Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

... or Getting Back into the Writing Groove After a Hiatus

Rain pelted and winds raged throughout the gloomy night. Did I care that Hurricane Elvis ripped through Memphis knocking out the power and devastating much of the city? Of course, not! I had a contract offer from a major publishing house for my manuscript that made the finals in the Golden Heart. It could have been a blizzard with snow drifts eight feet high. I was going to the post office to mail that baby in!

Driving through the debris-laden streets with my contact in my lap, I braved the no-street-lights-and-always-crazy Memphis traffic.

I saw the black Dodge pickup coming...too late.

Everything moved in slow motion. There wasn’t a thing I could do as he slammed into my driver’s door going 40 mph. I watched my door cave into my left side, heard my ribs pop, and then everything went blank. My angelic guardian was with me – no other explanation for my survival. I came to briefly sitting across the car and had miraculously gotten over the center console into passenger seat.

The firemen about a third of a mile down the street arrived first. They went to the truck first, because they didn’t think anyone in my car could have survived the crash when they saw the damage.  Want ironic? I watched in a daze as the driver of the pickup put on a show for the firemen. Every time one got near him, he’d clutch his chest and swing an arm out. The first ambulance on the scene took him to the nearest Cardiac Pain Center, where he checked out AMA (against medical advice) without being seen or treated. The irony, the man had a history of ten DUI’s and I couldn’t testify against him because I gained the information by managing his case on a Chemical Dependency Unit. Talk about the Federal Privacy Laws helping an addict. The man hopped the state line (we’re in a tri-state area), and he stayed away long enough to let the warrant expire.

Anyway, I was having trouble breathing, my head pounded  like a tiny catapult was releasing stones inside to batter my brain, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t hurting. Then the lights went out.

I woke up in the Trauma Center – hooked to every gadget and gizmo available. That was several months later. The long and the short of doc’s prognosis : “You’ll have to live on a respirator, and you’ll never have motor function below you neck again.”

Hope-dasher words? Of course, they were. Then my nursing-self came to the fore. There is nothing a nurse loves more than to prove a doctor wrong when she hears a bad prognosis of her own condition. After all, they give us hell all the time. They take two classes their first year of medical school: Playing God and Poor Penmanship. But that’s another post for another day.

I loved the Kill Bill movies. If you remember the scene where she’s in the car looking at her big toe telling it to move, then you’ll have an idea of how I spent the next six and a half years. After getting the fine motor movement back in my hands, I made the decision to begin writing again.

Why write? I’d dictated a jillion story ideas while trying to move my big toe, and I needed to get them down. I’m addicted to writing. I realized just how driving the need was when I couldn’t take pen in hand.

As I began writing again, I quickly saw that I was falling into old bad habit that I had broken prior to making the finals in the Golden Heart. I immediately signed up for some online craft classes. I have to tell all of you, I cannot sing praises loudly enough for Nicole North, Eliza Knight, and Kris Kennedy. If you get a chance to take any of their classes, run, don’t walk. These are some amazing ladies with the ability to both write and teach.

My writing got back into my old pre-wreck flow. I type slower, but at least I can type. (It’s fun proving doctors wrong). One thing was missing though. I needed a critique partner. My partner was Judy from Norway, whom some of you may remember. She published a book called Love thy Enemy using the penname Judith Lynne. We set high standards for each other and kept each other on track. Really need to find another partner.

After an enforced hiatus of over six years, I was back. I write for the love it. That’s my driving motivator for writing. Telling stories is in my blood and always has been. Don’t get me wrong. Selling is nice, but I have to write.

I’m coming off a two year sabbatical that I’ve spent in denial of a pathophysiology so bizarre that it’s worthy of academic publication. I came out of denial a few months ago. Most gross motor movement is back, but drat those fingers and fine motor skills that elude me. And can I say drat the Dragon software here? I spent over 90 hours trying to train that infernal program and it kept making the same mistakes. I’ve got three fingers back and they type faster than Dragon takes dictation. And my Windows HTC phone understands me well enough that I can dictate Facebook posts. Go figure.

If you’ve taken a sabbatical and come back to writing and feel frustrated, you’re not the only one who’s been there. Define your support systems, set your goals, and write the story of your dreams – and the next one and the next one, ad infinitum. Make the Galaxy Quest motto your own: Never Give Up! Never Surrender! And above all else, no excuses. Just write it!

If any of you have taken a hiatus for any reason, I’d love to hear how you got back into the flow of things. Your story may help someone else who’s going through the same thing.

Until next time, happy writing!
Mary McCall
Be on the lookout for Creating Characters People Talk About (Multidimensional Character Development), 4 week online class for writers in March.


Big Mike said...

Wow, hell of a post Mary. Thought I had it bad with I couldn't write for 8 months because of cancer. You win (g). Glad you made it back.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

So glad you "moved your big toe" and found your way back to writing, Mary. I found writing later in life - so you could say my first forty-some years were a "hiatus." It's that urgent need to tell stories that finally got my attention. Now I feel as though there are too many inside to ever stop trying to tell them. Gotta say, I hope I am never tested the way you've been, but if I am, I hope I can tell that story with as lovely a sense of humor as you do.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I'm proud to be in your company, Mary. At my age I've had interruptions and events, accidents, etc. Nothing like what you’ve suffered. You are right about the value of being a nurse. Most of my friends are nurses and SWs. They/you don't take defeat well. So glad you fought back. Keep fighting, and writing, communicating and living.

Annabel Aidan said...

Glad you're better and back at the keyboard!

Allison Knight said...

Where there is a will, there is often a way. Congrats. Well done!
And the other guy will get his justice one way or another!

Veronica Helen Hart said...

My heart dropped into my toes when I read the first two lines of your post. And then it lifted after reading the entire thing. How amazing you are. Bless you and your moving big toe! Keep on writing.

Richard Hacker said...

I know you didn't write the blog to be an inspiration, but a call to action, but sorry to tell you, you're an inspiration. I'm humbled by your courage and persistence and will definitely try to draw on your passion for my own writing. Very glad you never gave up.