Friday, June 22, 2018

Writing Through Pain by Patty Blount

Perserverance should be my name. Like Temperance Brennan on Bones, I could be Perserverance Blount and fight crime with a hot guy played by David Boreanaz.

Back here in the real world, there's this old adage that writers, like most artists, suffer for their craft. Boy, howdy, I can attest to this.

In 2015, I was laid off from a job I'd held for thirteen years, a job that afforded many liberties like working from home when needed, flex time when needed, and an on-site fitness center and chiropractor that I used regularly. It also offered me a 30-minute commute.

I was lucky; I found a new job in a few weeks, but the new job's commute was an hour and 30 minutes.

Each way.

It had none of the flexibility I'd grown used to either.

In May of that year, I had this bizarre swelling in my hands. A finger would randomly swell to three times its normal size and the pain is utterly indescribable. At one point, I sobbed to my husband to take the hedge clippers and lop it off. I couldn't so much as tap a cell phone with the entire hand, let alone the swollen finger.

Brooklyn, 2015 - CLMP Firecracker Award for SOME BOYS along with my then-editor, Aubrey Poole. This was the first flare I had -- I was unable to straighten my arm and so, it bent awkwardly. Not shown is the swollen finger on my other hand. 


It happened three times, to three different fingers. I'd been to an emergency room, had x-rays and blood tests and enough medication to open a pharmacy. The diagnosis is psoriatic arthritis. It's disfiguring, it's excrutiating, it's permanent, and it's a vicious cycle. I have to take meds to manage the flare-ups, manage the rash, but the meds cause side effects like osteoporosis and weight gain and insomnia so I have to take more meds to manage those. I frequently don't sleep at all and then have to drive that 90-minute commute, work all day, and commute back home.

In 2015, I didn't get much writing done. It took me months to figure out how to squeeze writing back into my new world order. I have to exercise because, as my rheumatologist says, "motion is the lotion" that keeps my joints lubricated. But it hurts! Oh, it hurts. I have to lose weight to decrease the burden on my joints, but let's face it -- writing is a sedentary occupation. Thanks to the steroids, I'm now shopping for plus sizes and this just KILLS me.

So... I didn't write. I gave it up for months. And an interesting thing happened. I felt like I'd been lobotomized, like half of me was missing. At first, I blamed this on all the new meds and the disease. But then I realized it was ME. I'd let it go when what I should have been doing was clinging to writing like a piece of driftwood after the boat sinks.

I'm fighting back now. Instead of saying, "I can't! It hurts." I say, "I will. I'll feel better."

I began waking up at 5:45 and getting to work around 7:30, before traffic begins to get awful. That hour earlier cut my morning commute down to about 40 minutes instead of 90. I can't do much about the evening commute so I endure it. With the office empty, I have a leisurely breakfast so I can take my meds on a full stomach and then write until 9 AM.

The medication wallet I must now carry. 


At lunch time, I walk. If the weather is bad, I may write some more. When I finally get home, it's a victory when I do so before 6:30. I do my physical therapy exercises  -- stretching is critical for me. Dinner. Laundry. Dishes. I don't watch much TV now. When I sit down, it's for social media tasks, maybe to re-read what I wrote that day and plan tomorrow.

For a long time, I was bitter about no longer being able to write 1500 or 2000 words a day. Now, a good writing day is 300 words or so. I had to adjust my attitude on a lot of things -- like giving up sugar. I LOVE chocolate. Chocolate is like a religion for me. Giving that up -- well, let's just say I thought about the pain and wondered if I could live with another round of prednisone -- it wasn't easy, but I decided sugar had to go.

(Still haven't lost weight, BTW)

So, we're in 2018. It's 3 years and I haven't had a flare up! I've had lots of other issues but I manage them as they strike. I've learned how to keep writing on the days when even my hair hurts (I have psoriatic spots on my scalp.)


  • I use dictation software. 
  • I have my son edit for me.
  • I plot and research rather than sit 'butt-in-chair' on high-pain days or no-sleep nights because let me tell you, writing on no sleep is like drunk-dialing somebody. Nobody wants to see that! 
  • I stop beating myself up over the 200 word count days. I write every day, even when I'm fried, so I don't 'fall out of the habit.' It may not be actual word-count writing (could be plotting, etc.) but it's time on the WIP. 
  • When I have days to devote to my writing, I'm careful not to spend hours sitting. I set reminders to get up, move around, exercise so my back doesn't spasm and undo my progress. 
  • I don't make decisions on days where I'm going without sleep. 
  • I stay off social media on the days where I'm going without sleep. 
In 2017, I wrote 2 full-length books and didn't die. This was a personal goal I'd set and I'm so proud I managed to achieve it. I have the same goal for 2018, but we're in June and....nothing. I have no ideas. Usually, panic sets in around now, but I'm just going with the flow. 

I figure my body is telling me "Rest." So I'm researching some back story for one kernel of an idea, to see if it germinates into a full story. 

But I'm not giving up. Writing is part of who and what I am. I do what I have to so I can keep this disease from stealing more of me than it already has. 


11 comments:

  1. You are a gutsy person and inspiring in your determination. Add a capital P to persistence!

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  2. You're a trooper, Patty! I think the right attitude makes all the difference, and you've definitely got it!

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    1. It's not coming easy, but it's coming!

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  3. Patty, you inspire me to the moon and back. Hugs on all the issues, though!

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  4. Wow, what a humbling post. Most of us have had to deal with obstacles to our writing, but I'm beyond thankful at this moment that I never had to deal with challenges as scary as yours have been. Bravo, bravo to you for fighting through it and continuing to write!!

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    1. Everyone has ordeals and I get that. I spent too long whining "Why?" instead of just dealing.

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  5. Thank you for not giving up, Patty. Your books are awesome!

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