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Friday, December 12, 2014

Writing Against All Odds

Hello blog world! Here I am, recooping from my semester in ... Jamaica, mon! Turns out this writer is still restless after all. But still, I have not forgotten about my weekly blog promise. It is Friday, and so, I blog.

This week, I want to tell you about a few writers I admire who have managed to have successful writing careers against all odds. A few days ago, I watched The Theory of Everything, a movie about Stephen Hawking's incredible life. I was moved by the enormous obstacles that he overcame to survive, but I was even more impressed by all that he has accomplished in his life - even with a debilitating disability. This man has shaped the way that we think about time and space, and he continues to work on his physics projects to this day. (Back when he was just 21, they gave him 2 years to live. He's 72 now.)

We all know him as a famous physicist and cosmologist, but perhaps you didn't know that he is the author of over a dozen books, as well as countless scientific articles. His book, A Brief History of Time, has sold more than 10 million copies in 20 years and has been translated into 35 languages! He has even written several children stories with his daughter, Lucy Hawking.

Okay, so lots of people have written multiple bestselling books. But have they had to use cheek muscles to do it?? Here is a bit about Hawking's writing process from his website:

My main interface to the computer is through a program called EZ Keys, written by Words Plus Inc. This provides a software keyboard on the screen. A cursor automatically scans across this keyboard by row or by column. I can select a character by moving my cheek to stop the cursor. My cheek movement is detected by an infrared switch that is mounted on my spectacles. This switch is my only interface with the computer. EZ Keys includes a word prediction algorithm, so I usually only have to type the first couple of characters before I can select the whole word. When I have built up a sentence, I can send it to my speech synthesizer.  

That takes dedication!! Sitting there in the dark theater, watching the amazing story of this fantastic human playing out in front of me, I thought to myself - if he can write books, I have no excuse!!

Thinking about writing against all odds made me think of another writer with a life-altering disorder: Josh Hanagarne, also known as World's Strongest Librarian. I saw him speak a few years back at the Miami Book Fair and I was extremely impressed to learn that he keeps a blog and has a bestselling book, even though he can barely sit still - truly. This is not the same "ants in your pants" problem that I have. In an interview with Cathy Lamb, Hanagarne explains his writing process and the challenges of writing with Tourette Syndrome:

With the nature of Tourette’s, I’m rarely capable of sitting still long enough to write for more than fifteen minutes a day. Sometimes that would get me 1000 words, sometimes it would get me 100. My goal was simply to write every day and keep my fingers moving. I learned that I have to make a huge mess before I can clean it up. I don’t ask myself editorial questions on the fly.

Again, if he can write a whole book by sitting down a mere 15 minutes a day, what excuse do I have?? These two individuals, and many more out there, have to surpass severe obstacles to write - but they do it with grace and brilliance. Their dedication and tenaciousness inspire me to glue my butt in the chair and keep my pen moving on the page. Gentleman, thank you for your amazing contributions to literature and culture. Til next week!