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April 21, 2018

From: M. Howalt
To: The Internet (ATTN: Blogosphere)
Subject: On being a writer with PCS

Dear Internet,

I’m sorry for leaving you so suddenly and without much of an explanation. I know it made me seem flaky and may even have worried some, so I’d like to tell you a little bit about what happened and what I plan to do now.

In September 2015, I suffered a “minor” injury, a concussion to be specific. It wasn’t a serious accident that caused it, and it should have gone away on its own after a few days. Or weeks. Or months. It didn’t. Hence the snarky quotation marks above. I now have a condition called PCS (Post-Concussion Syndrome). It means that I am easily exhausted and get nasty headaches and nausea if I work with backlit screens for too long, and even reading on paper can be quite straining.

I imagine that when I hit the upload button for this blog entry, I will have written it over two or three days, proofread it on another day and waited one more day because sharing the link on social media also demands screen work and concentration.

Will my condition get better? Yes, probably. Do I know when? No. Am I going to let it get me down? Heck no.

That’s the situation. That’s the lamentation. Now let’s move on to the silver lining. Putting activities on indefinite hold, having to plan and prioritise every single thing I do and needing to rest every day have provided me with a lot of healthy insights. I’ll stick to the writing-related ones here although I could go on about mental health and mindfulness too because … you know, it’s a blog about writing.

The first thing I learnt is how important writing is to me. Yes, I knew it was important, sure, but the moment you physically cannot skip a day writing and catch up another day, the moment when you can’t check Twitter and Facebook and write on the same day, the moment when you miss playing a computer game and know you could play or ten or maybe fifteen minutes, but also know that it would mean not writing that day (and maybe the next if you play for a little too long) … When you have to make constant choices, you find out what it is that you can’t imagine living without.

So I wrote. I wrote, and I worked on finding the best method for me to do it. I have recently finished a novel (but more about that in a later entry) that came to life during my PCS struggle. To begin with, I used a dictation app on my phone for a few minutes every day. Then I took notes and drafted scenes in a notebook and dictated them afterwards. Then finally I got a fantastic tool to help me (and I owe my friend Aden Ng a huge thank you for pointing out its existence to me!): An Dasung e-ink monitor. That is a non-backlit screen, much like a Kindle.

Of course, those are just the technical aspects. I think most writers probably prefer to be able to immerse themselves in their writing, to get into flow without interruption for hours when inspiration hits. Without that possibility, I had to find a way of accessing that place in my mind anyway. The solution to this, for me, is to have a huge synopsis pinned on my wall, to leave a note at the bottom of the document I’m working at on my computer to remind me what’s next and to write so often that I never fully leave the universe of the story I’m working on. And to spend some extra time with my characters by drawing them and such.

It’s not the fastest I’ve ever worked. But it is definitely the most consistent. And it is the first novel-length story where I have had no blocks and have almost been in flow every time I put my fingers on the keyboard.

I think all this amounted to the realisation that at this point in my life, writing is both the hardest thing for me to do and the easiest and definitely the thing I need to do.

So … What now? Well, my main interest lies in storytelling. In novels and short stories. But I also miss putting my thoughts out in non-fiction form. I miss blogging, so I have decided to do that. At a slow, calm pace that suits my current needs. So I’ll plan and write ahead and schedule my blog entries. I’ll focus less on links and media and probably make shorter entries (splitting some up in instalments) to allow for semi-regular updates.

I think that’s it for now. If you’ve followed me for a while: Thank you for sticking around! If you’re new here: Welcome! Regardless, I want to thank you for reading.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. christicorbett permalink
    April 22, 2018 12:33 am

    I was so happy to see a new blog post from you!!! Looking forward to more!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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