I’ve been sitting here on my sofa, writing my novel on my Macbook. It’s a long haul of a journey, writing a novel. A good eighteen months of work for me. I am on the final third, at the point where I am emerged in the story and caught up with the thoughts, feelings and actions of my characters. It is a strange place to be. Lots of questions: Is this working? Can I pull it off? Am I completely mad?
Being a writer can be easy. When the words flow and the sentences form and the pages fill with the truths of what it is to be human, it is the best. When you are stuck, blocked, and finding anything to do other than write – even housework or food shopping – you wish you had a regular 9 to 5 job where someone told you what to do. On the other hand, I don’t like being told what to do. I like to be the one in charge. Being a writer means I can boss around my characters, tell them what to do. But, strangely, at this point in the novel, they are taking control of the narrative. This is an exciting but scary place to be.
But nothing is straightforward in life, certainly not in mine. I live with fibromyalgia, a long term condition which causes pain all over the body and extreme tiredness. Plus a whole load of other complications.
I don’t know how long I’ve had it but I was officially diagnosed a couple of years ago. I have good days and bad days and never know how I will wake up… so I do all the things I am supposed to do to get by. I pace myself, I build in days when I can rest to counteract the busy days. If I push through the pain, I pay for it later. I try and get out for a walk with the dogs everyday, breathe in the sea air and absorb the goodness of the landscape around me.
I take my medication – pregabalin, an anti-convulsant, sertraline, an anti-depressant (as with many fibromyalgia sufferers, I have depression that ranges from moderate to severe, and sometimes anxiety can get the better of me), tramadol when the pain is bad and zopiclone to help me sleep as I am the world’s worst insomniac.
I also see a therapist who takes the burdens off my shoulders (shoulders that a wonderful chiropractor manipulates once a month).
My life is a balance: creativity versus quality of life. If I don’t take the medication, the pain and depression are overwhelming but I can write for England. If I do take the medication, then I have a certain fuzziness that I have to shake to get the words out.
But life is like this for all of us. We have to balance the good and the bad. We have to work out what is important to us, who is important to us. We have to look at the big picture as well as pay attention to the details. We have to trust in our instincts and use what wisdom and experience we have to the best effect.
And this is true of writing.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. There’s no cure for being a writer either. I have to accept this but hope – always hope – that my life and stories count for the people I love.