The Price to be Paid: Writing Until Your Fingers Bleed

Long time readers will be aware I’ve had some medical challenges over the past eight years, least of which is the recurring pain in my right hand. To get a full appreciation for the scale, it pays to go back to when it all began—in the murk of my childhood with inexplicable discomfort and often downright agony.

It came and went, bubbling up every year or so from when I was a pre-teen. Each time I would have an X-ray or scan, and the report would determine that no, nothing was wrong. It had to be soft tissue. Just rest it.

It wasn’t until after my son was born and I started typing thousands of words a day that it really bit hard. I may have fallen on it and pushed it over the edge, or maybe it was just time, but I finally made enough noise that I was sent to a specialist hand surgeon. Sadly, it seemed the defect in the joint at the base of my third metacarpal had been there since I was that confused and pained pre-teen, and it had just gotten that little bit worse.

I was halfway through writing and revising Blood of Heirs, and the surgery, while painful, promised to fuse the joint so the bones wouldn’t rub against each other anymore.

Only, the fusion didn’t take. My bones didn’t mistake the graft tissue for a break and fill in the gaps. Held together by a plate and four screws, after two years, while I was writing Legacy of Ghosts, it failed.

The fusion had to be drilled out and done again.

That surgery was one I never really recovered from. The bone graft was drilled from my hip this time, like a hunk of wood cut to size to slot into the hole left by the first failed fusion. Taking that graft took more from me than bone—it took the sensation from the top of my left thigh and my hope of living life with minimal pain. A nerve was cut and it never healed.

This joint fusion lasted three years before the problems returned. I had taught myself to use a mouse left handed, traded up for ergonomic keyboards and tried my best to push through. I’ve been scowled at by doctors who think I’m hunting drugs when all I want is answers. I’ve cried myself to sleep after work because I can’t move my fingers or my leg. I’ve bought overpriced kitchen appliances just to save myself the agony of chopping or stirring. Now, the truth has come home as I’ve begun to draft Empire of Shadows—the plate and screws need to come out.

It has, according to my surgeon, served its purpose and held the fusion together until the bones could unite. It is now, we suspect, causing a problem of its own. It’s interacting with the tendons from my index and middle fingers, causing near constant pain and an inability to perform basic life functions, like driving or filling in a form by hand. I mean, shit could be worse—it’s not going to kill me—but the unrelenting misery of not being able to do normal things like work or write has just become too much.

This week, my plate and the two remaining screws will be removed. The joints will be checked over for arthritis, and hopefully, the return to writing will be swift. I’m assured the recovery from this is much easier than the fusion itself, so I have hope.

But while I have hope, albeit a small measure, I beg of you patience.

I beg you to believe I will finish The Coraidic Sagas and go on to write as many books as my mind has stories to tell. I beg you to be patient when I scream into the void of social media about my pain and my frustration.

I beg of my family not to give up on me. I beg of them forgiveness for the sour moods and the dark days. I apologise for the burden I place on them everyday, both physical and mental. I don’t want to be here. I wanted everything but this path, but it’s the one I’ve been given, so I must walk it.

Empire of Shadows will come. It may be mid to late 2021, but it will come. I have and I will write until my fingers bleed, but for the next little while, I just need time. That’s the price I have to pay, and it’s a debt I’m willing to settle.

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