General

After A Brief “Exile”

I had been troubled late last week by a minor cold and occasional cough. Yep, it’s that time of year, of course. However, mostly it seemed to have passed – except the cough, which became worse overnights, which as we all know is truly unpleasant.

But on Monday morning a headache began coming on. When I get a headache, it may be truly wicked. They may go well beyond mere discomfort:

[Excerpt from Distances. Paperback version. Click to expand.]

That above is an example of truly writing from “personal experience.” Quickly I realized I should try to head this one off by not looking long at any worded screen – be it an iPad or my Surface. (I write my novels on my Microsoft Surface.) Eye strain, I learned, makes it worse.

I got my Monday blog post finished (fortunately, I’d written most of it on Sunday evening), published it, and that was it. No more words after that. If you rely on the written word and looking at a screen, not being able to work is a nightmare.

I could not even really read just to pass the time. About all I could do was watch some television…

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Talk about depressing. I tried not to think much about the new book because I couldn’t write for long enough to jot anything lengthy down. I didn’t want to think of something “fantastic” only find a day or two later when I could sit in front of the PC again that I found I could not really recall it in full – which is an incredibly frustrating feeling.

If I have to refrain from reading for that reason (it doesn’t happen often, fortunately), I always recall this I read years ago in a biography about him. In the mid-1980s, near the end of his long life, British prime minister from 1957-63, Harold Macmillan (yes, Macmillan Publishers was the family business, where he worked intermittently over the years), his eyesight failing, could no longer see well enough to read even with the aid of glasses.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice had long been a favorite of his, but now, he couldn’t return to it.

[The famous opening to Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Photo by me, 2018.]

Macmillan grumbled that life had lost a huge joy if one is unable to read. Whenever I have those moments, I understand that feeling. It’s truly awful – an isolating and even lonely feeling – being unable to enjoy a book.

For this is the sort of thing we miss. It’s amazing. Jane Austen died at age 41 in 1817. She had lived her entire short life in southern England, wrote six full novels (four published anonymously – women writers normally then published anonymously as women writing for “fame” was considered “degrading” for a lady and her family – between 1811-1816, and two published posthumously in 1818), and had had some success, but not major success. Imagine what she would think now if she could see? Two hundred plus years later, her name is familiar across much of the world and she’s one of the most famous and celebrated writers in the English language.

I find this small “fun fact” intriguing too: the “beautiful” sister among the five Bennet daughters in 1813’s Pride and Prejudice is named… “Jane.”

This morning the headache, which thankfully did not become too bad, is gone. Whenever that pain ceases, I feel re-invigorated, as if the darkest of life clouds has parted and the sun has returned. Especially in being able to read freely again, I’m back from a terrible, but fortunately brief, “exile.”

Have a good day, wherever you are reading this in the world. 🙂

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