Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Problem with Selfies when You Have RA

HealthCentral boss-person: “we want to do a cool project with selfies and quotes from people with chronic illness. Can you do one?”

Me: “of course!”

Yeah, well. That turned out to be little more complicated than I thought. My RA got in the way.

It’s like this. You know that effortless move you make when you hold your mobile phone in front of you and press that middle button to take a photo while looking as glamorous as you can?

I can’t do that. Either the glamorous or the effortless move.

Problem one: holding my mobile in an outstretched arm. Whereas I can stretch my arms somewhat (all right, so my elbow doesn’t extend fully, but close enough). 

Problem two: my fingers don’t have the dexterity to operate my phone in that manner. I look in envy at people who type away at 40 wpm or more with their thumbs. My thumbs don’t bend much more than a little, so it’s impossible. Everything a smart phone is designed to do assumes that your thumbs can bend.

This not to say that I can’t operate it. I just hold it differently, primarily use my right middle finger to swipe and text (funny on so many levels) and I use voice control on the camera. I hold the camera in both hands, and once it’s focused, I say ‘smile.’ And as I hear the click of the camera, everyone in my vicinity smile. Which is highly amusing when you’re taking a photo of a building.

But back to selfies.

What about a selfie stick? you ask. Good question. I haven’t had one, mostly because I prefer not being in the shot. I figure my photographs of where I am is enough proof that I was there. That changed this summer. When I was at Queen’s Park to see the Parapan Am games torch arrive I signed up for something and they gave me a free selfie stick in return.

Which I can’t use because of my RA.

Problem three: I don’t have the dexterity to place the phone in the clampy thing.

Problem four: I don’t have the dexterity or strength to press the button on the stick.

And problem five: when attempting to hold a selfie stick with the phone attached, this happens

Gravity is a harsh mistress. (name that show)

I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw gravity pulling my phone in the opposite end of where it were supposed to be. It was too heavy for me to hold in the intended position.

So I enrolled The Boy in the project and he did the holding and the pushing of buttons for me. And this was the result

Image courtesy of HealthCentral
I look at it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the impact of RA and to maybe encourage someone to invent a selfie stick that can be used by someone with strength and dexterity issues.

See the rest of the quotes from people sharing what you may not know about living with a chronic illness.

#ChronicChristmas #1: Shop Online

Do your gift shopping online. 

Cyber Monday may have been yesterday, but I bet there are still deals to be had. One of the best part of doing your shopping on the Internet is that poking about you normally do anyway is now with a purpose. You’re not procrastinating at all!

Online shopping is God’s gift to people with a chronic illness (okay, so maybe it’s a gift from geeks, but either way it works). You don’t have to leave the house, you don’t have to march through the mall, you don’t have to battle the crowds. You can do it in your PJs and at 3 AM, if you have painsomnia. In that case, it’s also a coping mechanism, wonderfully distracting.

Do you do your shopping in the real world or online? 

#ChronicChristmas is an Advent calendar of tips for a sane holiday season with a chronic illness. Check back tomorrow for the next tip.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The 5 Stages of Writing a Book

You’ve heard of the five stages of grief, right? As I’ve been writing Book 2 in the Your Life with RA series, I’ve come to realize that there are also five stages of writing a book. To wit:

The first stage of any book is all about the idea. It can sneak up on you, grow quietly, or burst into your mind fully formed. Regardless of how it happens, this is utter delight. You’re instantly swept away by your own cleverness, chortling to yourself with how brilliant this book is going to be. It’s like falling in love at first sight, and equally obsessive. This stage is invigorating, motivating, and compulsive. You want to spend every minute of every day writing to make your idea a reality within weeks.

Not so fast, though. First you have to wrestle with it.

The idea for your book can usually be summarized in what’s called the elevator speech — imagine you have to tell someone what your book is about on an elevator ride, lasting no more than 30 seconds. The second stage of writing a book takes that condensed nugget and starts building a framework for the book. Some people create extremely detailed outlines, other do only a few broad strokes, and everything in between. This stage is very fluid and continuous. Throughout the book, you’ll be thinking and wrestling with ideas, plot lines, structure, and characters. If you like puzzles, you’ll thrive on this part.

Roller Coaster
And then the writing starts. More specifically, the first draft AKA the Vomit Draft. In this stage, you write and do nothing else. No editing, no going back to check, no polishing a particular sentence for three weeks until it’s absolutely perfect. Just write, write, write. When it works, there’s nothing like it. When it works, it is sheer exhilaration. When you get stuck, there are moments of deep despair. The only way out and back on track is to write, even if you think it’s crap. The third stage is an addictive roller coaster of emotion and when you’re done, you want to hop back on and do it all again.

It’s generally recommended to let your book sit for a bit — three weeks to three months — before you start the next stage. It allows you to go to a different place in your head, to forget about the book so you can see it with fresh eyes. Because that’s going to be needed for the rewrite. This is when you look at your book with a critical eye and it is not for the faint of heart. When you rewrite, you focus on finding everything that doesn’t work and write it all again until it does. It’s common to become convinced your entire book is crap and that you should give up your writing career before people start pointing and laughing at you. Oh, and PS. Once you’re reasonably satisfied with your draft, get someone to read it and give you feedback. Then edit some more.

I suspect those myths about writers and alcohol were based on the Dissection stage.

Letting Go
There comes a point when you have to stop editing or you end up like that guy who has been writing the same book for 20 years. There is a saying in the music industry: “sooner or later, you have to ship.” The same goes for your book. When you have made it as perfect as you possibly can, when you realize that any further edits would be polishing something that’s already shiny, when your cover captures your book, you are ready to ship. This stage is terrifying and exhilarating both, as you prepare to send your baby into the harsh light of the world. The fifth stage is about giving up control, and letting go so your book can fly.

Which stage are you in?