Change. Uncertainty. It's a bit daunting for most of us to think about. More so for me it seems, as I age. Daily routines and keeping close to the certainties in life are coping mechanisms I use to get by. Recently though, the stable foundations I crave were somewhat shaken. On second thought, I'd say they weren't just shaken, they were rocked to the core.
After waking from elective surgery, my right arm was in severe pain and paralyzed. This complication was completely unexpected, and in my case, magnified, because use of my legs and hands are already limited because of my spinal cord injury.
Although the details of what I had to go through between then and now aren't the focus of this post, I can say with certainty, that for the last four months, my life has been extremely uncertain. The reality of what I was facing turned out to be much different than what I expected.
I thought I'd be in the hospital for a few days. It turned out to be a month. I thought that following discharge I'd immediately resume my normal activities. Two months with the therapist coming three days a week and one month following that I'm still struggling to achieve my pre-operative functionality.
So what does all this have to do with writing, this month's blog topic of patriotism, or this posts title?
Well, when I finally felt energetic enough to think about writing, one of the first things I did was to check out this blog. We were posting about whether there would be a future for picture books, whether the traditional book would still be around since the advent of e-books, what role publishing houses, editors and agents would have in the acceptance and publication of our writing.
As a writer who's followed the business, these topics weren't completely new to me. However, perhaps because of the complications from my surgery, it seemed so blatantly obvious that change was a-coming and coming fast. It scared me. I felt somewhat lost and frightened. And I found myself wondering, even if only for a short time, if writing was something that would be there for me when I was ready to once again hop onto the writing bus.
The questions foremost in my mind quickly became... How these changes would affect me and what could be done about it? The same two basic questions I faced following my surgery.
In no particular order I settled on doing the following. It was not so much a conscious effort as something I simply did, my way of coping, you might say.
1. Obtain knowledge, since after all, knowledge is power. I read all the material I could find about what was happening in the business (by the way, during rehabilitation I used any spare time to educate myself on what had happened to me during my surgery)
I talked to those with first-hand knowledge about the situation... My doctors and therapists were the primary contacts when it came to rehabilitation. My fellow Route 19 writers were first and foremost regarding industry news. This helped to ease my mind. This let me know how to attack the problem.
2. Don't become complacent. Just taking the first step instead of hiding in your shell where it is comfortable, where you don't have to face the problems or where you can pretend the problems don't exist seems so simple and obvious, but can be the most difficult. However difficult though, pretend you're in the Nike commercial and "just do it". The problem won't get better, and in some cases, may get worse by doing nothing.
3. Don't let the situation overwhelm you. If you feel this is happening don't look at the whole picture because the task might then seem too large to tackle. (This leads to the next suggestion.)
4. Establish goals. Take life and your problems one step at a time, one day at a time... and on those really bad days one hour or one minute at a time. Don't worry if the goals are too small. Keep in mind where you were so you can get a clearer picture of where you currently are and where you are going.
5. Keep in mind why you do what you do. For me, I write because I love to write. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I complete a story. I'm happier when I get a story published or a positive critique, but it isn't entirely about that.
I did, and continues to do my therapy because I want to become the best person I could. I want to show my family, especially my children, what can be accomplished through hard work.
6. Keep the faith. Believe in yourself. Believe in those around you. Surround yourself with those who will support you. Surround yourself with those with knowledge that can help you become successful.
I take this one step further. I believe that whatever happens in life is all part of God's plan. I gave up long ago questioning "why" things happen. Instead, I find it much easier to move on and to move on quickly.
7. Find humor in the situation. Even when things seem the worst there's always something to laugh about. It probably won't be at the exact second something bad has happened, but as you reflect, there will certainly be something you will remember. During my most recent problems, I often complained that I was never "so tired or so sore from doing so little." My friends reminded me that that "I was, after all, getting older."
8. Think about others. When I think my situation is bad I put myself in the shoes of others. I quickly realize how fortunate I am. If that doesn't work, I read the newspaper, watch the television or volunteer to help those less fortunate. It doesn't take long to realize there are others whose lives are much worse than mine.
9. Don't let change keep you down. Don't let it frighten you. Look at examples from the past. I was reminded often by my father, through his father, that at the turn of the 19th century Americans were worried about jobs and about their future because of a new invention called the automobile. What would happen to those who made the wagon wheel, wagons, and those who shoed the horses? In the late 1970s the Pittsburgh area, known for its steel mills, saw thousands upon thousands of jobs lost. What would ever take the place of mother steel? Who could have predicted the success of personal computers and a little thing like the Internet?
So today, when you turn on your computer, your Ipad, Nook, or whatever other reading device you use to read the latest about the demise of the publishing industry, the downfall of picture books or the future of the young adult novel, remember it's probably not as bad as it seems. Have faith in your fellow Americans. Have faith in their entrepreneurship. Have faith in their ingenuity. Have faith in their creativity. Count on one of your fellow writers to let their creative minds develop a solution to the problems now facing the publishing industry. After all, change is inevitable and in America it happens quickly.
Who knows, future writers might think the worrying we've recently done is just a bit silly.