Tuesdays with Ana: Cancer, writer’s block, dismal word counts, and healing

Daily word counts are an author’s bragging point or shame book, depending on the situation. For six weeks straight, I averaged 3.5K per day (approximately 7 single-spaced pages). That’s a modest amount for a single day, but combined with a six-week average, it produced great results.

Then.

Then.

The words stopped.

In the past three weeks, I have written approximately 4K. No, not 4K per day. 4K total.

To put the amount into sports terminology, that would be similar to training to run a marathon by running one foot per day. Most days, I could do little more than put on the dumb shoes (see why you should hate shoes?) and sit on my front step, wearily resting my chin in my hands.

That’s a bit like draining the Atlantic Ocean by carrying away one bucketful of water per day.

I could have been better off trying to walk from Los Angeles to New York.

I cursed my books, I cursed myself, I cursed everyone known under the sun and many who were not. I would have wept tears of frustration, except I was too numb to weep at all. Stress, I thought to myself, or change in climate. Hormonal changes. Post-con fatigue. Over-ambitious social plans. Family worries. I spent an entire day on the computer, only to produce three or four words. I felt crushed before I even began.

I thought perhaps trying a short story format had increased my writerly angst. I’d get over it, surely?

After begging, pleading, and considering sacrificing a fatted calf, I wrote 567 words yesterday. I all but turned cartwheels. WOOHOO! 567!

Approximately 30 hours ago, I set up camp with my computer at my favorite all-night diner. I told the staff I had a monstrous deadline, apologized in advance, and said I would be here for a while.

I talked. Sorted out many pieces of my thinking. Delved into the story I was writing. Shed a few tears. (Only a few).

About 2K into this writing marathon, my characters clicked. I waved my white flag and agreed to let them do what they wanted. I didn’t want a happy ending; they did. Guess who won?

Once I yielded, the mind-numbing freeze began to leave my brain. I labored, putting down words I was sure I would hate later.

Then it hit me.

Oh. Em. Gee.

I don’t say this often, but OMFG.

Need a hint? Read “Elegy of a former fiction writer” here

18 years after my father’s cancer stopped me from writing fiction, I wrote my first non-spanking story.

I was stunned. Teary. Overwhelmed. Writing spanking has always been my safety outlet. I’m not writing “real” fiction if I write about spanking. I won’t provoke the inner demons that plagued me for ten years after my dad fought through two rounds of cancer treatments.

Somewhere around Hour 16 of the marathon, sleep deprivation loosening my censors and writing happened.

That amazing point when your silent, stubborn muse opens her arms and enfolds you, lifting your chin to kiss you with the story you were born to tell. The point where you spend 16 hours in a row in front of the computer, fighting every single word until 3+ weeks of writer’s block loosens and the story comes forth. And it is good. #LivingInSin
I celebrated, but not until two hours later did I realize the full extent of the miracle.
My newest work in progress (WIP) contains no spanking. None. One playful tap on the hip, but nothing else. No spanking.
After a second occurrence, my father’s cancer is technically considered incurable. It may strike again tomorrow, in five years, fifteen, or twenty.
Yes, a unique balance of cosmic events aligned to strip me of “pure” fiction writing for 18 years (O. M. G. That’s enough time for a child to get born and graduate from high school!)
I don’t know what (sleep deprivation, giddiness over Sci Spanks, conversations with friends, and/or sheer stubborness) caused this miracle, but I am stunned. I struggle to find words.
18 years later, I am submitting my spanking-less short story.
I have climbed my personal Mt. Everest, but I didn’t know until I reached the death zone.
I am here. I am writing.
And this time, I don’t have to fear for my father’s health.
Hallelujah.
(Oh, and the story? Almost done.)
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28 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana: Cancer, writer’s block, dismal word counts, and healing

  1. abby says:

    Oh, my dear friend…i have tears in my eyes…for your pain, your dad, your breakthrough, your courage in sharing it all with us. We all have a Mt. Everest to climb, ( or many of them) i am so happy that you have reached to top of your mountain. Good for you for not giving up…i am very proud of you…..hugs abby

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to reply. Honestly, I was so emotional when I wrote this post that I needed to step away for a bit. Hugs back to you, and thank you so much for your pride and your love. Thank you for sharing this moment with me.

      Like

  2. annapurna1951 says:

    Ana, how can I help? At least, I now know what to pray for.

    Thank you for sharing some of your burden with us. I feel so much closer to you and to the others who post here. You have many people who genuinely care about you and the challenges you face. You do matter and your triumph has a very real feel to it. I hope my voice also speaks for others when I say your words matter, they have an impact, and they change lives. You’ve certainly changed mine.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your father, and I’m so happy to learn of your breakthrough! I don’t know why I started crying. Your father has a chance. Maybe that’s what it is. He has a chance. While the news is both troubling and frightening, you have an opportunity to turn your attention to him and make each moment a celebration of sorts, not one with noisemakers and undue fanfare, but one that has an incredibly deep connection and authenticity—soul to soul. Your connection with him may very well deepen, and it could be a source of great creativity for you.

    I’ll be out today. I’m going to San Francisco to engage in some frivolity. You will be in my mind and heart every step I take.

    I will write more later.

    Hugs and kisses

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Thank you so much. I don’t know how you found my blog, but your daily visits and comments have been so sweet. Thank you for your support, your conversation, and your listening. Thank you for your tears that show your willingness to walk a part of this journey with me.

      And he has had a recent cancer checkup, and (knock on wood) things look good.

      Like

      • annapurna1951 says:

        I started crying all over again. I’m so happy for the news. Spend as much time as you can with your dad in any way possible no matter how silly or inconsequential the time spent may seem, for it will become very precious. Those moments will be the memories that you will carry the rest of your life, to cherish and to hold dear. While I don’t know what you’re going through, I hope speak for at least some, if not all, when I say we have had similar challenges, from what I’ve been able to gather. Because of this experience, we are actively cheering for you every step of the way, with our hearts open and our voices loud and clear.

        Hugs and kisses.

        Like

      • annapurna1951 says:

        One day, when the wind was blowing in Tracy, that’s where I live, I threw myself into the gale and ended up here. I’ve learned never to argue with the wind.

        Like

        • annapurna1951 says:

          Okay, the wind story is not completely accurate, although it’s quite windy where I live.

          I saw the cookies in your banner, and something clicked. Maybe I didn’t get much parenting and so, well, I don’t know. I just stayed. I love cookies anyway, and I’m hoping to see that cookie banner return. And, of course, you’re a sweetie too, like your gingersnaps. Now that’s a little closer to the truth.

          Like

  3. Nina says:

    Ana, I am so sorry about your father having cancer and the pain that you feel because of it. I read about that before, and actually pushed it a little away, because it is rather painful to read that. My dad had cancer twice in the last five years, and he is supposed to be healed, but it has taken its toll on him and family. I really feel for you, and hope that your father is fine and will be there for you for many years to come.

    But, I am grateful for you sharing this, and I think that you climbed your personal Mt Everest is awesome. Congratulations on writing your story, getting out of writer’s block … and I envy you because you are allowed to have coffee. 16 hours in a row, in a diner, there must be strong coffee involved. And I can smell it. 🙂

    hugs

    Nina

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I can understand that. I had to push my own post away after I wrote it because the emotions were too raw. It was the most emotional day I’ve had in a long time. Let’s hope that both of our fathers will be alive and strong enough to harass us the way dads typically do. 🙂

      Hugs.

      Like

  4. Minelle says:

    Ahh yes… I have tears in my eyes. It’s a bit like coming full circle. Your Soul is healing a bit from that trauma, fear and pain. Our bodies know us well.
    Break through. You can write whatever you wish.

    Like

  5. catrouble says:

    Oh Ana…sitting here with tears running down my face. So very happy for you my friend…can’t wait to read this awesome story!

    Hugs and Blessings…
    Cat

    Like

  6. Roz Harrison says:

    Wow, what a heartfelt post Ana, I too have tears in my eyes for you pain, your dad and your courage. Thank you for sharing this with us. Congratulations on conquering your Everest. I’m so very happy for you.

    Hugs
    Roz

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m so happy to have people like you sharing in it. And what is this about you stopping your blog??? You better not if you know what’s good for you!! I know I don’t get over as often as I should, but don’t you DARE leave us. I’m gonna get Mrs. Claus…

      Like

  7. annapurna1951 says:

    I spent a day of foolishness in downtown San Francisco. Yes, I looked at shoes, handbags, jewelry, and more importantly, perfume. With the help of a dear friend, I discovered my main character’s fragrance: Creed, Love In White. It is aromatic sin and extremely expensive.

    Your Expectations came along. She was very displeased with me ogling over the shoes, and threatened to tell you straightaway. Being the consummate adult that I am, I double dared her to do so. Peeved something royal, she resorted to sticking her tongue out at me. Clearly, I had won the battle, but perhaps not the war.

    After re-reading your post, I felt a fresh round of both pain and happiness. I wish there was something I could do to lighten your burden. You’re dealing with far too much, most of which is beyond your immediate control, and it’s affecting your writing, but you know all of that. Sometimes, life just isn’t fair, so I understand the cursing. I’ve had those moments myself—many in fact. Afterwards, I feel a wee bit better, but my blood pressure goes through the roof and back again.

    So much for the pain, now it’s time for the happiness.

    I can just imagine you scaling your Everest in grand style, not with a red carpet, but without the need for oxygen. Then taking the Ana flag, you spiked it squarely on top of the highest point and declared, “I didn’t give up! I will never give up!” Following that, of course, were some well-earned Selfies to share with family and friends. “Click!” “Click!”

    Maybe it’s not about word count, but more about the tenacity of the soul and a desire to preserve against strong odds and demanding deadline pressures while retaining one’s lovely humanity. You certainly did that in style.

    Hugs

    Like

  8. Ami says:

    Clouds part, and sunshine once again sparkles on the water.

    I am so happy you have fought your way back. Sadness and grief are difficult companions, Ana. I am sending you healing and strength.

    Hugs
    Ami

    PS It is always much more fun to let your characters take the lead. I am so looking forward to reading your ‘non-spanking’ story.

    Like

  9. Katie says:

    I’m sorry that you have been going through this kind of thing, Ana. Very hard stuff when someone that we love is ill. It is wonderful that you were able to have your breakthrough!! 🙂

    I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the time spent going through stuff, and the satisfaction of coming out the other side in one piece, having learned a thing or two perhaps, that ultimately makes us feel happy. I am very happy for you. I am also very much look forward to reading your non spanking story. No doubt in my mind that it will be terrific! Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie

    Like

  10. Normandie Alleman (@NormandieA) says:

    I’m sorry you are struggling Ana. I can relate to some of what you’re going through. My father had stage four cancer, one lymph node away from stage five about sixteen years ago. He survived, which is a miracle and he would have never known five of my children if he hadn’t. But his cancer has returned. It’s something he has to live with now and we all know one day it will kill him. It’s a tough thing and I know how hard it can be when you know your dad is sick. Sending you a big virtual hug!

    Like

    • annapurna1951 says:

      Normandie,

      I’m sending you a big virtual hug too. You’re facing an equally challenging situation with your father. I also send my prayers for his speedy recovery. I believe in miracles.

      Like

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