Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

WHAT WRITING MEANS TO ME by Dianne Drake

patient-room-blue

What writing means to me… Actually, I could sum that up in one word. Everything. Writing means everything to me. OK, so now I’m done with this blog. I’ve said everything I need to say and I can get back to my book. Except for one thing. Recently, my ability to do my writing was put to a test with a medical crisis that nearly cost me my life.

It sounds drastic, and for a while, it was. Of course, I recovered, which is why I’m posting this blog today, and relieved and happy to do so. But a few months ago, my abilities were called into question as the book I was writing started to become a major effort for me. I couldn’t concentrate on the words I was trying to put down on the page, couldn’t formulate sound ideas, couldn’t get my thoughts organized enough to go from page to page. In essence, writing one page was an effort. Writing more than one was almost an impossibility. These were all warning signs of something dire yet to come, but I wasn’t reading them. Had no clue I was deteriorating. Rather, I was fixing an idea in my mind that I didn’t like to write anymore.

Then came the day when I couldn’t type. The ideas would rattle around in my brain but when I tried to type them, the only thing that transferred to the computer screen was gobbledygook. Lines and lines of nonsensical phrases and random letters. My first inclination was that my laptop had gone bad, so I bought a new laptop. But it seemed to be afflicted with the same malady, so another brick went into place in my I don’t like to write anymore wall. I had a book to finish, though, so I hired someone to take my dictation and we did half a book where the ideas came out of my mind and went to the computer screen through someone else’s fingers. Let me tell you, that’s a hard way to do it, especially when my little falling asleep thing started to manifest. Yes, I’d dictate a sentence or two, then fall asleep. And I did this all the way to the end of the book. A book that, which I might add, will never be published, much to my relief. (Much later on, one of my doctors said he’d be interested in reading what a brain in my condition would produce. By then, I’d already asked my editor to toss the book.)

Long story short, now. My husband found me unconscious, I went to the hospital, hung around in a coma-like state for a few days and eventually started to come to. Didn’t have a realization of who I was, where I was, why I was so confused. Didn’t remember that I was a writer, either. So this state of blurriness went on for a while, until I started becoming more aware of what was going on around me. That’s when I noticed that I couldn’t talk right. The things coming out of my mouth were not the things I was trying to say, and I could hear it every time I spoke. More than that, I couldn’t remember so many things. In essence my entire 2015 year was gone, with a few exceptions. The doctors have since told me that my amnesia won’t reverse, and what’s gone is gone. But when I was trying to grapple with these holes in my memory, it was difficult and frustrating.

Then one day, one of my doctors came into my room and said, “I understand you’re a writer. What do you write?” That simple question turned so much back on for me. I remembered writing. I remembered my magazine articles, I remembered my books! This was a breakthrough, maybe my first one. It gave me my first real sense of myself.

So time marched on. The doctors diagnosed me with a freak ammonia buildup in my brain, which had been happening to me gradually over about a year’s time. It literally wreaks havoc with brain function in almost every capacity. Causes a lot of damage. Left untreated, you die. Anyway, they told me what residual damage had resulted, explained my future course to prevent it from happening again, got me medicated and regulated, wished me luck and sent me to a rehab center for further recovery. And I was facing that recovery with a renewed desire to write. I wanted to write again! But could I?

After a person loses as much of themselves the way I did, and the bits and pieces of what’s left over are returning randomly, day after day, it’s always frightening to wonder what will come back and what won’t. I already knew that chunks of my memory wouldn’t come back, but I was encouraged by the fact that my ability to speak had returned. And I was encouraged that I remembered how to walk, how to eat, and how to read…things that were gone from me for a while. But the big question that always hung over my head was, can I write again? Truth was, I didn’t even know if I could type let alone write another book. I was scared to try when the occupational therapist persistently pushed a computer at me and told me to have at it.

I always refused. Wouldn’t play a computer game, wouldn’t log in to my email or Facebook. Connecting with that computer was one of the biggest fears I’ve ever had to face because I didn’t want to find out that one of the things I’d lost was my writing. Still, the therapist continued to try with me, and so did my husband. He’d come up to see me every night, bringing my laptop with him. And I’d always refuse to open it. Fall back into my pillows, close my eyes and refuse to even look at the thing.

But then one night, it happened. After a lot of pressure from my therapists, my husband and family, the nursing staff and my friends, I finally logged in. It was a big step, but it felt good. So did accessing Facebook and my email. The memory of how to do that was still there! Still, my writing…I didn’t know. Didn’t have enough courage to find out. Stayed that cowardly until I went home weeks later. Then one day, when nobody was around to see my failure, I opened my laptop and attempted to write one page of something I hoped could be turned into a book. Turned out, it wasn’t bad at all. So I wrote another page, then another. Those pages eventually turned into the book I finished and sent to my editor two days ago!

I’m lucky that I have great editors at Harlequin. Both Sheila Hodgson and Julia Williams were patient with me when I was, essentially, gone from them for a while. They encouraged me to take care of myself first, and write when I felt up to it. Of course, I was worried about the two books I’d yet to write on a four-book contract. Take your time, Sheila and Julia told me. But I didn’t want to take time, as so much time had already been taken from me. And the thing that really fascinated me as I began writing again is that I was approaching it with an enthusiasm I hadn’t felt for writing since I can’t remember when.

Those were dark days, when I thought I’d never write again. I’d faced death and amnesia and a long, difficult recovery, which were traumatic. But what was equally traumatic was the possibility that I might face life without one of the things I love most in the world. Thank the good lord that didn’t happen. I got it all back.

So, what does writing mean to me? That’s an easy question to answer. And I answer it in all due humility and enthusiasm. Writing means everything!

As always, wishing you health and happiness. And being able to do the things you love most.

Please feel free to email at DianneDrake@earthlink.net/
Or visit my web page at http://www.Dianne-Drake.com/
Or contact me through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DianneDrakeAuthor/

 

 

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30 thoughts on “WHAT WRITING MEANS TO ME by Dianne Drake”

  1. Wow, Dianne I had no idea you’d been so sick (or sick at all, to be honest)- but I’m so glad you’ve recovered so well. The body (and the brain) is an amazing thing. I’ve never heard of an ammonia build up- how scary for you and your family. And I’m so glad you found the strength and courage to open your laptop that day, and find your talent again. The world needs more of your books! Rest up and write on. Hugs, xxxx

  2. Dianne

    I am so sorry this has happened to you I have never heard of this before but really happy that you are back doing what you love and bring fab stories to readers like me I look forward to reading your books hugs to you and your family 🙂 and here is to many more books

    Have Fun
    Helen

  3. Dianne Hello, I’m sorry for what happened to you, but I’m glad you’re healed and you’ve started again writing. I love very much your medical books and I hope to continue to read many more.
    I wish you good health and serenity.
    Hugs.xx

    1. Hello! Thank you so much for responding to my blog. It was a tough one to write but I thought people should know where there’s been an absence of new books from me lately.

  4. Wow. dianne. That must have been such a scary place to be, losing parts of yourself, bit by bit and not knowing what was going on and then for your poor husband to find you unconscious!
    You both strike me as being very brave and determined people and I’m so pleased that your ability to write was still there and that you’re now feeling better.

  5. That’s so scary! I’m sorry you had to go through such a horrible experience but I’m glad you’re feeling better xx

  6. Wow, so glad you’re feeling better Dianne. So sad that you’ve lost a year of your memories but am glad you are still here to create many more. Sending big hugs xx

    1. Thanks! The thing that I’m learning (very slowly) to do concerning my amnesia is to simply ask questions about things I’ve forgotten. I wasn’t even sure I remembered how to post a blog here, but obviously that came back to me once I logged in and took a look.

  7. BLIMEY Dianne! What an experience (not to be repeated – definitely). I am so pleased you are on far along the road to wellville and thrilled to hear you are back writing (where you belong). Take good care of yourself! x Annie

    1. Thanks! It definitely was an ordeal I don’t care to repeat. A lot of the diagnosis turned into guesswork for a while when they were trying to reverse my coma, but I had a good medical staff who finally got it right.

  8. Dianne, what a horrible experience, and it’s lovely to hear that you are on the mend now and re-discovering the things which mean so much to you. I’m so glad you had the courage to start writing again, and am looking forward to many more of your books. Adding my hugs to all the others, and wishing you good health and much joy in all you do. Annie xx

  9. Dianne, Your gripping story has literally brought tears to my eyes. I look back at last year when I saw you at conference and was really worried about you. I’m so glad you and your family have your own Happy Ending. You’ve reminded me how easy it is to take life for granted. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I don’t really remember conference last year. I know I was there, but it’s one of those memories I’ve lost. Joel did tell me you spoke with him about how I was doing. I guess this was showing on me for quite a while before it knocked me down.

  10. Dianne,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your illness. I am so glad you are still with us and producing your wonderful books. I just proves that once a writer always the writer.

    1. It’s good to be back, thanks! As far as a future plot??? Amnesia might work, especially since I’m dealing with it first hand now, but the rest of it was pretty ugly (especially some of the words I was mumbling when I was trying to talk!)

  11. Dianne, what a story. You are one tough lady. I admire your courage and fortitude. I am glad your love of writing stayed true and we are going to get more wonderful Dianne Drake stories. Have fun making more wonderful memories too.

  12. Such an inspiring story, Dianne! You are one hell of a lucky lady. I’ve nursed patients with ammonia toxicity and it really is debilitating.
    Your blog brought me to tears. So relieved you are well now and getting your groove back.
    xxx

  13. Thanks for the kind words. The thing with my illness is that I had no idea the ammonia could cause so much damage in so many areas. A lot of it reversed over the course of several weeks, but some of it didn’t. I did get lucky, though!

  14. Dianne, the story of your fight with this illness is so moving and inspiring – I’m glad you’re doing better now!

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