Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Writing Handicapped" -- Guest Post by Linda Suzane

Linda Suzane is the author of THE MURDER GAME and THE EYES OF TRUTH. She also designs murder-mystery computer games and reviews books. Check out her website at http://www.lindasuzane.com.

Well the month of November is past and I am finally catching up with all the stuff I put on hold while I was busy writing for NaNoWriMo. Did I reach 50,000 words? No. 34, 246. But I did complete the story. I'm not sure, even with a rewrite, that I will reach 50,000. But since I have several short stories that are in the same universe, I figure I have the makings of a book. But for me it was a major breakthrough.

Because of health problems, I have literally suffered from an over six-year writer's block. The medications they put me on to control the arthritis and depression have changed my brain and the way it functions. I used to sit for hours and daydream, fantasize stories in my head, but that ability is gone. It has only been this year that I have been well enough to return to writing. I have gotten my three books reprinted and am working hard at promoting them. I learned just because a book is published does not mean it will sell. You have to promote it and promote yourself. And that is hard work. But it doesn't require much creativity. Sitting down to write a new story from scratch -- now that is something different. I had not fully realized until this moment that I am handicapped. Oh, yes, I'm on SS disability. I walk with a walker. I take morphine and other opiates just to be able to move my body, and then not even well, or without pain. But I had never truly recognized my mental handicap.

A while back I went to the doctor because I was having trouble remembering things and it was interfering with my life. She sent me in for a battery of tests and what I learned from those tests was that I function verbally far beyond the norm. It didn't matter that I had lost a significant part of my capacity, I still was above average. And I didn't have Alzheimer's. Like all handicapped people, I have learned to compensate for my handicap, doing things in a different way to accomplish what I need to do. Now, looking back over my month-long experience of writing something new for the first time in over six years, I see my handicap and how I have worked out ways to compensate without even being aware of what I was doing. It is pretty amazing. I'm not able to create, to come up with a new story idea, but I can borrow. My first decision was to write a sequel, which provided me with ready-made characters and setting. Then I blatantly borrowed from Lauren Haney's The Right Hand of Amon, where Lieutenant Bak investigates a murder at an army fort and must eliminate each of the officers as suspect. So I sent my hero, Dar, to investigate a murder at a fortress on the Kingdom of Naj border. Then I followed the formula I use to create murder mystery games to plot the crime, which is basically fill in the blanks.

I was about halfway through before I discovered something very important: the parts that were good in the story were those places where I turned over conscious control and let my subconscious mind do the writing. All writers have that experience sometimes. But for me it became very important. Because I am handicapped by not being able to fantasize, to create a story in my conscious mind, to listen to the characters carry on that internal dialogue in your mind that you just record what they are saying and doing, I found myself blocked. I didn't know where to go next in the story. I decided to try an experiment, to do automatic writing. Years ago I had worked on a story, never knowing where it would go, I would just start writing without consciously thinking about the story. It had turned out to be a very interesting story and went in directions I had not imagined. So I decided to try that on this story. I would sit down and just write, let my subconscious mind take control. And in this way I managed to finish the story. As I said, I have not put into words until just now, to honestly recognize that I am not only physically disabled but mentally disabled and that I must find alternate ways to do what I need to do. In this case, it is to borrow and use known story ideas, but also to let my subconscious mind take the place of my conscious creative mind. There is a part of me that mourns what has been lost and will probably never be found again, but at the same time I rejoice that I have found a way to still be a writer.


Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

This way a fascinating interview. Linda is proof positive that the saying, "Where there's a will there's a way!" is absolutely true.

Dallas said...

Linda, thank you for your wonderful article! It was a pleasure to feature you on the blog!

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

I agree Jane, this is a fascinating post. As a 'handicapped' individual myself, I know how amazing our abilities are at finding ways around obstacles.

I'm glad you're finding your way over yours.

Thanks, Dallas for hosting Linda.

Linda Suzane said...

Thank you everyone. Check out more about my Journey at http://journeybestseller/blogspot.com

Debra Eckerling said...

Best of luck as you continue your journey, Linda, and thanks for sharing!

Dallas, what a lovely feature.

Keep up the good work, ladies!