Women’s History Month guest – Sharyn Lilley

I knew Sharyn first as a science fiction fan, an editor, and as a writer. She edited Life Through Cellophane (now Ms Cellophane) and a short storyof mine. I asked Sharyn for this, then, for the world is full of incipient irony, I was raced off to hospital myself. Most of this month will be writers talking about writers, but it’s important to see, sometimes, what lies beneath the surface. Some lives look as if their owner’s swimming upwater through shoals of pirhanas. It’s important to know this, that some of the prices paid are hidden. When we see the work of writers, this month, it’s worth keeping in mind the prices that some have paid. It’s another hidden element of history.

Gillian asked me a doozy this year. Ask me to tell you about Australia’s female bushrangers, and I can reel their stories off pat. Ask me about the Australian suffragette movement and I’ll not only tell tell you about Edith Cowan (who in 1921 became our first elected female politician) but also about the women before her, like Vida Goldstein, who ran for the Senate on three separate occasions (1903, 1910, and 1917) but – that’s not what Gillian asked me.

She wanted me to talk about me. Not about my experiences as a woman in fandom in more recent history (rural Australia of the 70’s and 80’s) But about how I write under interesting circumstances. She thinks I might have some pointers for others. Maybe she’s right, we’re about to find out. I’ve been stumped on how to approach this all month long. Then this morning two things happened. I read a quote about if all the people with rare, chronic illnesses were all put into one country, we’d be the third most populated country in the world. Our conditions might be different, but there are a lot of us, and we all deal with intriguing amounts of pain on a daily level. The second thing that happened was my dog tripping me over.

Welcome to my mind, it’s scatter-brained from pain and medication, but these two things brought me the realisation of how I write. After I picked myself up off the concrete, I hobbled back inside and posted this on facebook (please note the following doesn’t include my heart issues or my chronic illness, which I have lived with for the better part of three decades and lead to the heart issues):

Today: cartilage either side of sternum is inflamed, One shoulder is frozen, the other has multiple tears from joint through cartilage. Spine is degrading at base of skull and lower back region. Arthritis through shoulders and full length of spine, and sciatic nerves are not being friendly today. The idiot hound tripped me up as I stepped down off the back verandah, and I landed awkwardly on the concrete, grazing my knees and hands.
I sat there for a few moments, trying to work out which part of the body I could move first, in order to stand up. The idiot hound just looked at me like “What are you doing? Why are you sitting on the ground?” *sighs* No, I didn’t kill him, but today is going to need coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Then I opened up my current manuscript, looked over at my notes on my cork-board, and wrote another thousand words. Every time I felt my brain getting foggy, all I have to do is sit back, and I’m looking at my notes. I know there are all sorts of writing programs and apps to help authors keep their research altogether. And when I am specifically looking for something, those are great time savers. But those times when brain fog sets in and I don’t have the wit to open up anything, sitting back and staring at hand written pages until the words start to make sense, is the one method I can utilise to keep me writing.

Having a publisher who is absolutely understanding, and allowing me to work at the best pace I can, is an incredible blessing. I think this is where small press can shine. I am beyond grateful that Snapping Turtle Books took my Y.A. science fiction series, and me, on for the long haul.

My other recommendation for trying to write, deal with family and real life stuff, when every muscle in your body feels like it’s on fire, and you could sleep for a week, except if you did, you’d only wake up tired, and you’d be even more behind: Laughter. It’s easy to do the “Oh poor me, I’m in pain” routine. It’s a lot better to find something to laugh at. Hunt down some old Damn You Autocorrect entries, or Texts From Dog, like this one; laugh and get back to work.


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  1. Kat Kimbriel

    And this is why so many of us keep going–and so many of us don’t bother to give a bunch of details.

    We who deal with chronic issues know we are legion. The idea that we are the third most populated country in the world is staggering.

    Laughter helps a great deal. Also cute animal pictures, for those of us currently Not Owned By Critters.

    Thank you for the encouragement, Sharyn Lilley. It’s been a long dry spell here, between health and Maslow’s Pyramid being jumbled.

    Write on! (Wish I had a critter-corralling suggestion.)

    1. Sharyn Lilley

      Thank you. It really is an astonishing realisation, but it makes sense once we think about how many conditions we have identified in the last 100 years and can maintain life for.

  2. Jo

    You are a Treasure.

    And not the kind you bury on a desert island either, but the kind you keep out for everyday use, and polish with a soft cloth to bring out the shine.

    I know, dodgy analogy.


    1. Sharyn Lilley

      Brasso does an amazing job 🙂

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