How does a writer prepare for a serious eye condition?

eye-chart-24489_1280I recently went to the eye doctor because the vision in my right eye has been hazy and it’s hard to read depending on the size of the print, the font, and/or the darkness of the ink. So I have to have cataract surgery which is no big deal and I look forward to getting it done. I also have macular degeneration brewing. I have not yet shown symptoms but it’s there. There is no cure, but it can be slowed down. I now feel an urgent need to write all the stories that are in my head before MD rears its ugly head.

Here is an explanation about Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) I found on the National Eye Institute website: AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead. As MD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.

In my case, it is age and genetics related. My grandmother had it bad. It came on rapidly (wet form, I have the dry) and she was legally blind. It was doubly hard on her because she was also very hard of hearing. She had hearing aids, but they weren’t flawless. She was in her late 80’s, all her friends and family were dying off. The macular degeneration was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. She became very despondent, then bitter. It is painful to remember this last season in her life. I spent lots of time with her and saw a rapid decline in her spirit.

I don’t anticipate that at this early age (62), but I’m not looking forward to all the inconveniences MD will create. Having to find rides to everything especially. I live on a rural peninsula. There are no buses here and the nearest big town is 20  miles away. We do have a central location on the peninsula that has a market, bank, and various businesses. There is more further up the highway, but the big stuff is in a larger town off the peninsula. I lived without a car for two years once and I was fortunate to have a nearby friend who loves to drive and loves to talk and she took me everywhere. Another couple of friends pinch-hit. On rare occasions that they weren’t available, I would go on Facebook and ask for a ride. On many of those occasions, I could get a ride to the market (located mid-peninsula) but they were continuing to town and couldn’t take me home. Well, living in such a tight-knit community, I would do my shopping and other errands then stand in front of the store waiting for someone I knew to ask if they could take me home. Worked like a charm.

But my biggest concern is how it will affect my ability to read and write. To not be able to write would be like having an arm amputated. Fortunately, there are some good aids out there for people with vision issues. When my grandmother’s eyesight went bad I subscribed to a catalog for people with low vision and blindness, filled with helpful aids. I got her a little gizmo to put over her checks so she could write checks to pay her bills. She also had a talking watch and clock, and a few other things. But it didn’t lift her spirits. I have known two people who had magnifying devices that helped them greatly when trying to read or use the computer. So my job now is to begin the preparation process. No way will this keep me down as a writer. I am sure there are plenty of blind or vision impaired writers out there. I need to start researching aids that will help when the time comes. And I need to get the led out with stories rumbling around in my gray matter.

I am not depressed or bitter about it, not even afraid really, just disappointed. But God made me a writer and it’s going to be okay. God gave me a lot of friends and a vibrant, close-knit community. I’ll be all right. Planning and preparing is the first step forward. Actually, I am sweating more about my hearing problems. Hearing aids are thousands of dollars that I don’t have. It will behoove me to pray about this rather than stress. It is small potatoes to God.

You know what I love about God? He never steps back, rubbing his chin, and says, “Hmm, that’s a tough one. Let me think a minute.” Or “Wow, that’s a tall order. Got my work cut out for me.” He never says, “Oy vay. Seriously?” God never says, “Maybe later,” or “deal with it, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” The Bible says “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?” The obvious answer is “No.” So I need to start praying for His provision. He is on this.

 

Sailing the Puget Sound on my 62nd birthday.

Delicious Weather

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Is it spring or just the calm before the storm?

Yes, delicious and weather can go in the same sentence. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, delicious means “having a very pleasant taste or smell.” It also means “used to describe a situation or activity that gives you great pleasure.” That’s an understatement.

Just a few weeks ago we had two to three feet of snow and were locked into our homes with no power and no way to get out of our driveways unless you enjoy a lot of digging. But the other morning I woke to deep blue skies, a few fluffy white clouds, rich loam, and crocus sprouting all over my yard at random. They are purple, lavender variegated, and white. These little sweeties shout “Spring is almost here. Get ready.”

The sunshine is a solar feast (it goes with delicious). Not only does its light make everything healthier, but it warms everyone and everything. It is glorious. The trees have the weensiest buds on them now but when the sun is out, the bare winter trees don’t seem so bad. Another thrill is robins. I heard his call last week and sure enough, it was back, singing springs promise song. I love their russet red breast that shines in the sun. Yesterday I was out all day and didn’t have to wear a jacket. Today is just as stunningly beautiful. I thought I would share some spring is coming Haiku and a free verse poem

myriad crocus

harbingers of springtime gay

scattered on the lawn

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Springtime rescuers —

hankies and Allegra tabs

and Nasacort spray

 

Robins have arrived

red breasts puffed proud and gleaming

such a lovely trill

 

zippideedoda

it seems spring has come to stay

if it snows I’ll die

 

Fuzzy nubs emerge

Silver stubs on willow branches

O pussywillows

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March teases

with crocus sightings

tiny buds of promise

an early mow

cutting, trimming, pruning

preparing the soil

strolls in the sunshine

which kisses our cheeks

and winks as if there

is some secret

God are you planning

a winter relapse?

Or maybe you’re planning

an unceasing spring

Whatever your plan

we pray no more snow

or my head gasket will surely blow

 

The Big “O” Word

A couple of months ago I got a membership to the YMCA. Actually, my insurance company paid for it. Woohoo. I came out of the starting gate 90 miles an hour. Exercise leaves me sweaty, tired (in a good way), and exhilarated. The more I exercised the longer and more frequently I wanted to do it.  It also sent me into an exuberant hypomanic state that was utterly delicious. However, in all my gung-ho-ness I hurt my left leg in three places and we got hit with snow and I took two weeks off. I started back up yesterday and I felt like a million bucks when I left the gym. All this makes it sound like I exercise effortlessly, with the strength, energy, and finesse of a twenty-year-old fitness trainer. Um, not even close. Sometimes it isn’t until I’m done that I feel wonderful. Some days it’s arduous, my body feeling leaden. It’s taken time to get a plan, a routine made so I’m not overdoing or underdoing. I need to have two different workouts so I’m not overworking one area. It just makes sense.

Writing is a lot like exercise for me. I love it, I’m passionate about it. It makes me feel amazing when I’ve been on a roll and it all starts coming together. Other days my mind seems to be filled with sludge and I have to push through it. I realize with my book I need to get a plan going. By that I mean I need to do an “ou…ou…outline.” There, I said it.

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Yes, the big “O” word. I always prided myself on being a right-brainer. Free flowing, free-spirited, wildly imaginative, write and create by the seat of my pants. None of that left-brain stuff. It’s too…too…pragmatic, structured, tedious, stifling the generous flow of my creative juices. That was faulty thinking. I find that it’s not a sin to structure a little. It makes the process easier. It will be more coherent and cohesive and will actually help my creativity.

In recovery groups, we always say at the end of our meetings, “It works if you work it.” That’s true of the human body during exercise and being a writer. Being a writer is a journey. You pick up tools and learn new things that will help the process of honing the craft so to speak. You learn to grow in writing by writing and learning from mistakes. Mistakes I think are the greatest teachers. We’ll see how it all comes out.

Quote of the Week From Sylvia Plath

“I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still. ”
― Sylvia Plath

 

Sylvia-Plath by Everett - Edited
Sylvia Plath. Photo by Everett.

As you may have guessed, I love quotes. My friend Dora Weithers, a fellow writer on Hubpages wrote this delightful article full of quotes by other writers for inspiration. Sylvia Plath’s words struck me most. I think this is true of all writers. That voice within us that will not be still has a burning yearning to speak from pen and paper, typewriter, and computer.

I wrote a similar piece a few years ago. I like that neither one of our articles has any of the same quotes. We both categorized the quotes. Hearing from other writers, especially those who have established careers in writing, is inspiring and educational. I have learned a lot from them.

If you are not familiar with Sylvia Plath, she was a young woman known for her exquisite yet raw poetry and fiction writing. She was a tortured soul, carrying the burden of mental illness. Sadly, she took her life at age thirty. But her work lives on and we can learn from her life and her writings.

I hope you enjoy these articles and find something that speaks to you.

Quote of the Week: Mendes da Costa from Lust for Life

What the world thought made little difference. Rembrandt had to paint. Whether he painted well or badly didn’t matter; painting was the stuff that held him together. ~ Mendes da Costa, Lust for Life pg. 31

Flower beds in Holland/Bulb fields Vincent Van Gogh 1883

I know my quotes of the week haven’t been weekly, but please don’t let that be a deterrent. A couple of posts ago I talked about why we write, the answer being we have to, we must. As I am reading Lust for Life by Irving Stone, a biographical novel about Vincent Van Gogh which I also wrote about recently, I found a lovely dialogue between Vincent and his Latin and Greek instructor Mendes da Costa. They are strolling down a street in Amsterdam and have just passed by Rembrandt’s old home.

“He died in poverty and disgrace,” said Mendes in an ordinary voice as they passed the old house.

“He didn’t die unhappy, though,” said Vincent.

“No,” replied Mendes, “he had expressed himself fully and he knew the worth of what he had done. He was the only one in his time who did.”

“Then did it make it all right with him, the fact that he knew? Suppose he had been wrong? What if the world had been right in neglecting him?”

What follows next in their discussion is the crux of what has my attention. Mendes said:

“What the world thought made little difference. Rembrandt had to paint. Whether he painted well or badly didn’t matter; painting was the stuff that held him together. The chief value of art, Vincent, lies in the expression it gives to the artist. Rembrandt fulfilled what knew to be his life purpose; that justified him. Even if his work had been worthless, he would have been a thousand  times more successful than if he had put down his desire and become the richest merchant in Amsterdam.”

I think I’ll just leave that for reflection. Happy Monday evening.

The Writer Returns

I’ve been writing like crazy lately. I wrote very little for three or four months. My well was dry. Then I started working out and changing my diet and my endorphins said “Thank you very much for stimulating us through your new zest for health. In return, we would like to inspire you to do more writing again.” Thanks, guys, I appreciate it. I am always blown away by how exercise invigorates the brain. When I leave the gym I feel like a million bucks. I go to my car a devour an orange because my body craves it and it’s so dang delicious. I rarely if ever eat oranges, nor apples for that matter, but I can’t get enough of them and they are to my surprise, very filling I’m doing my best to give up sugar except for the occasional mocha latte. My writing is all over the place – two humor/satire stories, a poem about tears and how sacred they are to God, wrote a reflective piece in honor MLK day, and a story about a young boy who loses his mother in first century Israel. I won’t finish for a long while as I need to focus on Blackbird. Speaking of Blackbird, I finally got unstuck and I like where it’s going. It feels so good. I was getting pretty discouraged. While I’m plowing through the book, which is only on chapter five, I am going to see if I can do the cover art. I am not a good drawer or painter so I may do it like I make my greeting cards (which I am very good at. I don’t have money to pay an artist and none of my photography friends have a photo of what I want. Last night I bought a sketch pad so I will fiddle around and see if I can come up with what I want. Basically, I want the cover image to show a blackbird during sunrise. We’ll see what happens. So far, 2019 rocks.

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This is how 2019 feels so far.

Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Irving Stone’s Lust For Life

van gough self-portrait
Van Gough Self-Portrait 1887

I have been reading a lot lately about Vincent Van Gogh. I love the uniqueness of his artwork but more than that I find his life quite fascinating. The book I am now reading is called Lust for Life (1934) by Irving Stone. The book is actually a fictional portrayal of Van Gogh’s life, based on Stone’s exhaustive research. I am only on page 29 and already find it teeming with nuggets of profound or relatable thoughts and descriptions that ring true in my own life.

Van Gogh struggled with mental illness which ultimately led to his suicide. Many don’t know this but he was in the asylum Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France when he painted Starry Night, his magnum opus and most famous work. His inspiration was the scenic view of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence outside of his room window (which had bars on it so that makes it even more remarkable). Just amazing.

Even in the first 29 pages, I think Stone well captured the thinking and behavior of a person and with mental health struggles and some of them spoke to me as I struggle with two mental health diagnoses. I don’t know if Stone ever struggled with his mental health, but he brilliantly captured it in his work. Irving Stone also wrote The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961), a life of the Renaissance artist Michelangelo (who also struggled with mental health).

I always appreciate the fact that so many artistic people, whether it’s art, music, literature, or drama/comedy on stage or screen, have mental health struggles and yet in great crisis, their best work is done. I can relate to that too. Kay Redfield Jamison wrote a book on this topic called Touched With Fire (1993)Some of the great writers, composers, and artists from the past were stricken hard with mental illness. Because there was little to no effective treatments back then their cases were more serious and many died of suicide or had lengthy stays in asylums which were houses of horrors where they treated patients inhumanely. And dear tormented Van Gogh painted that stunning Starry Night in a dark place of mental suffering.

In 2016 I was in one of the darkest seasons of my life, suicidal, tormented by loneliness, despair, and what I call “morning dread.” Every single morning for over a year, the minute I opened my eyes in the morning a profound sense of dread seized me. I am tearing up remembering it, it was so awful. And yet, that was the year that I wrote Blackbird Has Spoken, which I am now revising so that I can publish it. I can’t really put adequate enough words to how the story begged and pushed and was possessed to come out. I think it was inner me wanting people to know what it’s like to struggle with PTSD, bipolar, and severe depression. I don’t know if the book will speak to anyone at all or if it will be written skillfully enough to relate to or more importantly learn about these issues. But I will write it because the story begs to be heard.

I leave you with Starry Night.

van gough starry night
Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh 1889

I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.”- Vincent van Gogh

 

 

 

Why Do You Want to Be a Writer? Only a True Writer Will Get the Answer

adult blur business indoors
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In David Morrell’s book The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of  Lessons About Writing and Publishing he recounts a moment in a college course on writing he gave. In his first chapter, he said he posed a question to the class – “Why do you want to be a writer?” The students gave answers like they wanted to make money, be successful like certain well known bestselling writers, others said they wanted to express their creativity, their feelings etc. He kept posing the question and the class grew more and more uncomfortable. He gave them the final correct answer “Because I need to be.”  My answer would be similar – because I must.

Isn’t that so true? A true writer has writing in his DNA. A writer can’t help but write. It’s as needful as breathing. If I lost my ability to write I would feel as if I lost an arm and a piece of my heart. My sole purpose in life is not to write, but it is a very important part of me. It would make me crazy if I couldn’t. I love writing for Hubpages because it’s a venue for writing to my heart’s content. There are no deadlines, no assigned articles, very few limits in subject matter, and writers are seen on Google, thus you have an audience. If you wake up one morning and say “I have to write today,” you can. There are many more reasons why I like writing for Hubpages, but today I just wanted to focus on how available they are and the freedom to write about whatever to choose. I have written for several other sites similar to HP:

  • Suite 101
  • Examiner
  • Ezines
  • Creative Exiles
  • Two others I can’t remember

All but one of them went out of business. My work rarely if at all made it on google and worst of all, the community of writers on that site never left comments except on Creative  Exiles. We did not know each other. No one cared about any of the other writers or their work. It felt devoid of any connection to anyone.

I left Creative Exiles – a poetry site because the leadership was always bickering very publicly and it left me feeling like I’d been I’d been slugged in the gut. It discouraged so many writers. We could communicate with other writers by leaving comments, and that was cool, but overall, it was very disappointing. I was sad because the poetry inside me needed to get out.

I have met so many amazing people on Hubpages and made a plethora of friends. HP is not perfect, but it works and has been around for a long time.

*As an aside, David Morrell was the writer of First Blood (a great book) and its sequels which were made into the Rambo movies. He’s written many other books.

First Quote of the New Year (2019): Barbara Kingsglover

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
– Barbara Kingsolver

I struggle, as I write my first book, with what people may think of the storyline. Will it be too dark? Will it be too unrealistic? Will it be too convoluted? Is it something people even want to hear about? Why would someone want to hear this story? It really bothers me I’m too focused on other people’s coming judgment and not on what I have to say. I know what I want people to learn and see in my story. When I wrote the rough draft a couple of years ago, I was in the throes of a terrible Continue reading “First Quote of the New Year (2019): Barbara Kingsglover”