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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Writing Drought Continues

It has been nearly a month since I last updated my blog. But that is symptomatic of my larger problem - an incredible writing dry spell which has lasted 4+ months and counting. OYE!

I haven't written (or re-written) a single sentence since the beginning of July. I think there are a couple major reasons for it. One, the incredible downward spiral of my health. Two is the constant hectic-ness (I don't think that's really a word!) of my life.

The health issue has been severely debilitating. There's very little you DON'T need your back for. And while it may not be cancer, or liver disease or any one of a number of serious illnesses, unless you've endured it, no one can possibly understand how debilitating, how depressing, how imprisoning back pain can be. At my lowest point I've described myself as a "standing up cripple". I love the outdoors. I love hiking. I love walking. And having those things taken away from me hurts more then words could ever say. Doctors are useless when it comes to treating back pain - don't be fooled, medicine is STILL in the dark ages. I'd trade every writing contract in the world for a good functioning back any day.

The other factor - a hectic life - I think also caused my incredible crash and burn in the writing department. I'm a very driven individual with a feast or famine mentality. I'm running pell mell from the time I get up to the time I fall into bed exhausted. Normally, every second I'm not working at the day job, I'm working on some aspect of the novel, whether it be writing or research.

So truly, in retrospect, it's no wonder I flamed out in such spectacular fashion. The day job sucks up most of my waking hours. That simply can't be helped - at least not until I discover a mysterious rich relative or win the lottery (a feat in itself since I don't play). That leaves very little time for anything else. And when I'm working on a book, I don't know how to give it anything other then 400%. Therefore my life is always out of balance. If it were balanced, I'd give a few hours to writing, a few hours to household chores and errands, a few hours to physical fitness and so on. But I always seem to run through life listing to one side or the other.

So this last four months I've been concentrating on something different for a change - having fun. I didn't even know I was NOT having fun writing any more until I went off it cold turkey. I was pushing myself too hard.

Instead, I've been watching old favorite TV shows and reading books, and in some ways, regressing to my childhood (which I'll talk about in another post). And, now that cool weather has FINALLY arrived in central Arizona, I've been out seeing the beautiful desert.

You see, among other stressors in recent years was the fact that I had no car for nearly 7 years. That means that the only part of Arizona I saw for those 7 years was the concrete and asphalt of city streats and the transplanted palm trees - only those things you could see from your seat on the city bus. Then, at the very end of June, after much prayer and pleading for a way to afford a car, I finally got one. A get out of jail free card.

And so, this last month with the cooler weather, I've been returning on weekends to one of my favorite places in all of Arizona - a county recreation area in East Mesa called Usery. It is a place of incredible beauty. A desert oasis not far from the drab freeways and city streets. I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it is to finally be able to go there after 7 years of doing without.

And while unfortunately my back does not allow me to hike Pass Mountain as I did in the old days, I get out and hobble along the quiet roads inside the park for whatever short duration my back will let me - and it has done wonders for me. This area is surrounded by mountains on all sides. One of the mountain chains you can see from this park are the Superstitions - those mountains you see at the top of my blog page.

And as I walk the paved roads inside Usery, I catch myself staring longingly up at Pass Mountain, wondering, hoping, praying that one day my back will be sufficiently improved so that I can take to the trails again. When that day happens, my shout of joy will be able to be heard on the other side of the world!

Being able to go to Usery has done something else too. I've been groping for the presence of God in my life lately - wondering where on earth He is in all my many trials - wondering why He never answers my prayers for healing.

But at Usery - I can do as I've always done - look directly at the natural creation of His hands and sense His presence when I can't find it anywhere else.

I can't help but wonder if these physical roadblocks have been thrown in my way to slow me down. To make me re-examine my life. It still distresses me greatly that my writing has gone off the rails, but I am many thousand times more stressed about the state of my health.

And I think being able to go to Usery again has been a salve to my writer's soul. Being in the beautiful southwest deserts, enjoying the beauty of God's creation is like listening to banjo music - it is fun, soothing, and it lifts my spirits as nothing else has been able to do.

By no means do I feel I have any answers. And I'm still wrestling with how to balance my life, but for now, I'm going to sit back and enjoy this downtime I have - and see where God will lead me.

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