Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What to Do? Thin

I find myself in an unprecedented situation, for me anyway: I cannot type with my right hand. Shoulder surgery last week has left me with the unusual complication of nerve irritation (that’s what I’m calling it, since the surgeon doesn’t know just what is.) For someone like me, who types many words every day, it’s frustrating and daunting. And downright scary—although I try not to go there. I’m choosing to think full function will return, and hoping for sooner rather than later.

People’s first reaction on hearing my dilemma is a breezy, “Oh, you’ll have to get some voice recognition software.” Easy for them to say. And I’ll definitely go that route if the situation continues. But I find the prospect disheartening. What this situation has made clear to me is that I think through my fingers, specifically through typing. I type fast, pounding out words as if they were eating up the pages. It’s hard for me to imagine switching to thinking aloud. (It might be a good idea for me to learn to think while I’m speaking, too—but that’s a subject for another day.)

Photo: Puttug my right hand to better use.

The question for now is, what to do while I perform the suggested “wait and see” function. Just before the surgery, I completed a first draft that came in at just over 100,000 words. To say I’m dissatisfied with it is a vast understatement. There’s an occasional scene that works pretty well and it’s an interesting, workable premise, but that’s about it. Characters, setting, action, plot, and motivation all need a lot of work. My usual mode of dealing with this would be to charge at the manuscript full bore, slashing hunks of prose and typing out replacement chunks to see how they work.

 Instead, I’m thinking. Instead of writing a lot of words trying to capture what I’m missing in a character, I’m picturing him going about his daily life, pondering what he thinks about when he first gets up in the morning, or when he’s overtired or stressed. Thinking about how he works and what he does for recreation. I’m musing about his regrets, his triumphs small and large, what’s really important to him, and how those things came to be.

 Over the years I have cut out articles on writing craft, flagged blog posts, and underlined passages in craft books. Somehow I seldom get around to reading them. I plan to take advantage of my enforced idleness to tackle some of these articles. Who knows, eventually I may come to see this time as a gift.

  And now I’ve written an entire post with my left hand—a hand I admire tremendously for stepping up its game!


Anonymous said...

Hi Terry. I've been thinking of writing to you since I finished A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge about a month ago. I first saw it mentioned as a new book so put it on hold at my library. When I started reading it, I knew I wanted the whole series. I closed the book, and found the first three of your series. I discovered exactly real lives people of I knew, living in places I knew. What a pleasure! My husband read each one I finished and he like them as much as I did. So I want to thank you for writing. And I want to tell you we wait (maybe patiently?) for the next one. I understand the difficulty that you wrote about today. I want to encourage you persevere, your wrIting skills won't go away while your right hand won't write. i hope this problem will become just an inconvenience in a very short time. You truly are someone special!

Judy Alter said...

You do well with your left hand, and I'm impressed. I suspect that I frequently don't take time to think through my plots and characters, so I agree this enforced idleness may be beneficial in the long run. My mom always told me the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Terry said...

Wow, Anonymous, if there was ever a post to spur me on, this was it. Thanks for taking the time to write. #5 comes out in January.

Judy, I guess I have to go along for the ride and try to learn something along the way.

Edith Maxwell said...

Oh, Terry. What a terrible consequence of the surgery. Probably shouldn't tell you that I was so grateful to be able to type again just days after mine, ramping up gradually.

But I think you're on the right track with thinking. About characters, about plot, about the story. And since you can obviously manage to bat out a couple hundred words lefty, at least you can leave yourself notes about your thoughts so you don't lose them. Better than handwriting lefty - OMG, the times I tried to write something on the grocery list or my white board with my left hand, it ended up nearly illegible.

I wish you all the best for speedy and easy healing and recovery!

Terry said...

Thank you, Edith. I'm laughing because when your comment came up I noticed the error in the headline. Should be "think," not "thin." I'm blaming my left hand.