If you broke your arm you would go to the hospital. They would reset it, put your arm in a cast and send you home to heal.
What if they didn’t?
What if they told you there was nothing they could do, that you should go away and try not to use it too much? What would you do?
Now swap the broken arm for a condition that leaves you in terrible pain, with fatigue so bad you can’t work, socialise, walk or even get out of bed? That’s what happens with a chronic illness. I’ve been ill with ME/CFS for 26 years, bed bound for 6 of those, housebound for 14. So my metaphorical arm has been broken for a very long time.
Writing is easy, right? Ok I'm not talking about writing a novel, anyone who's ever tried knows it isn't. What I'm talking about is the physical act of writing, of putting pen to paper.
Five year old kids can do it. Ninety-five year olds can do it.
So what would you do if you suddenly couldn't write a word? Worse still you couldn't read either.
That’s what happened to me.
I was bed bound for six years with ME a.k.a. chronic fatigue syndrome. Don't be fooled by the name, it's not just feeling tired.
I was too ill to do anything apart from lay in a darkened room, 24/7.
I went from reading anything and everything to being too ill to focus on a page of writing. It just looked like black and white lines.
I couldn't watch TV or listen to music either. It meant there were no distractions, no escape; just pain, fatigue and frustration. Of all three the frustration was the worst.
I felt trapped in my body and the only escape I had was my imagination.
I discovered National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) by accident .
If you haven’t heard of it, NaNoWriMo is an international programme that encourages participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words a day!
I liked that it had a set start and end date. A trial I could go for, then give up if it went horribly wrong.
Best of all? I never needed to admit to anyone that while my stories had been growing inside my head so had my desire to become a "real" writer.
Not an ‘I only write I secret’ author but a real honest to goodness, ‘I have books in a book shop’ author.
And so it began...
I ended up doing two first draft novels during my first NaNoWriMo - 107,000 words!
One was brand new and the other was my favourite of all the stories stored in my head. It’s a story I still adore and one I want to come back to, to revise and publish.
But I got distracted
The act of physically committing my stories to paper is a joy I can only attempt to describe.
It’s like flying free but being able to touch down and share the amazing sights I’ve seen with the people I love.
Seeing is Believing
It’s a FREE story delivered via email in 200 words a week.
You vote on what happens next, the decisions the characters make and where the story is heading.
What's it about?
Jess is losing her sight and with it her identity. After a series of unsettling incidents she starts to question everything. How can she be who she always was, when she can no longer trust what's right in front of her?
I've never done anything like this before. I've no idea what's going to happen but that's part of the fun of being a reader and a writer. All I know is it's an adventure. I'd love you to be a part of it. You can sign up here and receive the first instalment today.
My Lifeline and Yours...
The truth is it's not easy. I do get down and really frustrated. It's normally triggered by hearing what other people are doing, comparing my life with theirs and wanting more. I have such BIG DREAMS and I want them NOW!!! Right now. Not in a year or two (or three, or four). It's very hard to be patient. I am not a patient person.
There are days I want to scream, to shout and maybe kick something if only I had the energy. Those days I just try to weather the storm, not try to be smiley-smiley, Pollyanna; but I hate feeling like that so I've found the best way for me to cope is...
Distraction. Distraction. Distraction.
Browsing Facebook or watching TV doesn't help me when I'm feeling down, it's like time and energy gets swallowed up with nothing to show for it. I need to have a project to concentrate on, something I can think about when I can't actually work on it. I can plan my novel out in my head, or workout what changes I need to make to my website for when I do have the time and energy.
How do I decide what to do?
Help someone else.
It really is one day at a time...
What one thing could you do today that would be fun and feel like an achievement? Focus on that, no matter how small it is. Concentrate on that and let tomorrow take care of itself.
How do you stay positive or cope with having limited energy? What one thing are you going to do today? Pop on over to Facebook and let me know...
I couldn't believe my luck when I heard Garth Nix was coming to Norwich. His book Sabriel means a lot to me. It was the first book I read after being too ill to read for four years with severe ME.
It was a horrific time, unable to avoid my illness and escape into a book, I was ill and miserable. I had to imagine my own stories in my head; but I missed reading so much.
Despite not being able to read I still bought books, what can I say I just love them so much, the feel, the smell. I was keeping them for when I could read again.
When I bought Sabriel I knew very little about it; but the cover was beautiful, white and gold, I couldn't resist opening it. I read the very first sentence, my brain struggling to take in the words, to understand the sentence. It did and it was fantastic. I was hooked.
I was too ill to read more than a sentence a day at first and it took me nearly two years to read it; but I loved it so much.
Sabriel brought me back to books and the joy of reading and for that I will be forever grateful to Garth. It was an honour to be able to tell him that tonight.
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I watch a lot of TV. I mean a LOT of TV and I love every minute of it. It's the surrogate life of an ME sufferer and I've experienced the world vicariously through the lives of my favourite characters. I've been a vampire slayer, a witch and a CTU agent. If my TV skills transferred to the real world I'd be deadly!
Having been ill for so long, I've finely tuned my imagination, especially while I was bed bound for six years. I love the escapism you get from watching TV, you can disappear into another world and sometimes that's the only way to get through the day.
I'm a bit annoying to watch TV with because I always try to guess what's going to happen. I'm getting quite good at it too. In fact I quite like the idea of writing for TV, something sharp and edgy, drama with humour and action. I love US dramas and I think there's a gap for a British alternative.
When I heard about a local TV script writing course, I decided to sign up. It's a lot of fun and has definitely opened up my eyes to other writing possibilities outside of my novel. Watch this space.... Or maybe watch your TV and look out for my name popping up under the Writer Credit at the end of the show. That would be amazing!
It’s from a friend and she's telling you what a wonderful time she's having, and how she wishes you were there-- and you look at the card and impulsively decide, "I'll DO it!"
Then you look around and realise that going away isn’t a possibility, just going out is difficult and getting on a plane is impossible.
Your heart sinks as you wonder whether you'll ever be able to have a 'normal' life.
That’s the situation that faces so many who are house bound because of illness or disability, or who are stuck going in and out of hospital.
When you're in that situation, all you can do is hear about other people’s amazing adventures.
Up until now.
After being bed bound for six years with ME/CFS I came up with the idea of a Holiday From Home.
I found a way to enjoy the fun and relaxation of a holiday and now I’m sharing that with other people. My first creation of this sort was a full holiday experience without ever leaving my room, where I put pictures up, ate the traditional food and even paddled in a foot spa pretending it was the sea.
From there, I created magical experiences that others could share. Experiences where it doesn't matter where you are in the world or whether you can even leave your sofa or bed-- you'll be whisked away to a beautiful place that seems so real you'll actually believe you've been there.
Just because life has put limitations on you, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and with my help and a pinch of imagination you can have a great holiday from home.
That's why I'm excited that in August I'm organising my latest virtual vacation and I wanted to invite you to join me. We're going to be setting off on a luxury yacht to enjoy our Ocean Adventure - you'll be swimming with dolphins, sipping cocktails, eating ice cream on the beach and exploring a deserted island on our own treasure hunt.
It's going to be fun and fabulous and you can be there too. Click here to see all the details...
I won the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition. My novel, The Choice, is published on 26th December 2019, by Orion
Title: The Choice
Published: 26th December 2019