Friday, October 3, 2014

Writing Through Sickness by Corrine Lussier

I'm away from the blog today and guest posting at The Writer's Alley (stop by and say hi!). In my place, I'd like to introduce you to a dear friend of mine. I've been honored to experience life, church, writing, ministry, and sickness with this amazing woman, and am so blessed to have her on Thinking Thoughts today. Give a warm welcome to my dear friend Corrine.


This probably is one of the more difficult blogs that I have had to write in awhile, especially since I am dealing with the topic of sickness and writing. Let me give you a little background story first.

I have always wanted to be a writer, and throughout college I immensely enjoyed writing short stories. It wasn't until I met Emilie that she challenged me to write an actual novel. She introduced me to National Novel Writing Month (AKA Nanowrimo) and I committed in August of 2013 to writing 50,000 words from November 1st to November 30th.

A lot of people have said that is ambitious as it is, but later that month I was told that I had stage I brain cancer and it was time to radiate. It took a month to pick a plot and expand it, and at the same time a month of getting prepped for radiation which included fitted head masks and getting my ribs tattooed.

The month of November came and I was in way over my head. Not only was I doing my day job, but I was doing my day job while writing a book while doing radiation therapy. I was sick most days but determined to meet the 50,000 word limit. I spent most days plastered to my couch trying desperately to get my foggy brain to work creatively. To this day, it is the most difficult month I have ever endured.

So, now that I have laid out my credentials, I would like to offer up some advice for writing through sickness. One thing I have learned from other writers and Emilie, is that there is no good time to write. If you accept this, then you can move on to actually writing, no matter what life situations you are facing.
  1. Tell Everyone What You are Doing- You don't have to go into plot details, or talk up a storm, but I found that when my family and closest friends knew I was writing a book, there was accountability there. For the whole month of November people were asking me how my book was going. I even got my radiation therapists in on the gig. I would tell them stories to relax me before going in for treatment, and I felt the stress just melt off of me. Soon, they would just ask me what happened to the characters yesterday.
  2. Get a willing writing buddy- This is different than someone who gives you advice on your book and peer edits (AKA critique partner). What I mean by willing writing buddy is someone who recognizes that you are ill, and tries to help you and meet you in time of need. Emilie would come over to my apartment and we would write as often as we could. I generally was more short winded than her, only able to write a couple hours at a time, while she could go for days. Cancer made it difficult for me to get involved in my story, but Emilie thankfully was able to help me see when I needed a break, versus some time to just plot out my troubled story. So, we would take breaks and read or just talk out the plot. Sometimes I just needed to close my eyes while she typed away. 
  3. Know Your Limits- Whether you have a summer cold or cancer, you have limits that are prohibiting you from functioning at a normal speed. It is difficult to accept, but you have to know these limits. There were many days where Emilie was functioning full speed ahead, or at least at a speed that I strongly desired to function at. There were days that all I could think about was being sick, and when is this cancer going to be done and over. I was barely able to complete my job yet alone think about the next portion of my book most days. I could type for 45 minutes at a time and need to take a long nap. You may have to work twice as hard as the next person who is fine and well, but the end result is amazing. Just pace your self.
Being sick in general sucks. No one needs the caveat of saying that they have cancer for people to understand being sick is a major roadblock. Being sick while writing is adding more fuel to the flames. Looking back, I can't believe that I wrote a book while going through treatment for cancer. I can say: I wrote a book while having cancer. I may not be published yet, but I do know hard work during the hard times produces a victory regardless of the situation. And while this may be easier said then done: accept your situation and write, write, write. Who knows what your characters will do.

Corrine is a cancer survivor. English tutor by day, author by night. She loves art, and appreciates trying anything new. Check out her blog: I Said Hello Hurricane and follow her on Twitter: @AwakeningDreams
 Thank you for this Corrine! I love your three points of advice and, honestly, would say they fit for all of us even if we aren't sick at the time. I loved being able to walk that journey with you and look forward to the next Nanowrimo - even if we're on different coasts ;)

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