Guest Post: Writer’s Block – The Real Deal by Elisabeth Naughton

Today we welcome paranormal romance author Elisabeth Naughton to the blog. Grab a snack and pull up a chair for this inspiring story she has to share with us today – and don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win her latest book!


 

Thanks so much to Jamie for inviting me to guest blog at Variety Pages today! My second Eternal Guardians book, ENTWINED, releases next week on July 27, 2010.  It’s a very fun time for me as excitement for the series is really starting to pick up and readers are falling in love with my guardians. And it’s even more exciting because seeing ENTWINED on store shelves is something I once thought I might never live to see.

Back in June of 2009 when I was in the process of writing ENTWINED, I took a break in my writing schedule for a minor medical procedure, something I’d been putting off for months but knew needed taken care of. I had the procedure on a Friday in early June, planned to take the weekend off from writing to recover, then was going to dive back into Zander & Callia’s book on Monday. At that point I was just about one hundred pages into the manuscript and hitting my writing stride, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the story. Sunday night, however, my plans took a drastic dive. After a tumultuous weekend, I was admitted to the ER and spent the next week in ICU with a severe case of toxic shock. The prognosis wasn’t good, my family wasn’t sure if I was going to survive or not. Unbeknownst to me, I’d contracted the flesh eating bacteria in my blood stream, and it was systematically attacking my organs. It took a few days for the doctors to figure that out, another few days for the medications to start working, and even then things were touch and go. Just about the time the doctors thought my body was shutting down, I miraculously made a turn for the better.

I have no memory of that week in ICU, which my husband and family all tell me is a good thing. I spent another week in the hospital recovering and then was finally sent home. But being home was actually harder than being in the hospital. I lost twenty pounds and all my muscle tone, spent weeks going for IV antibiotic therapy and looked (according to my sister in law) like a corpse. My body was still fighting off a major infection and though I wasn’t in danger of dying anymore, the recovery process was slow and exhausting. The good news is that the body is an amazing thing, and I am now 100% recovered, but it took a good six months to start feeling like my old self, and it all happened while I was on deadline for ENTWINED.

I wasn’t able to write until October. When I said the body is an amazing thing, I meant it. This was the first time in my writing life that I had nothing happening in my creative mind. No characters were talking to me, no stories were circulating. Every time I thought about writing, there was just nothing there to write. As days passed to weeks and weeks to months, I wondered if I’d ever write again. I had this book that I’d started—that my editor was waiting for—and while I could read it and see the potential for the story it would someday be, I couldn’t work on it.

I talked to writer friends who said, “Don’t worry, it’ll come back.” I talked to my agent and editor, both of whom said, “Take your time, we want you healthy.” I talked to my husband, who told me, “Stop stressing and focus on getting well.” I tried. But always in the back of my mind was this voice whispering, “You should be writing.”

I’ve heard writers talk about writer’s block. I had this image in my mind of writers simply being distracted or procrastinating. I’d never experienced writer’s block before, but I’m here to tell you it is a REAL thing. When the body is extremely stressed or ill (as in my case), it focuses its energy toward healing itself, and creativity takes a back seat to what’s most important. The human body is incredible, don’t you think? That it can take a person from being death-bed sick to well in only a matter of months? That it has the capacity to heal in the first place and knows what it needs before the conscious brain does?

As I grew physically stronger, that creative well I’d thought was dry began to fill again. By October I had scene snippets flickering in my mind and one day I sat down at the computer and out poured a scene. I picked up where I’d left off, right around page one hundred, and I wrote and wrote and wrote until I couldn’t write anymore. I turned ENTWINED in to my editor just after Christmas and waited, sure she would hate it. But to my surprise she loved it, more than anything else I’d ever written.

When I look at ENTWINED, I see this book in two parts – what I wrote before I got sick and what I wrote after. I don’t think anyone else can see that, and my friends and colleagues who have read the book agree with my editor in that it’s my strongest book to date. Over the past six months or so, I’ve often wondered why that is. I don’t have an answer except to say sometimes the hardest things in life turn out to be gems we couldn’t see at the time. This book challenged me in ways nothing else ever has, and I know I’m a better writer today because of it. I definitely don’t want to get sick in the middle of another book, but I learned some valuable lessons about my body, my creativity, and my capacity to do what needs to be done. If nothing else, I have faith now that I can work under pressure. Extreme pressure.

I’ve got a copy of ENTWINED to give away to one lucky commenter today. The question is not only pertinent to me, but to my characters and the struggles they go through in ENTWINED. Simply tell me…have you ever experienced a time in your life when you faced tragedy and overcame it?

***

A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, heralded by Publisher’s Weekly as “A rock-solid debut,” was recently nominated for two prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America in the Best First Book category and the Best Romantic Suspense category. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. To learn more about Elisabeth, visit her website at www.elisabethnaughton.com.


Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Elisabeth! I can’t imagine how scary it must have been first going through the illness, and then wondering if you’d ever be able to write again. Your strength and resilience is very inspiring.

If you haven’t read Elisabeth’s work, now’s the time! Personally, I loved Marked, and can’t wait to get a copy of Entwined when it’s released. Comments are open! You have until midnight tonight to enter the contest.

21 comments on “Guest Post: Writer’s Block – The Real Deal by Elisabeth Naughton

  1. Carol

    What an amazing, inspirational story!

    Most of what I used to consider tragic is more like extreme back luck, the latest of which was becoming involved in a car accident. My car was a write-off but I emerged relatively unscathed, or so I thought. It affected me far more emotionally than I realized, culminating in me losing my dream job.

    I’m prone to depression at the best of times and this was almost more than I could take. To overcome it I have to push myself, some days more than others, until my creativity fills the dark places and I can look forwards instead of backwards.

  2. Annarkie

    I lost my career and my mother in a five month period. Those 2 events made me realize that writing is what I do and what I needed to be doing.
    I finished a novel I’d been toying with since I was 20, made my first foray into the publishing industry and failed.
    But this time I didn’t give up and I wrote another novel.
    It seemed to pay off, and I’ll be signing with an agent next week 🙂

  3. Annarkie

    I finished my first novel when I was 20, queried, was rejected, and temporarily gave up, though I kept writing.
    But when I lost my career and my mother in a five month period. Those 2 events made me realize that writing is what I do and what I needed to be doing.
    I finished a novel I’d been toying with on and off for years, made my second foray into the publishing industry and failed.
    But this time I didn’t give up and I wrote another novel.
    It seemed to pay off, and I’ll be signing with an agent next week 🙂

  4. CrystalGB

    What a wonderful post. The tragedy that affected me and my family was when my dad became blind from a random shooting. We had a hard childhood due to the loss of his income but we survived and grew up to be productive adults.

  5. Jodi

    Very inspirational. From tragedy comes triumph.
    We don’t always realize how short and precious life is.
    Best of luck.

  6. Jodi

    Very inspirational.
    Sometimes we take for granted how short and precious life can be.
    Best of luck!

  7. Fedora

    Wow, what an amazing story, Elisabeth! I thankfully haven’t faced tragedy myself, but have seen time and again how it often pushes many people to do great things. They say that it takes darkness to show just how bright the light is, and I think that your story and many others really live that out.

  8. Elisabeth Naughton

    Carol – so sorry to hear about your car accident. You’re right, things like that can really affect you emotionally in ways you didn’t see coming. The same thing happened to me with my illness. I’m not someone who is prone to depression or weepiness, but when walking up the stairs made me want to sit down and cry, I knew I was in for a long recovery ahead.

    I hope you’re feeling better now – or will be soon. And I’m glad your creativity is a light at the end of the tunnel for you. Thanks for the comment!

  9. Elisabeth Naughton

    Annarkie – I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Losing a family member is just an awful thing for anyone to have to go through. But I would say you have definitely triumphed in the face of adversity. Congrats on signing with your new agent! I’m sure many wonderful things are ahead for you.

  10. Elisabeth Naughton

    Crystal – I’m sure that must have been hard on your family. How wonderful though that your father’s experience impacted you in such a profound way. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my illness is that life is precious and it’s way too short. You have to live for today because you just don’t know if there will be a tomorrow. Thanks for the comment.

  11. Robin K

    Wow! Seriously. I thought that kind of nightmare only happened on House. I am so glad you are feeling better. I have had definite life changing experiences, but not necessarily from tragedy. I did move out at 16 to escape an abusive parent. My then boyfriend had seen enough. Me and that boy are now married. I have no idea where I would be now if he had not helped me.

  12. Elisabeth Naughton

    Jodi – so very true. Thanks for stopping by. Loved your comment.

  13. Elisabeth Naughton

    “They say that it takes darkness to show just how bright the light is…”

    I love this Fedora. I’m going to copy it and put it on my desk where I can see it. Sometimes it is so very true.

    (Of course, I can hear the hero in my next book saying, “Hey. Seriously. It doesn’t need to be THIS dark for me to see the light. Honestly. I think I’m coming around already. I promise to change my ways…” LOL)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Elisabeth Naughton

    Robin – My entire family thought this kind of thing only happened on House!

    I was very lucky. My dr. (okay, ALL my doctors, of which there were many) has told me time and again how I don’t realize just how sick I really was. I think I’m glad I blocked out that week in ICU. My husband still doesn’t talk about it very much – I know it was traumatic for him too. I’m just very thankful that my doctors were able to figure out what was wrong with me before it was too late. In the months since this happened I’ve heard way too many horror stories about people who went through something similar and either didn’t make it or who weren’t diagnosed early enough and are now on dialysis or suffering other health problems because of the damage done to their organs.

    It sounds like you have a keeper there. 🙂 Good for your hubby stepping in and helping you out when you needed it most.

  15. hotcha1

    GOSH I NEED THIS BOOK AND ICE AS IT’S 105 HEAT INDEX HERE!

  16. Danielle

    I don’t know that I’ve really experienced ‘tragedy.’ I’ve had bad things happen around me, and I’ve definitely experienced heartbreak, but nothing so devastating as a car wreck or major disease. That being said, I would be lying if I said that the heartbreak didn’t feel like a tragedy at the time. I gave my heart to someone, opened my whole life to him, and then found out that he had been lying to me for months. I lost the desire to write, and the drive to write. I had no characters running through my head, which was a strange sensation. But I turned to reading, and that helped. It helped more than I expected. Suddenly, my heartbreak seemed insignificant, especially since I was reading about characters who lost EVERYTHING before they could learn or gain anything. I got better, eventually, and started writing again. Any time I get overwhelmed now, though, when the stress gets to be too much and the stories stop, I go back to reading, knowing that it will get me through the rough patch. And I know that I will always write again.

  17. Elisabeth Naughton

    That’s great that reading helped you through such a tough time, Danielle. That was the scary part about my writer’s block – I couldn’t read either. My brain couldn’t focus long enough for me to get into a book. I’d start books and put them down, exhausted after only reading a few pages. Thankfully, the reading drive came back with the writing drive, and now I’m happily reading all my favorite authors, but it took a long time.

    Thanks for the comment!

  18. Fedora

    LOL! I can understand that! When I once mentioned needing more patience, a dear friend laughingly said, “OK, I’ll pray for you to undergo more trials then!” That wasn’t exactly what I wanted 😉

  19. Erica

    Wow! What an inspiration you are ;o) I’m so glad you were able to get back to writing. It’s funny, I started writing seriously after I was in the hospital for open heart surgery (after I recovered, of course)

    I guess we have to make it through the hard stuff to see the light on the other side. So glad you have recovered. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    Thank you to Jamie too ;o)