How Writing Has Positively Influenced my Life
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If I say that writing saved my life you might think it was an exaggeration, but I truly feel that without it my life would be insupportably empty.
In late 2008 my husband was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. In the 1960s, when he was 24, he worked for six months in an asbestos factory, writing a report for a work study company. The factory was chaotic. Asbestos fibres carpeted the floors, choked the air and infiltrated every thread of clothes and hair. This foul disease took more than forty five years to make its presence felt. Patients rarely live for more than a year after diagnosis, but he soldiered on for eighteen months and the end, when it came, was as horrific as you would expect. I was distraught at his loss; we had been together for 39 years. We were supposed to grow old together.
I have been writing ever since I was about eight years old when I was at boarding school. I wrote stories, plays and, at sixteen, a Georgian romance that was lost to posterity in a dustman related incident. I also told long meandering sagas after lights out in the dormitory. However, I was not encouraged to pursue writing, and certainly not as a career. My education took an academic route and after graduating in Physiology I ended up as a Medical Research scientist and writing was sidelined. It wasn’t until my children were grown that I had time to consider taking it up again. I joined a writing group and soon found that I had not forgotten how to string words together in a way that others could enjoy. But during the long months of caring for a dying man I couldn’t write a word.
Following my husband’s death I found that after all that time of having someone to care for there was only me in a featureless void. Once the worst of the grief and rage had passed I started to write again. At first I had to force myself to concentrate, but eventually the words started to flow again. I finally finished the novel I had started years before, wrote many short stories, progressed with my memoir, started and finished another novel and two crime novellas. It is more difficult to write humorously now than it used to be and I have to try not to be too dark. With the endless supply of ideas swishing around in my head I feel the pressure of the years to get it all out in my lifetime.
Sometimes I despair at the difficulty of getting those radiant ideas swirling in my brain down on to paper. It is like trying to capture the image of a beautiful scene or face from a half-remembered glimpse. The fact that I am not as disciplined as I should be doesn’t help. I know that when I am ‘in the zone’ I can easily write at least three thousand words a day – but I rarely do. Occasionally, after yet another rejection, I think of abandoning writing altogether, whining to myself, ‘why am I torturing myself like this at my age?’
But writing gives me purpose. Inventing characters and situations keeps me occupied. It keeps me sane, it populates my world. It keeps me alive.