Life’s commitments always seem to get in the way of writing. For the most part, I feel lucky when I manage to at least email notes to myself before inspiration floats away when I suddenly remember that I need to add paper towels to the grocery list, make an appointment to get the car serviced, and deposit money to my daughter’s checking account since she, in view of her spending habits, has yet to become acquainted with the starving college student lifestyle! I find myself longing, daydreaming for extra minutes just to have more time to write. When this wish was unexpectedly granted, I was devastated to find I was unable to write at all.
Appendectomies are not fun. Actually, the whole process of being ill and subsequently being poked and prodded is decidedly un-fun. As I lay in a medically induced haze waiting for my rendez-vous with the surgeon, I figured I would stave off the boredom of recovery by writing. Lest you laugh at this ambitious but naïve plan, let me just share that I have been supremely fortunate to have led a fairly healthy life heretofore. This was my first real surgery, and yes, I was clueless. I even believed that I would be fit for work Monday, a mere two days post-surgery! I also hadn’t reckoned with the netherworld of painkillers and the need to sleep . . . . a lot!
In between naps, I stared dully at my laptop without the motivation to even consider moving from my position on the couch. Such lethargy was alarming to me. I felt out of sorts and incredibly cranky. I missed my students and my regular exercise routine of running along the beach in the Florida sunshine. As I began to recover five or six days later without having penned a word, some reading from last term’s MFA class came back to me. In our textbook, Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, edited by Dinty W. Moore, Jeff Gundy writes in his essay, “Walking, Gathering, Listening: Writing from the Green World”:
I’m convinced that we all are better off when reminded that there are beings and forces not made by human beings but worth our attention; that there are energies larger, older, and subtler than our little human knots. Just placing ourselves among them is worth something, especially if we aim to be the sort of writers whose work responds to more than our private personal concerns. So the sort of writing I am advocating here begins with getting out into the open.
There it was. “Private personal concerns” were really all I was thinking about. Without fresh air, sunshine, my usual routine of work, family, outdoor activity, and thinking about someone other than myself, I was bored and boring, wrapped up inside myself.
How could I have known that writer’s block would be such a nasty, unexpected, and very unpleasant side effect of surgery? Forewarned is forearmed as they say. Should I ever suffer the great misfortune to find myself in this situation again, rather than trying to write, I will instead ask someone to record me since I’m told I had some pretty colorful things to say while under the influence of all that anesthesia. Considering the fantasy genre seems to be more popular than ever these days, there is bound to be some useful material there even if it is bizarre and oh-so-slightly psychedelic! Happy writing!