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!