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Monday, May 21, 2012

Thrown a Curve Ball

I don’t know anyone who isn’t crazy busy, especially during the month of May. School is ending, graduation parties weekly, school concerts, school plays/musicals, Mother’s Day, getting ready for Memorial Day, etc. And, on top of these a lot of us still have a day job or a publishing schedule to keep with, or both. So, we schedule each second of every day to accomplish every goal we must reach.

For me, I had a deadline to finish A Misguided Lord. I was already behind and planned on writing the rest last weekend. It was how my Mother’s Day weekend was going to be spent. I knew what was going to happen in the story and just had to sit my behind in the chair, ignore the rest of the world and find the last 15,000 words. Those words should have been written at least a month earlier, but things happened, and kept happening that pulled me from my office. The publication date for the e-book version was set at May 24th. Nothing like cutting it close and I had more than a few e-mails from an editor and critique partner asking for the rest of the book.

On Friday, May 11th, the clock at the day job was edging its way to 4:30 p.m. and then I would be free to write to my heart’s content and bring Lord Clayton Bentley and Miss Eleanor Westin to their happily-ever-after. I could see them in my mind and couldn’t wait.

Then something weird happened. My left eye began to act up. It didn’t want to blink. Odd. Was I having an allergic reaction or something? I rubbed it a few times, shrugged it off and figured I was just tired.

As I was driving home, the left side of my face went numb. It was if I had been given a shot of Novocain. That is exactly how it felt (without the painful needle/injection part). I kept tapping my cheek and moving my jaw. What the heck was going on? I had a moment of fear that I was having a stroke, but I had no other symptoms. So, I went home, did a few things around the house, looked in the mirror a few times to study the oddity in my face, and went on with my business. Except my face didn’t get better. I will be honest. I was getting scared and the internet was but a few feet away. Don’t you love how researching symptoms can either scare the life out of you, or bring comfort? However, what I did realize over and over was that I should go to the ER. Okay, yes, that should have been obvious but I am stubborn. I don’t go to the doctor unless it is absolutely necessary and even then I try to put it off. You think I would learn. I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia because I put off going to the doctor. But that is another story of my stupidity.

Anyway, hubby took me to the ER when he got home from work and I received the diagnoses I had begun to expect from internet research: Bell’s Palsy. I had heard about this condition but didn’t know that much about it. What I have since learned is that:

1) Outside of a trauma (which I did not have) they have no idea what causes it;

2) They don’t really know what they can do about it. I was given a prescription of Prednisone and an anti-viral medication;

3) They can’t predict how long it will last. I’ve heard from six weeks to three to six months!

4) Bell’s Palsy basically paralyzes one side of your face. My left eyelid will not close on its own. I have to physically do that. It gets dry and I have to add drops. I have to tape the eye closed to sleep. I found it is really hard to fall asleep when you are looking into the room. How do people manage to sleep with their eyes open? And, it is very sensitive to light, even in the office at the day job! I can’t be in the sun and do you know how gorgeous our weather has been? Hubby is working in the yard as I type this and I so wish I could be there with him pulling weeds, tending blooms *sigh*. It is 90 degrees with hardly any humidity. Maybe I will find a pirate patch and join him. Argh!

5) There is no way to determine if a person will recover 100% or not at all, or somewhere in the middle.

So, what does this mean? My planned writing weekend was a bust. The stuff happening with the face, sensitive hearing, difficulty eating, talking and not tasting, wasn't so bad. Besides, losing about 20 pounds wouldn't hurt. The worst part of this: I couldn't read! I couldn’t sit at the computer and do my thing. I left Bentley and Miss Westin in a precarious situation and needed to get back to them. Not only did this mess with my writing deadline, but all I do at my day job is work at a computer or read documents. I needed an answer and I needed one quick. If this was only going to be a few days of disruption, I would have dealt with it. But at least 6 weeks! I can’t be put on hold for that long. My boss can’t be put on hold that long and more importantly, neither can my characters. So, I spent Monday and Tuesday home from the day job trying to figure out how I was going to make this work. My computer time was limited. I kept the ceiling light off and used only a desk lamp because that does seem to help and started off using both eyes, but the left would water and I couldn’t see. Then I would tape it shut or put a patch on. That lasted a little while before the right blurred and ached.

Have I mentioned this was a bit frustrating? My habit is to write a chapter, go back, edit, revised and then move on, and I edit as I go, tending to back up a paragraph or two, or three. So, what is a girl to do when she has characters screaming at her to finish their story but she can’t look at a computer screen above thirty minutes at a time? She closes her eyes and types.

Yep, that is what I ended up doing. I sat my behind in the chair, patched the left eye, closed the right, put fingers to the keyboard, and let the character write the story with only occasional glances at the screen.

It was liberating!

The story flowed and since it was a pain to go back and try and edit, I didn't and kept going. I wrote, rested, wrote and rested. At the end of the day, I had around 10,000 words!

Yes, you read the number correctly. I can’t believe it either, but they are there. I cringe at the thought of how many typos or grammatical errors may be lurking on the pages, but most of the remainder of the story got written. And the pages have been sent off to my critique partners and editor. I may just reach my deadline yet. As it is Saturday morning as I write this (patting self on back for having blog written early), I anticipate the day will close with my typing The End, even if I am not looking at the  words. In the past week my endurance of looking at the computer screen has gotten much better however, I still can’t put in the hours I used to.

What I have learned is that this curve ball was actually an excellent thing to happen to the author in me. I was forced to stop self-editing as I go and simply write. It freed me in ways I can’t begin to explain. Even when all of this is over, I think the habit of simply closing my eyes will stay with me for good. It was just too much fun to write without questioning, second guessing or editing and to just let the story flow out through the fingertips. You should try it sometime.

Have you ever been thrown a curve ball that you think will screw up all of your plans only for it to be one of the best things that could happen to you?

Jane Charles
Countess of Content


  1. Oh, no! I'm so sorry to hear this! But how I admire you also--way to make lemonade out of lemons--and kick some word count butt in the process!

    1. Deb,

      It was really fun to just let go and write.

  2. Hi Jane, what a wonderful way to see the good in a not-so-great situation. Keep up the excellent work and let us know how you progress (in both word count and health).

    1. Lily,

      I did finish the WIP later that day and can't wait to get started on the next.

  3. Jane ~ How scary! I would have been a mess. I love how you persevered, however, and didn't let the situation get you down. I don't know if I could type with my eyes closed, I'm such a control freak. Very curious how it all turns out after you can read it without going bleary eyed. ;)

    1. Ava,

      I challenge you to type a chapter with your eyes closed and see if you find it freeing ;).

      Yep, I am kinda scared to do edits on those pages. I got some of them back and there is an unusual amount of red, but I am sure the person critiquing it just wanted to use a lot of my favorite color to make me happy and they aren't really edits - lol.

  4. Jane,
    That's amazing! I was just reading an article yesterday about playing chess blindfolded. Our brains are so much more capable than we give them credit for being. And how great that not being able to see the words freed you up to just write without questioning yourself.

    I had a curve ball last summer when my youngest came down with pneumonia. It's never a good time for your child to be sick. It's a helpless feeling. She was my number one priority, so I put everything else aside and just spent time caring for her. We mostly snuggled and watched movies. When she was recovered, I felt rejuvenated in a way and it made my writing go so much better when I did pick it up again. I don't think I had allowed myself a real break for two years before she became sick. That's not good.

  5. Samantha,

    Wow, Chess blindfolded? I can't even play chess looking at the board and pieces. It is a shame that it takes something unpleasant to slow us down or make us adjust. You probably wouldn't have stopped had your daughter not unfortunately become ill and it sounds like you really needed to give yourself a break. I am glad you returned rejuvenated. I think if we all forced ourselves to just take a break we would be better for it.

  6. Jane, I love how you took control--I hate to admit it, but I fear I'd have let the situation control me and curled into a ball, sobbing for someone to "fix" it.
    I like the "idea" of writing with my eyes closed--how freeing! But the implementation would poke my inner control freak into a frenzy. And when that nut cracks, whew, look out. ;}
    I hope you are feeling better soon. Hugs!

    1. Andris,

      Trust me, there were moments when curling up and sobbing sounded like a very good idea.

  7. Jane,
    Good for you. I doubt I would have been as strong as you were/are. It's awesome that you chose to take control the situation and actually make it work for you!

    Keep us updated and I'll keep you in my prayers!

    1. Marquita,


      I think you may be surprised. I think you would find ways to make a situation work for you.

  8. Jane, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this...and so glad you thought to try writing with your eyes closed. That's an old trick a creative writing professor once had me try, and it is great for free-writing. INstead of closing your eyes where you could cheat, he had us turn off the computer monitors. I was blown away by how many words I could get down when I did that and where they would sometimes take me.

    I think I need to try this. I haven't done it in a long time, and frankly with the way my eyes have been lately, I ought to. The cottonwood in the area is making my eyes miserable...particularly the one with the corneal edema. So I think today, after I get caught up on my emails and whatnot, I'm going to turn off the monitor and write. We'll see what happens. :)

    Let's see...curve balls. When I tore my rotator cuff, it forced me to change a lot of things about the way I work. I used to write with a laptop sitting on my lap. Now I write in a comfortable desk chair at a desk. I used to write for hours on end without stopping to even go to the bathroom or do anything other than get more coffee. Now, I write in short bursts (as anyone who does #500in30 sprints with me knows), take frequent breaks, and have started massaging my forearms and hands with Tiger Balm on a regular basis. My output hasn't changed drastically...but I feel a lot better at the end of a day of writing. So I guess you could say it has been a blessing in disguise, even though I'm still having a lot of pain and problems from it.

    1. Catherine,

      I am not sure I could turn the monitor off. I did peek a few times to make sure it wasn't a total and complete mess.

      I know you are still struggling with your shoulder and all the adjustments you have had to make and I hope they go away sooner rather than later. But as painful and horrible as that is/was, the adjustments in your writing habits must be a great benefit, even if only because you feel better at the end of the day. I love the #500in30 sprints and wish I could participate more often.

  9. When is life NOT throwing a curve ball? I hope you get better soon, and I look forward to reading your new book.

    1. Julie,

      Very good question. It certainly does seem that way sometimes.

  10. What a trooper you are, Jane!! I admire that kind of make-it-work attitude. I'd give it a try, but even as a professional writer I am a terrible typist - I doubt I could translate a single sentence!

    Congrats on the mad writing, and I can't WAIT for that book to come out :)

  11. You rock Jane- I can't wait to read your new book. I don't do to well at curve balls, which is surprise I married someone in the service. I hope that you feel better soon.

  12. I've already told you how impressed I am with your ability to just close your eyes and write! I think it's a fabulous idea! And one I plan to try out myself. Life always throws curve balls or at least in my experience it does. The only thing that separates us is how we deal with them and you're a trooper, Jane. Well done!

  13. Wow Jane! Sorry to hear about your "curve ball" and hope you feel better soon. I was so glad to see you have a new book out. I have enjoyed your books. Will you ever be writing more books in the Once Upon a Time series? I have been waiting / hoping for a book on Noah - he needs a happily ever after!