Several long-term goals were within my grasp. I had a plan. My confidence was high, twenty-sixteen was the year I’d been dreaming of.
On an overcast night in early February when we took our dogs out to potty before bed. Our big dog, Meg, was already outside on her lead when Molly and I arrived. Meg was so excited to see us that she did three joyous laps around us in a couple of seconds. Before I could step out of the loops made from her lead, a strange sound in the neighbor’s yard distracted Meg and she ran to investigate.
I woke up laying on the concrete patio looking up at the stars and worried about Molly.
I’d gotten a concussion when I landed on my head on the concrete. Nausea and headaches became normal. When we went to the doctor, my mom told her I’d been speaking a lot of gibberish since it happened. I’d known I’d been struggling with my words but I’d had no clue that I wasn’t making any sense.
I lost six weeks of writing time because I couldn’t focus on anything. Stupidly, I assumed I could just work extra hard for a month or two and my amazing year would continue as planned with only this hiccup to make things interesting.
Before falling I’d planned to finish rewriting Valentine’s Catastrophe before Camp NaNoWriMo started on April first. Then I’d write the rough draft of UnScrooged, a full-length Christmas romance novel, during camp. And after that complete rewrites of my first book, The Fire-Pit, followed by another rough draft of a brand new story.
It quickly became clear this schedule was never going to happen. I couldn’t work for more than a couple of hours a day and barely made any progress. Halfway through camp, I officially changed my goals so I wouldn’t beat myself up for being so far behind schedule.
The last week of Camp NaNoWriMo I reached an intense and emotional scene. No matter what I did it wouldn’t come together. Desperate to finish the story, I took a pen and paper outside in the hope that inspiration would strike. Molly came with me. We enjoyed the sunny spring day and while she did fun dog things, I wrote.
By the time Molly wanted to go inside I’d written more than I had in over a week. Excitement and relief surged through me. I was back to my old self!
I woke up early the next day eager to get to work. Two cups of coffee later, I’d only written a couple of sentences and didn’t like either one. By lunch I was blinking back the tears gathering in my eyes.
I hate crying. I hate being weak.
The end of the second week of May I finished Valentine’s Catastrophe.
A mere seven weeks late. No worries, I reassured myself sarcastically.
It was painful to acknowledge that what had once come easy to me, my passion, had become the most frustrating thing in my life. If I couldn’t write, then the publishing company I started in January would fail before it got off the ground. Anger boiled inside me. I’d worked too hard and too long to let a stupid accident stop me!
An insistent voice in my head accused me of letting imagined issues turn me into a lazy time-waster. I despised that voice, but couldn’t help listening to it. Could it be right?
I’m Not Making This Up!
My problems weren’t craziness or laziness. After all, my mom noticed the issues I have speaking and writing, and my doctor checks my head each time I see her, which has been often. It’s been months since I fell and I still have days where my words won’t come out in a way that makes sense to anyone. Other times I can’t find the right words and just stop talking mid-sentence, frustrated and at a loss.
When I write it’s even worse. I would sit at the computer, but hardly any words came. It wasn’t as bad if I was editing, but when I worked on a new project the words refused to move from my brain to the keyboard.
Things weren’t getting better. My dream of being an author was floating away like a puff of smoke. I went to bed right after lunch, distressed and confused. Why wasn’t my brain getting well?
The next day I decided to write something, anything. To prove to myself that I still could. I chose something easy, a letter to my niece, Princess Cadence. My sister had asked me to send letters once I felt better. This seemed like a good time to try.
It took an hour to write a two-page letter, complete with sketches on the pages and envelope. The thrill of getting words down on the page pushed me to try journaling. I poured my frustrations and anger out on the pages until I felt empty.
Except for a single lingering idea.
I’d seen social media posts from several of my writer friends that showed their writing notebooks. Some were journals but a couple of the women were using them to handwrite rough drafts of their books.
I’d hand-written small sections of my stories when I’d been stuck before, but never an entire story. It seemed like a crazy endeavor. After thinking about it for a few days, I couldn’t come up with a single reason not to try.
The time had come for me to admit that my brain no longer worked the way it had before the concussion. I had to accept that it might not go back to normal for a while or it might never be the same. The truth of this scared me. But changing my approach to writing was a tiny inconvenience compared to losing the ability to pursue my passion. So really, I’m lucky.
I purchased notebooks with high-quality paper and fountain pens with happy colors of ink: Orange, Florida Blue, and Sherwood Forest. The great thing about the notebooks is that they are even more portable than a laptop. I’ve fallen in love with fountain pens. They write incredibly smooth and don’t need a lot of pressure like cheap pens do. Now I can write for hours without getting finger cramps.
What I’ve Learned
- Don’t give up.
- Be willing to try a new way of doing things.
- Remember to be grateful for what I can do.
- Realize that adjusting and downsizing my goals is allowed.
- I can still achieve my dreams and maybe, in the long run, this method will make me a better writer.
I reviewed my goals for the year. Cut out two major projects and moved them to 2017. I also decided to let another book that is almost done (it needs rewrites) become a low priority job so I could focus on my top priorities: publishing Valentine’s Catastrophe and writing a new story that will probably end up novella sized as well. Whatever else I finish this year will be a blessing.
My new goals look very different from my original plans and, surprisingly, I’m okay with that. No matter whether my brain goes back to its old ways or I write new things by hand for the rest of my life, my future looks bright again because I’ve found a way to adapt. For which I’m extremely thankful. Leave a comment and let me know how your year is going.