of my favorites bands (a great group of lads from Dublin) as a reminder that I can do hard things. So, hip hip hoorah, and here's to doing hard things!

22 comments:

The Baird Brood said...

I have several family members with this disease, so I know how debilitating it can be. I don't know if you have ever thought of digitally recording your thoughts and chapters and then sending them off to someone else to type them for you. I used to do transcription for doctors (all those jobs moved to India) but I know that there are many affordable dictation companies out there. Just a thought. Good luck in your writing.

Jamie said...

I am so happy for you! I must say, I only discovered you last year and have already devoured everything you have written! :) Thank you for sharing your amazing talent. I appreciate it so much. I've been following your blog a little while now, but have never left a comment. I thought I would today.

My mother is the strongest person I know. She has been living with RA now for almost 25 years. It has not been an easy road for her, but she tackles each day like none other. I know her first year with RA was a very difficult one. (And the year leading up to its diagnosis!) But today she was one amazing woman and I look up to her so much. I heard her while reading your blog today and that made me smile.

Stay strong! And, from this book-a-holic, thank you again for all you do!

Norma said...

You are an inspiration to me. I'm sure others have told you this as well but I just wanted to add my two cents. (In case you don't remember me, I go to the Jane Austin tea party every year and we have met there.)
Any time I get to feeling low or complaining about stiff bumpy-knuckled fingers or any of the other imperfections my body is suffering I remind myself of you and how little I have to complain about and everything seems easier. Hang in there and know that I and many others are rooting for you.

Miss C said...

What an accomplishment! No matter how long it takes their are fans waiting to read whatever you write and sending their support and prayers your way. A disease doesn't define you.

Julie said...

While I am sad that you aren't able to knock out 3-4 books a year, I am THRILLED that you are able to keep writing. The world would be a sad place indeed without the books we love. Your books are among those books that are loved by many. Thank you for pushing through the pain and for the courage that you show each day. You are loved and appreciated!

Saralena said...

Never give up hope or give into despair! You are a strong strong women! I loved meeting you. I love reading your books and simply love the stories you tell. Every time I read one of your books I feel like we are taking this new adventure (the book) together like we are secret friends. We are all cheering for you. We will all continue to support you. As alone as you might feel at times just remember how very special and very loved you truly are by so many! I look forward to your new book and many more to come. Hang in there!

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg said...

I am so proud of you and so happy to hear this news. You are an inspiration.

Lori Folkman said...

My heart breaks for you and your challenges. Thank you for sharing your struggles and inspiring us to overcome the various difficulties we all face. I love your stories and am so happy to know that I'll be able to read your books for years to come! :)

Helen said...

Hang in there, you ARE stronger than you think! I get what you are saying and you will find your rhythm! You will find someday that YOU have RA but it doesn't have you!

Jennifer E. McFadden said...

I discovered your books from a friend of on FB, and have enjoyed reading them. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent with us.I suffer from health ailments, and have re-read your books on the days when I wanted to give up my fight.
I am really happy that you pushed through your pain and frustration and finished a first draft of a new book; I look forward to reading it!

erinzachjj said...

I am truly thankful that you are finding a way to work through this horrible disease. When I found out that you were dealing with this I was heartbroken for you, but selfishly I was heartbroken for me. I LOVE your books. You are my favorite author and I can't imagine a world without your stories. Your mind is fascinating and I have never enjoyed stories more than yours. Thank you for working through this. You are in my prayers!

Wendy said...

Woot woot! Awesome news. It makes me so happy!

Jessica Fluckiger said...

The lovely thing is that your gift, which brings satisfaction to you, also brings joy to so many others. It cheers us on sad days. It helps us cry on the days when the tears need to fall. It reminds us of how fortunate we are to be able to love. We (myself and the three oldest of my six daughters) are devoted to you (as well as an entire bookshelf), and we'll be praying for you. Not just because we love your books, but because we love you!

Terry W. Ervin II said...

I am so glad to hear the news that you've managed progress on a new novel. I look forward to the post that announces you've finished revising and editing that novel--I can only imagine how excited I'll feel for you, and realize it's just a tiny fraction of the accomplishment you'll have felt. Good luck and hang in there!

Lizzie Justice said...

I love all of your novels! I only discovered you last fall, and since then have bought every one of your books! I am so excited about getting to read your newest one on Friday. Thank you for sharing your talent, I am sorry it is so physically painful to do something that brings you and so many people great joy.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, Sarah. You made me cry. I've heard that song many times but not paid enough attention to it.

Hubby, who has suffered with health issues for over 20 years, had a bit of a wake-up call on our recent vacation with his younger brother, who has developed debilitating health issues. Hubby realized that as challenging as his condition has been (for SO long), things could be worse. It's funny how we learn to be grateful for the small blessings in our lives.

Thank you for being such an inspiration.

Shanda Cottam said...

Congratulations, Sarah. Your strength and determination never cease to amaze and inspire me.

Kristi F said...

Sarah keep up the great work! I'm so glad to hear you are going to keep writing! In Seagull Book today they said you wouldn't write any more. I started devising plans on how I could help!

Sarah M Eden said...

I have worried a great deal over the past year if I would ever be able to write again. While I can see I will be much slower, it is a wonderful feeling to know it can still be done, however plodding and laborious the pace.

Lynette @ My Craft Discovery said...

Sarah, I just found your books over the summer, and have read many of them and absolutely love them! You have such a fun writing style. I hope that you are able to find different ways to do the same things you are used to doing. What a big adjustment! I hope that you are able to continue writing, and know that your readers are patient with the recent changes in your life. Thanks for sharing that song. I loved that
video.

David and Brittany said...

I just finished Friends and Foes this morning, my most favorite book thus far! I am new to this whole world of novels having finished my very first book EVER in early January. You have such a incredible talent and we are all so blessed by your gift of writing and hard work! Keep it up, and stay strong...we need you!!!

Thanks for turning me into a reader and thanks for all you do! ;)

Serena said...

Sara,

I keep writing a comment and getting kicked out. I'll make this short. Love love loved your longing for home books ! I'm seeing a doctor who is great with conditions like yours. Dr. Boggess at natural balance wellness. I see him with phone consultations. Because your condition is an autoimmune one I'm sure he can help. Good luck and don't give up!

Archive

Search This Blog