Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Do Writers Who Face Pain Write?

by Patty Smith Hall

Writers are always told that one key to getting a publishing contract is to "put your backside in a chair and write!" But what if you physically cant sit for any length of time without being in a great deal of pain? What do you do then?

So how do writers who face chronic, debilitating pain write?

Stay in Constant Prayer

Dealing with constant pain usually does one of two things to a person; either it sends you running in every direction, chasing every lead for a reason for the pain, a why behind the agony or it drives you to your knees. Ive done both. But one very important question Ive put before God (besides the whole why me?) is if writing is in His plan for me. I wanted to make sure I was in Gods will and had to prepare myself if God required me give up writing or the hope of publication. Its a dark place at times, but also one where your faith is stretched in new ways each and every second of the day.

Equally important is the need to be ready to handle the pain if He sends confirmation to continue writing. Working through chronic pain or illness takes a inhuman toughness only God can give. So Ive turned even more to His Word for encouragement. Sticky notes on my computer with scriptures--my favorites are 2 Corinthians 12:9 and Romans 8:28.

Finding a Way to Write
Okay, youre prayed up, know that God wants to you write, even got your scriptures to encourage you--now what? How do you get your backside in a chair when its a pain in the tush?

1) Standing Desk and Ergonomic Rug
One of my favorite people (and best selling novelist!) Camy Tang came up with a wonderful idea to deal with her chronic back issues. At her desk, she keeps a box that she places on her desktop when she feels the need to stand. Its the perfect height for her computer and allows her to continue working while giving her a chance to stand and stretch.  If you have an island in your kitchen, thats also a great place to work without having to sit. If you want something a little more decorative, there are many standing desks available on Amazon, starting for as little as $50.

Another important item that works wonders is an ergonomic rug. These are designed to help relieve fatigue on the lower extremities and is well worth the price (which can range anywhere from $30 to well into the hundreds.) Id suggest you try it out first--yes, you may look crazy, standing on a rug in the middle of Bed, Bath and Beyond but better to make sure its the right rug for you than waste money.

2) Alphasmart Word Processor
Youre sitting at your desk or in your favorite chair, ready to write and its just not comfortable. You fidget for a few minutes, hoping to find that perfect position but it just isnt happening. Maybe the chair upstairs would work but that means dragging your computer up a flight of steps and youre not even sure you can make it without falling down. Thats where an Alphasmart can help. Weighing under a pound, this portable word processor has eight individual files which can save multiple chapters and be downloaded into Word with just the press of a button. And you dont have to worry about tripping over cables--four AA batteries is all you need to keep writing for months at a time.

3) Egg Timer
I dont know about the rest of you, but when I get writing, time just slips away from me. Ill look up and two hours would have gone by. Good for my book. Not at all good for my back. So now I keep an egg timer on my desk and set it for 35 minutes. When that bell goes off, I stand up and move. Take a bathroom break. Fold a dryer full of clothes. Anything to get moving. Then I go back to my desk and reset my timer. I may not write as much but Im not in as much pain either.

4) Digital Pen
The pain is so bad, you cant even sit up. So now that youre flat on your back, what do you do? Consider a digital pen. A bit thicker than a standard pen, it has the capability to transfer your writing into Word files while also serving as a recording. Its not for everyone, and its expensive starting at $119 (plus the specialized notebooks.) So once again, try it before you buy it.

5) Pen and Paper
Old fashioned, yes, but when youre flat on your back and desperate to write, its an easy alternative. Not much of an added expense - I can buy my favorite pens and writing tablet for under $5. With the back-to-school sales beginning, you can stock up on notebooks and pens for later. Yes, your writing will still need to be typed into the computer but writing freestyle is very liberating. Ive written the first draft of my last four books like this. Its slower, but still gets the job done.

If you suffer from chronic pain, what ways have you discovered that keeps you writing?

Patty Smith Hall grew up just outside of Atlanta, hearing family stories of gallant men and gutsy ladies. In 2000, following a long career in nursing, research, and high risk infant care, she began seriously studying the craft of writing. A founding member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, she served on the national board as well as various other regional positions. She first found publishing success with her short stories in the God Allows U-Turns series as well as Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul; a Second Dose and Guidepost magazine. Her debut novel, Hearts in Flight, won the 2008 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis Award in historical romance and was picked by Publisher’s Weekly as a top inspirational read for the 2011 spring and summer season.
Patty lives with her husband of 28 years in suburban Atlanta and finds her greatest joy in spending time with her family and friends.

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