Reflections on writing and pain

As most of my readers will know, I recently developed a kidney stone.  It spoiled much of my participation in LibertyCon in late June, as apart from scheduled workshops and panels I wasn’t able to do much except lie on my bed and take what painkillers I had.  (They didn’t work very well;  and thanks to Tennessee’s insane pain medication laws, my physician wouldn’t prescribe any stronger ones because of the risk he’d be viewed as at least an ‘enabler of addiction’.  As a specialist, my urologist was able to prescribe some for me, which was a great relief.)  After undergoing lithotripsy last week, the remains of the kidney stone are working their way out of my system at last, and my pain levels have dropped to manageable proportions once more.

What I found interesting (albeit exasperating) was the effect that increased pain had on my writing.  I simply couldn’t think creatively.  It was as if I were thinking in a fog.  I could sit down at the computer and start writing, but within half a page ideas would begin to dry up, and after a page I’d be just sitting there, staring blankly at the screen.  I couldn’t mentally ‘shut off’ the pain as I normally do.  (On a pain scale of 1 low to 10 excruciating, I live at a 2-3 level 24/7/365 thanks to my 2004 spinal injury and damaged sciatic nerve.  That spikes to 5-6 for a day or two every ten days to two weeks, whenever my body decides it’s time to remind me who’s boss.  However, the kidney stone kept me at that 5-6 level for almost six weeks, without letup.  It was unbelievably draining.)  When I was at last able to get more effective painkillers they certainly brought relief, but they also ‘fogged’ my brain in a whole new way.  I couldn’t think creatively at all, and my sleep suffered badly.  I absolutely hate the dizzy, ‘floating’ feeling that Percocet and other strong painkillers give me.  I can’t understand those who take it to get high – I think it’s ghastly!

At any rate, I’ve had to endure a forced six- or seven-week hiatus from creative writing.  This is a pain in itself, because I rely on my writing to earn a living, and so my income this year will be less than I hoped.  However, thanks to so many of you who enjoy my books and have bought them in the past, we’ve been able to cope.  Miss D. and I decided a few years ago, when I began to earn income from my books, to dedicate it to paying off our debts and building up reserves to cope with times like this, rather than splurging it.  That decision is paying off big-time right now, in that we’re still able to buy all we need and keep our heads above water.  Readers, thank you all very much for making that possible!

I’m slowly getting back into the writing groove.  My next book (Volume 5 of the Maxwell Saga) was to have been published this month, but that’s no longer feasible.  I hope to have it out during October if all goes well.  The concluding volume of the Laredo Trilogy, which I’d hoped to publish in November to catch the Christmas sales, now looks as if it’ll slip to January or February next year.  I apologize to all those waiting to read them, but there really wasn’t much I could do about the delay.

Thanks for your patience, and for your prayers.  Even greater thanks to Miss D. for sticking by me, even when the pain was making me grumpy as sin and not very easy to live with!



  1. I understand completely. I suffer from chronic kidney stones and also chronic migraines. I have had at least 10-12 lithotripsies in the past 5 to 7 years. I have passed on my own dozens of others. Doctors here in Michigan are not much better about wanting to give pain meds for pain because of the drug addicts. It makes it difficult for those of us with real chronic pain.
    I also understand living in a fog. But I have learned to deal with it. But then when I add pain meds on top of the fog I am really a mess! (haha)
    But really, suffering pain at level 3 every day and then up to 7 or 8 several times a month is no joke. I have learned to just live the good days as fully as I can. Like you, my wife and I have worked to get ourselves debt free, and it also helps that I married someone who for some reason that I can't understand, loves me and puts up with me. I had to go through a first marriage and grow up myself some before I could find someone this great. A great wife is really what makes everything else worth all the effort.

    all the best and good luck on the newest books

  2. I feel your pain, literally. My "Walking around" pain is usually a 3 or 4. If I walk or stand for more than about 5 minutes it goes up to a 6 or 7. I rarely take anything stronger than ibuprofen, simply because I cannot stand my thought processes being munged.

  3. Suffering pain at level 3-5 every day and then up to 8-9 several times a week is no joke. That's my life (Remind me sometime to tell you what happens when an LST is overtaken by a typhoon) and I cannot stand up for more than 10 minutes without being reduced to embarrassing whimpering, so I have deep sympathy for you.
    Unfortunately, spinal damage of my level is not repairable.
    Fortunately, the VA believes in lots and lots of assorted painkillers…
    About kidneystones: Several doctors have told me that my consumption of at least 12 cups of strong coffee each day (Hey, I'm a retired Sailor – it's a REQUIREMENT!) render my urine highly acidic, thus preventing them from forming. You need to up your intake.

  4. I've had the same thoughts when I've had my big stones – that it's impossible to focus on much of anything for very long. Several times I've said I don't understand how people in chronic pain can deal with everyday life.

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