I haven’t done much non-client writing since I had my subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke just over six months ago. I’m not sure why. I think it’s taken me awhile to process it. I’ve heard this happens to people when they have life-threatening experiences. Up to now, I had the impression that death only happened to other people, not me. Now I understand the reality of the two unshakable truths about life: death and taxes.
In the light at the end of this tunnel, I’m seeing something I never knew existed for real: peace. It has affected my writing work in a delightfully positive way. I’m doing some of the best work of my career.
This all reminds me of something a speaker once said in a presentation at a national IABC meeting I attended in Kansas City years ago after winning a Rookie of the Year award for writing Mutual of Omaha materials. The speaker was sharing advice about writing creativity — or ANY creativity. “Be quiet,” she said, “And listen. The Universe will send ideas to you.” The key is to stop trying so hard, get into a receptive state of mind, and allow your brain to absorb creative ideas rather than push to get your work done.
After the stroke, my first priority of course was just to get better. It was my job to stay down, stay quiet, and let my body heal. (Thank you, Netflix, Facebook and my many supporters on GoFundMe.) As I eased back into work, I noticed something new. A hesitation. An uncertainty about what I should spend my time on and how I should approach my work. It was distressing in a way, but I had no choice. This was my lot in life, I told myself, and I just needed to take it one moment at a time.
Then, something amazing happened. Ideas began to flow into my mind by the bucketful. I examined everything with new eyes and a fresh sense of wonder. That’s the key word, I think: wonder. I wondered if things would be the same. I wondered how I should dig into a project. I wondered what people were thinking. What would happen next. How things work. Where to go. When to pull the trigger. Instead of being full of answers, I was full of open-ended questions.
How the Stroke Change My Writing and Editing
Instead of imposing myself upon the writing or editing task at hand with bulldog-like confidence and determination, I sat back and watched. I no longer tried to fill empty spaces. I left those spaces open and just watched. I thought about things with a sense of openness, surrender, and depth of feeling I had been too busy to allow before.
And, because I stopped filling the space in front of me with my fearful but well-meaning grit, the world began sending me joy — and ideas.
Suddenly, rather than wrestling with each writing assignment I received from clients, I began to look at the work in wonder. Every time I start something new, I am first blown away by the realization that I am still here to do the project at all. I am not afraid I will fail, because every hour I live now seems like “golden time” – bonus hours I would not have had if I hadn’t gotten to the hospital as fast as I had for treatment after the stroke. Just starting a writing or editing project is a success for me now.
With each project, after first savoring the joy of being alive, I look with wonder at the amazing things my customers are doing in their businesses, large or small. It takes superhuman effort to start and maintain any business. My clients are REALLY smart. But sometimes it’s not only intelligence that gets them where they are. Sometimes they succeed through sheer will. It’s a sort of personal magic. Those who are open to the spells that create the magic of business success are sure to find it. It takes a little courage to get on that road – or a huge slap in the face, such as a stroke – but I truly believe the treasure is there when you open yourself to it. My clients inspire me.
I now feel honored to be part of each client journey as a writing and editing contractor. Writing and editing are the tools or “weapons” that make me a desirable member of the party going off to find adventures and conquer Big Bosses. (I’ll get a few points there from my kids for the gaming references, I hope.)
Not All Good, But Wonder Opened a Door
Of course, I still have distressing moments when the headaches, dizziness, fatigue and challenging eyesight get me down. Every adventure has its battles. And I’m still human, after all. Not a character in a fantasy epic. I have to get the downtime I need. I probably needed it before the stroke, and I definitely need it now. I also have to eat right, get enough sleep, learn from others, and try to make good decisions based on best practices. But something has changed in the up moments. It’s something sparkly and fun – something I’d actually get teary about if it didn’t so compellingly pull me into the quest represented by each project.
Through wonder, for me, a door has opened to unimaginable treasures I suspected were there before the stroke, but couldn’t get to, quite simply because I got in my own way. I had been trying too hard as a writer and editor — heck, as a person — and I had let fear rule me. My message to you is that you can find this joy without having a stroke. Just be quiet, be open, prepare yourself as best you can for the tasks to come, and allow yourself to look at the world – your world – with a new sense of wonder.