The cycle of life this past year has very much been
- try something to see if it's still possible
- try it in a different way
- 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
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!