Guest Blogger: Blair Patrick Schuyler
“The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.” -Richard Wright
I am beyond happy to report that my book, Adolescence Interrupted, is officially available on Amazon. To be able to say those words after a seemingly endless writing and publishing period is still surreal, but I’m doing my best to allow the significance of the moment to register.
Anyone who was even remotely aware of the mysterious endeavor that took years of secluded labor and emotional excavation understands the weight behind this statement.
A writer’s world is plagued with worry, wonder, and self-doubt. We pound away on these keys in isolation, with little knowledge of road maps or finish lines, and hope for some modicum of coherence or readability. Then, with blurry eyes and bruised fingertips, we swipe the sweat from the screen to inspect our creation. There are sentences or sections that often feel mystical, authored by some apparition to help push us down the path. Other times, phrases are buried beneath the marble, and no amount of persuasion or coaxing can bring them to the surface.
It is inside this push-and-pull exercise that we find flashes of clarity and bursts of inspiration. We learn to ride that seesaw up and down until a notion or objective stands, fully formed.
There is no satisfaction in the result without some frustration in the practice. Work worth its salt takes bumps and bruises as it’s built. The writer’s job is to embrace the bout, duck the critical jabs, and stand before the ten count concludes.
I knew going into this undertaking that complete immersion was a vital component of the storytelling process. I could not simply recount the traumatic events of those dark days, I had to bury myself in the blankets of my memories to unearth the authentic emotions of those experiences.
Because hydrocephalus is a central character in the narrative, there was a piece of me that worried I could somehow trigger an attack or malfunction by returning to my most vulnerable moments. Living so deeply in those visceral pockets of “stored data” was a form of method acting. I had to again become the person who was subjected to the mental and physical anguish of living a life spent walking on a wire. To wear the skin of my former self was a punishing practice and there were days I was left utterly depleted. But I vowed to pull no punches, and to come from a place of veridical expression. Every word on the page was born from harnessing a combination of sense memory and an almost otherworldly physical transference. I could feel the taut hospital sheets, the unforgiving tape securing my IV, the soreness of a stiff back from lack of movement, etc.
But the only way I was ever going to find the finish line was by forcing myself to sit at the computer and start. I became a conduit for ideas, allowing a heavy mix of memories and emotions to take shape. Although unorthodox, I never utilized a storyboard or mapped out how much I was going to reveal. I simply relied on a hospital journal to provide the raw chronology, and then fleshed out those ideas in greater detail.
This story can be seen as a hero’s journey, but it is more a testament to the real champion of my crusade, my mother. She is unequivocally the shining star, and I would have been hopelessly lost without her. The speed and levelheadedness with which she dissected complex medical diagnoses and navigated a jungle of insurance red tape was beyond admirable. How a parent can watch her only child go in for brain surgery after brain surgery and not lose her mind (along with all hope), I’ll never know. But she was my rock and the foundation upon which I could stand to fight another day.
Since some of you may be interested in detailing your own stories as a means to help others struggling with similar obstacles, writing is not only a catharsis. It is also a way to inspire and motivate those in the throes of a battle being waged against their own brains. We are all warriors, and we need support from our fellow soldiers. Sometimes the greatest gift we can deliver is the reassurance that we are not alone.
Sit down, be patient, be honest, and allow your true feelings to flow. It can seem terrifying, and it will most likely be exhausting. But the gold waiting where the rainbow meets the ground is the unburdening of a very specific kind of weight. It may take some tears and more isolation than the majority of people will want to endure, but the sentiments received from those truly affected by your work become band-aids on the bruises. We exist to help others, regardless of how much psychological or physical pain we’ve had to withstand. There is always someone who has had a bigger boulder to roll, and your words could be the fuel and a final thrust to reach the mountaintop. Let that focus be the beacon that lights your path.
If writing is on your list in the new year, carpe diem. There’s no better time than the present, and there’s no better present to give.
DISCLAIMER: “Adolescence Interrupted” is not a publication of the Hydrocephalus Association (HA). HA is in no way responsible for the content contained therein and cannot vouch for its accuracy.