I’m thrilled to be leading an online fiction writing workshop with Glasgow Women’s Library on June 25th. The one-hour workshop is designed for women who experience chronic pain and offers an opportunity for participants to try out fiction writing as a means of distraction to help manage it.
I discovered the power fiction writing has to distract me from chronic pain, quite by accident. To fill the time during an extended period of bedrest after an MS relapse, I began to write and noticed that when I was fighting with word after word and sentence after sentence, I didn’t notice my nerve pain (which might normally be described as the sensation of broken bits of glass being pressed into my skin).
I wrote fictional tales inspired by my interest in the people I would see when I ventured out of bed and into the waiting rooms of hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries. I made up stories about the lives of the people I saw: a young man struggling to stand up; a middle-aged couple bickering their way through the dead time until the name of one, or the other, was called; a well-dressed woman speaking quietly into her phone; an elderly couple holding hands.
In this way Ian was born. I gave him a wife, Gemma, and two young sons. I wrote about Sarah and Craig Anderson. Childhood sweethearts who weren’t so sweet on one another anymore. There was Jean and her husband John, married, and in love, for twenty years. Each time, I would give one of them a neurological illness. I was curious to see what effect it would have on them: on their relationships; their friends and their family. Perhaps it was a way for me to explore the future. Importantly, it kept nerve pain at bay.
I thought this might just be something odd about me. Perhaps for others the drugs worked and they didn’t need to resort to writing. Then I read about phantom limb pain, neuroplasticity, distraction technique, and it began to make sense, so I kept writing both for the pain relief and the opportunity to inhabit other people, other places, stories that weren’t my own.
I’m excited to lead the workshop and have others try out fiction writing as a distraction to help manage chronic pain. It’s now fully booked, but we’re planning to hold a second one over the next couple of weeks, so if you’re interested in attending please don’t be put off, just add your name to the waiting list.