By: Kathie Scrimgeour (aka K.J. Scrim)
The day may come when life throws a wrench at the back of your head. I am talking about one of those wrenches that is the size of your left leg and flies at you from across the void. You won’t know where it came from, but when you get hit with it, your entire life feels smashed into tiny pieces. December 2014 was when I became the target of one particular wrench that had the word cancer etched into the handle. The earth tilted and my daily focus in life became pinpointed on cancer and getting rid of it. Writing exploded out the window.
There are writers (and some wonderfully ordinary people too) who have faced incredible odds at some point in their lives. They wrote their way through it. The written word was their therapy. Their comfort. For others, we face the inability to string a sentence together. To find words is a struggle. Thinking of the next sentence is just out of our reach. To breathe life into the space of that empty whiteness is impossible. Throw chemotherapy into the mix and you have a toxic brew.
Trust me when I say “Chemo-Brain” is a real thing. The drugs given during treatment are powerful with a list of side effects longer than the wrench that hit the back of my head. “Chemo-Brain” is a kind of nerve damage that makes thinking difficult. Reasoning becomes a confusing muddle, and memory is like the end of a lonely road that you forgot how you got there. The ability to recall words is gone when you write post-chemo and thinking in a straight line is impossible. Thankfully, I found a few things to work through this struggle. Not only are they helping me get back into writing, but they might also help you get past a difficult stage in your own writing career.
- Don’t stress out about it. Worrying over your inability to write only compounds an already stressful situation. If you find writing to be too daunting, then go to your local bookstore and get a coloring book. I found coloring to be a wonderful way to relax my mind without feeling challenged.
- Keep at it. If you are unable to write today, then just try again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Weeks might go by, or even months, but keep trying. One day you will find a few words, and then a few more. Each time you attempt to write will be a new chance to find the pathways to remembering the way.
- Stay involved with your writing groups, friends, and colleagues. Just being around them is healing in itself. At first, returning to my critique group was a challenge. I couldn’t remember one sentence to the next to formulate a comprehensive response, but as the weeks went by, and I exercised that part of my brain, I was able to slowly remember more and more. Every day I felt more confident in the critiques I offered and, by happenstance, I can feel my writing abilities returning as well.
- Love yourself right where you are. Revel in the beauty of living and being lucky enough to be a writer. You are an amazing human being who has the ability to weave words into art that can be just for yourself, or for the entire world to enjoy. Open your heart and the words will flow.
After a year of treatments and illness, I am now in the recovery phase. I am pleased to say that my tumor is gone, and healing from surgery is mostly complete. Writing is a slow process still, but every day I practice. And the wrench? It is mounted on the wall above my desk. It reminds me that each new day is another chance to slay the beast that stole my words.
About the Author: Kathie Scrimgeour writes under the name K.J. Scrim and has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers since 2013. She has volunteered at the last two PPW conferences and coordinates the Sweet Success column. Kathie is a self-taught writer who delves into fantasy, fiction, and historical fiction. Her debut fantasy novel,The Manx, is scheduled to release later in 2016. She lives outside of Denver with her family, two dogs, and a crazy cat.