Sunday, May 02, 2010

Staying Afloat

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." - Helen Keller
Each of us faces some kind of obstacle each day in our work as well as in our lives, and the way we view these obstacles can help or hinder our efforts to get words down on paper and tell our stories.

There are writers among us who have full schedules working and caring for children or aging parents with little time (or energy) left for writing at the end of the day.

There are writers in the water with us who have lost their jobs and have to face the growing anxiety of supporting a family as their savings dwindle and their money runs out.

If you look to your right or left, you'll see writers swimming beside us who have to face emotional challenges–a recent divorce, a death in the family, the loss of a close friend.

And others who must face daunting physical challenges or the prospect of a life-threatening illness. (This past week I was relieved to learn that the tumor pressing on my 12th cranial nerve was benign.)

Life can be hard, but other writers have surmounted personal and professional obstacles and managed to stay afloat and continue writing despite these difficulties.

Hans Christian Anderson overcame dyslexia.

Isaac Asimov wrote and wrote and wrote despite being autistic.

Christy Brown wrote “My Left Foot” despite cerebral palsy.

Byron penned poems and Dickens wrote his novels despite epilepsy.

H.G. Wells gave us his stories despite diabetes.

"Pain,” writes Lois McMaster Bujold, “seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?"

As I faced my own obstacles and demons these past four months, I found it helpful to remember that other writers have conquered their demons and managed to overcome obstacles in order to stay in the water and continue writing.

The next time that you find yourself facing a daunting obstacle and wondering how you can keep swimming and putting words on paper, try to remember what James Baldwin wrote: "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

Keep the faith. Keep writing.

And when you come up for air, let us know how you're doing.


Carmela Martino said...

Flannery O'Connor is another author who struggled with physical hardships--she had lupus. Thanks for reminding us that we don't need to let our challenges define or limit us. I'm glad for your good news, and that you're keeping the faith.

Bruce Black said...

Thanks, Carmela. Funny you should mention O'Connor. I'm reading her collection of essays on writing (Mystery and Manners) at the moment. Her collection of letters are wonderful, too.