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Home » Bipolar Disorder » Racing Thoughts Of A Bipolar Writer No. 5: Lessons From A Writing Hiatus

Racing Thoughts Of A Bipolar Writer No. 5: Lessons From A Writing Hiatus

hiatus-imageI have made up excuses to myself for my writing hiatus far too long and far too many times, that it is no longer justifiably congruent to my current physical, emotional, and mental condition, which, if I am being honest, are complete pictures of good health as of late. I should have started blogging and writing last May, or at the very latest, the last week of the month of May. But I admit, and quite regrettably so, that procrastination and laziness overpowered me.

And just like that, with a week-long (or has it been a month?) difference to my blogging backlog, here I am trying to absolve myself of my proclivity to idleness and self-imposed writing hiatuses.

However, allow me to give you a brief summary —  a summary that I hope would serve to explain my recent lack of posts for the past months of April and May, but by no means be misconstrued to suggest that I be vindicated for my recent long writing hiatus — of the latest medical misfortunes in my life these past four months, which have, consequently, rendered me incapacitated to cogitate with the usual fervor and accompanying racing thoughts of a manic bipolar person. And to write with the potent gusto and lusty temperament of, ahem, a creative master.

Here are the following reasons for my writing hiatus:

Firstly, during my recent month-long holiday in Europe this year, I had planned on starting my first novel and blogging regularly (at least once a week) in Switzerland, where I would be staying with a couple of friends. It was February, arguably the coldest month of the entire year. The cold was much too cold, and despite the best efforts of the heater, the weather made it less and less conducive to write. Consequently, I was bedridden for more than a week after having caught the flu, after a trip to the morbidly cold yet lovely streets of Salzburg.

Still, Europe, during wintertime, is still as charming and as quaint as I had hoped it would be. I spent half my time visiting the beautiful and historic cities of Rome, Salzburg, Schaffhausen, Zurich, Munich, and other lesser known cities with unpronounceable names of Gaelic and Nordic origins; the other half spent on catching the flu, being in bed, watching films on the Internet, drinking with friends and clubbing, and commuting by car or by train to and from our points of destination and origin.

I promised myself I would finish at least one blog post before I get back home to the Philippines, but I ended up writing nothing at all. My friend Marie told me to extend my stay until the sunny March and April months. I thought it was a good idea, because it would give me a chance to acclimatize and possibly regulate my body’s European-time-synchronized circadian rhythm during the blossoming and gayer months of summer in Zurich. Also, I might be able to bring my hands out of its black caves — the leather gloves. But it was not meant to be. A family emergency beckoned me back home, which, incidentally, is my second reason for my lack of posts.

Secondly, when my father, Justice Undersecretary Francisco F. Baraan III, found blood in his stool, I had to cut my European holidays shorter than planned.  After a battery of tests, the doctor found polyps (a group of malignant tumors) in his colon, and had to undergo immediate surgery. I did not want to miss the operation, so I booked the earliest flight back home.

Thankfully, the doctors had surgically removed, with 100% success, all the visible tumors from my father’s colon. However, the biopsy results revealed that his cancer was stage 2B, a more advanced stage than the stage the doctors initially suspected and hoped for, stage 2A, a stage that does not necessarily require the patient to go through chemotherapy anymore because the risks of the disease recurring within the five-year survival period (if the patient is cured, he can live without these time parameters) are far less likely than in the stages 2B and up, where the cancer cells are more aggressive and could metastasize into other parts of the body, and remain invisible and undetected to the naked eye.

At this juncture, my father has already gone through two chemotherapy sessions, and will undergo ten more sessions for the next five months. I ask that you please include him in your prayers, too.

Thirdly, somewhere between the time my father was recuperating from his surgery in his spacious suite in Makati Medical Center, I was, unbeknownst to him and Mother, also lying in a hospital bed in a lesser room (I can’t afford a suite) right across the hall of suites where my father was. The reason: I had to go through immediate microsurgery for my right index finger.

The story: I was intoxicated and dived into an argument with my brother, Dr. Deo, and my sister, Cielo, over something I could not remember, try hard as I may. It’s not really something I would like to remember, anyway.  All I could remember was the feeling of anger building up inside me. And due to this anger that spread fast like the malignant tumors found in my father’s colon, I hit a glass with my right hand with a Hulkian force that left the entire pulp and fat of my right index finger flying off and detached, which left my finger guzzing out hemophiliac liters of blood, and leaving the nail bed looking like a decapitated head.

I had to undergo two expensive and grueling surgeries weeks apart from each other for just one index finger, which ended up giving me three conspicuous scars in my right hand due to my surgical wounds, and I also had to undergo two weeks of physical rehab after the doctors removed the bandages and the arm sling from my hand and arm which, as a result, did not help in making me gain back my passion for writing.

Fourthly and lastly, eventually (of course), my parents found out about what happened, and all is forgiven. However, the incident left me unable to work and perform fully my duties as CEO of our family’s business. It had also left me unable to write and blog, and practically do anything I used to enjoy using my right hand, the hand which I rely on for almost everything. It is quite easy, I imagine, to lose one’s momentum and drive for writing and blogging because of a long writing hiatus, especially after the circumstances I had mentioned.

In my case, I did lose my momentum due to a series of events that led me spiraling down onto a place of complacent procrastination and unproductive idleness. It even dried up my drive at one point. In fact, until recently, I have been battling the residual effects of my recent creative writing break: guilt over having spent too much money (an inordinately obscene sum for just one lilliputian index finger), time, energy, and effort on trivial and frivolous pursuits; self-doubt as to my abilities, ideas, and thought processes; and feelings of uselessness.

Though I know that, in retrospect, I could have (during the time I could not make use of my hand for writing and working) used my time doing something productive by, say, buying a Dictaphone and recording my experiences for my as yet unfinished memoirs and transcribing them later onto paper for future references, let it be known that there really is no point of having regrets.

A writing hiatus, I realize, whether self-imposed, brought on by personal circumstances, or caused by sheer lack of motivation for the time being, can actually be more good than bad, and should not be a cause for misery and regret. The way I figure it, a writing hiatus should also serve as a time for relaxation, a time for rejuvenation, and even a time for reflection on things past, present, and future. It could also just as well be used as a mental vacation.

First lesson I have learned from my recent writing hiatus is that when one really is a serious writer, one will really miss with utmost fervency the sense of fulfillment one gets from the act of writing itself.

The void created by a writing hiatus can only be filled by supplanting it with literary activity. My recent writing hiatus created a writing hunger in me that could only be quenched by the act of writing, and not just writing, but by ferocious writing. So I did. I recently started writing my first novel, and it was liberating. It’s as if a higher creative intellect that had been suppressed for a long time suddenly found a way to possess me yet again . It also brought out this innate compulsion inside me to chronicle everything, to make sense of things, to creatively purge my feelings and thoughts, to keep a record of important details.

Second lesson I have learned is this: whether one writes for personal pleasure or for publishing posterity, one thing remains constant — writers are natural custodians of memory.

It is the pecking order of things in the grand scheme of literature. Writers write in order to remember — to immortalize, to memorialize, and to never forget. If one wishes to be a serious writer, one has to make a habit of diarizing and journalizing anything and everything — life’s series of ups and downs. For it is precisely these ups and downs that make life more interesting, and that need to be written and told.

After you come out of a writing hiatus, it would behoove you to collect your thoughts and write down everything you have felt, experienced, and learned during the hiatus. You will thank yourself that you did that once you start writing your memoirs.

You see, when I really think about it, a writing hiatus is, essentially, neither good nor bad. It is what it is depending on what we make of it. But I suggest we choose to see a writing hiatus from a healthy standpoint: that it brings more good than bad; that it effectually makes one miss writing with a voracious appetite; that it makes one want to seek more ways of coming up with more original (or less derivative) work; that it gives one more stories to tell; and that it reawakens one’s prolific creativity with sudden bursts of eureka-esque epiphanies.

Third and last lesson I have learned from my writing hiatus is this: in life, there should be no such thing as regrets, only blessings and blessings in disguise.

It would not do one any good in dwelling over the past, beating oneself black and blue, and mentally kicking oneself over things one can no longer change. What has been said and done; what has happened before should remain in the past — as everything in the past should.

Because, ultimately, all we can do is to try and learn as much as we can from these little breaks plus all the things that coincide with it. To turn the negative experiences into positive motivators, and hopefully, be the better for it.

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2 Comments

  1. I will pray for your father.

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