Friday, June 3, 2011

A cautionary tale...

I should be walking the dog but its raining cats out there which means he's keen and I'm dragging my heels. No matter how I dress, my trousers will be soaked through before I'm half way round one of our regular routes, the cold wet fabric slapping at my calves in a most unsavoury way. I am going to suck it up shortly and give him the exercise he needs because he missed out yesterday due to an unexpected trip to the doctor for my son's sore foot (soft tissue injury only - phew) followed by my first writing workshop at the local intermediate school (fabulous bunch of kids that I know I'm going to enjoy working with) and then grocery shopping and then whipping up a variation on beef bourgignon to feed the homeys.

A number of years back I developed a niggly back thing. A lower back/left hip that graunched and clonked. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant. Its mechanical I theorised. "Ah madam," the doctor said looking at an x-ray, "your bones look in tip-top shape". Years passed and I tried the doctor again and I got sent to a physio who said, "I can't see any cause for what you describe" but who managed to prescribe me some exercises and tried some lovely sticky tape - X marks the spot. Then years passed and I tried the doctor again, had a new batch of x-rays where my bones apart from normal wear and tear looked in tip-top shape, and had a chiropracter, and a masseuse recommended. I could try a specialist if I wanted I was advised, but I wasn't sure what I would be telling the specialist and the GP couldn't really tell me either. Despite feeling all the while that the source of my discomfort was mechanical they could see nothing wrong. I ruled the specialist out. Its a lot of money when everything on the x-ray looks in order. The massage benefited me for about ten minutes but left me with bruises. Improvements after the chiropractic sessions (which I found somewhat scary) lasted about 5 minutes. It might take a long time to work out the kinks from such a long standing problem like yours the chiropracter said. Maybe a year?

Then, as strange as this will sound, blessed relief, my daughter had a training accident at cheerleading. A nasty fall that injured her back. We started off at a physio. Her favourite physio had shifted to a different practice so we had to try another practice close by. I made an appointment at one I knew had a back programme. Could we get my daughter better before her overseas trip to compete in the US? We'd better check for fractures the stary physios said and lets send her to a specialist to make sure we know how bad the damage is. So off we went, my daughter and I to visit the specialist they suggested armed with some new x-rays for her. I watched and listened as he asked her questions, made her stand on one leg and then the other and do a few other things. After a CT scan he told us what was going on and she competed in the US (her all girl team came third in the International comp and my daughter got the Sportsmanship award for the trip) and is now on the mend.

I was impressed.

I made myself an appointment to see the specialist. He pulled the 2003 x-ray out of the envelope and in 2 seconds with the naked eye said 'you have a congenital defect in your back which is most likely the cause of all your symptoms. Look,' he said, 'the radiologist mentions it in the report.' Why am I telling you this story? I am telling you this story because too often we give all our power over to other people we trust to have all the information, training and experience to tell us what to do. Okay so I've done the same with the specialist but when he pointed out the wacko doohickey in my lower back I could see for myself what he was talking about. After not trusting my intuition about the mechanical nature of my problem for more than 9 years the specialist explained everything to me and said 'madam, your problem is mechanical. It is unlikely that physio, massage or a chiropracter will have a positive result.' I had an MRI scan and unfortunately over the years the congenital problem has been having a trickle down effect. Surgery is a possibility.

It is too easy to give our power away to other people. Authors do it all the time. We trust that people in the publishing industry have all the answers and will give us the right advice. I'm not saying these people are deliberately misleading us. I don't think the GP's I went to see about my back were deliberately misleading me. But they didn't know what they were looking at and dismissed me. Because they didn't know, there obviously couldn't be anything wrong. They made me doubt myself. Doubt can wear away at you. Yes publishers and booksellers and others in the industry will give you advice, answers and prognostications about your writing and yes often they will be right. All that experience counts for a lot. But sometimes they will be wrong (and yes I'm thinking of all the agents and publishers who turned down JK Rowling). Sometimes they don't know the answer. Sometimes its not that there is anything wrong with your writing or your story, sometimes they don't know how to make the most of it or have too many stories already scheduled to be able to devote time to editing your work or advising you on a rewrite. Sometimes commercial reasons mean they are embracing other genre/writers/trends. Many times it is too hard to tell you all the reasons they are turning down your manuscript. Remember, your work is yours. It belongs to you and you must make the final decisions about what happens to it. If it is good work then it's time will come. First of all believe in yourself. Trust your intuition - you too have experience, information and training. And keep pressing on. Sometimes it takes years to get to the right answer.

1 comment:

Maureen Crisp said...

Yes that is a cautionary tail... hehehe
You are right...In the end you make the final decision about what to do with your advice is wise to have but it is just advice... It is not a command to go and do. If the advice you took against your own realistic judgement on your manuscript doesn't feel right to you, your uncertainty will carry over to others. Trying to convince people that you really really love this story will ring as hollow in your ears as it does in theirs...bad marketing move.