Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ow - John Dougherty

Please forgive me if this posting takes you longer to read than usual. That'll be because I'm typing it very slowly.

The reason for that is that I'm only using one hand.

And the reason for that is that on Sunday afternoon I broke my left wrist. Rather badly.

I'm not telling you this just to get a bit of sympathy, although quite frankly that would be nice. Rather, I thought I'd use this opportunity to share with you an opinion that just about everybody - including me - has voiced in order to cheer me up:

"Oh, well, you can write about it in your next book."

To be fair, not everyone has assumed it'll be the next one: only that the experience will be useful source material at some point. But it is intriguing, this general assumption that when a bad thing happens to me I'm likely to write about it.

Equally intriguing, by the way, is that nobody's mentioned money. There's no sense of, "Shame you broke your wrist, but you'll get a few quid out of it when you put it in a story." The feeling seems to be that the writing itself will be the silver lining, a compensation in its own right.

I don't know if I will ever write about this sort of injury in a story; but it's noteworthy that - while it has been and continues to be painful and inconvenient - more than anything, I've found it interesting. It's all an experience: the moment of sharp, sudden, numbingly wrong pain; the first sight of the swollen question-mark of my once exclamation-straight wrist; the jarring pangs as every speed-bump takes me ruthlessly closer to hospital; the strange blurring of the world as the morphine takes effect; the peculiar internal disassociation as the doctor and orderly take hold of an end each of my twisted forearm and pull it back into shape; the hot rush of blood back into my veins after the bier block... I've lived it all, but I've also noticed it all, and noticed it in a way I don't think I would have done, once upon a time before my working life was taken up with stories.

So perhaps Anne Rooney was right, when she said in Saturday's entry that "Writing is our way of making sense of the world" - or perhaps writing teaches us to make sense of the world. Whatever the truth of it, I'm going to leave you with a question posed to me in sympathy on Sunday evening, by the lovely Katie Fforde:

How do people who don't write deal with it, when terrible things happen to them?

John's website is at www.visitingauthor.com

13 comments:

bookwitch said...

Sympathy coming your way....

Penny Dolan said...

Agreed! Every sympathy to you and your left hand, John. (And possibly to your guitar?)

But how exactly did you do it - or is that what you're saving for the future fictional moment?

Aha! I see! You're keeping the sense of dramatic suspense in your tale even when badly broken-boned. I am most impressed! Hope the arm gets stronger & more comfortable soon.

Linda Strachan said...

Ouch, the description made me wince, John. Sympathy coming your way. I agree we take more notice of the small details when things like this happen to us, and even if we don't write directly about them they can be stored up until we need to use part of the experience or perhaps have it happen to some poor character in a book.

frances.thomas said...

oh John, you have heaps of sympathy from me. I managed to break my ankle a few years ago, missed all sorts of non-repeatable treats, never learned how to go up stairs on crutches, watched lots of afternoon TV, and generally didn't learn anything useful from the experience. Oh, I did give a character in my last book a broken ankle and for once didn't have to look up the details. Still, injuries do mend and life goes on.

Book Maven said...

Poor John! Has no-one thought to check that you are not left-handed and can still type? That would have been my first reaction - after ouch! Lots of sympathy.

Mary

Rebecca said...

How horrid! I've no idea about an up-side to a broken wrist, unless it's getting you out of the washing up. It would just make writing annoyingly slow and guitar playing impossible. Hope it mends very soon. How on earth did you do it?

John Dougherty said...

Thanks, everyone! Firstly: no, I'm not left-handed, so I can still type; but I'm between projects at the moment, so I don't quite know what to type (and the pain-killers are making me drowsy, so I'm not feeling terribly inspired, either). And, worse, I'm having to postpone school visits and speaking engagements!

Oh - and when I can get back on the circuit (hopefully in a couple of weeks) I'll probably have to leave the guitar at home for a bit.

As to how I did it: playing football with the kids in a muddy park. Slipped; hand went down; ouch.

Katherine Roberts said...

Ow, John! Six weeks of sympathy...

Stroppy Author said...

Lots of sympathy from me, too, John. I hope it's better soon.

Julie P said...

Hope your wrist heals well and soon - sounds a nasty injury.

I don't know how people cope with nasty events if they don't write about them. I've been trying to think what I used to do before I started writing, but I can't remember!!

Julie xx

Katherine Langrish said...

Oh no - hope it heals up quickly.

Miriam Halahmy said...

The first thing I did when I landed in hospital with an ankle in plaster a few years ago was send my husband out for a notebook and pen / I was so furious : a cancelled holiday, etc., writing was the only way I could deal with it. I wish you better, John.

Jon M said...

Hope it heals quickly. Funnily enough it was fracturing my ankle that started me writing again. I still call it my 'lucky break.'