Writing Through Pain, and Essential “Of Interest” Items

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Thoughts on Writing Fiction From Yer Uncle Harv
* Welcome
* Writing Through Pain
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” Janis Joplin

“The free-lance writer is one who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” Robert Benchley

“I saw an interview with Sir Patrick Stewart who said he finally learned that the character to be played was already inside him. He noted that when he stepped out on the stage he hadn’t a clue as to what was about to happen, but that he trusted his subconscious and knew he’d give the right performance.” Dan Baldwin

“The task of a fiction writer is to immerse her readers into her story. And story is setting. Characters have to be somewhere while they are talking, thinking, and engaging in action.” C.S. Lakin (see “Of Interest”)

Thoughts on Writing Fiction From Yer Uncle Harv

Everyone who’s reading this edition of the Journal should get a cuppa, then relax and enjoy. Dawn Turner’s guest post on “Writing Through Pain” is excellent. And it’s beneficial whether you’re writing through pain or not.

Afterward, bookmark or otherwise spend time reading the items in the “Of Interest” section (or both). Everything listed in it today should be mandatory reading for fiction writers. You won’t regret it.


Welcome to Philip S (Big Philly) on his return and to any other new subscribers or readers of the Journal. I hope you will find it useful.

Philip was away from Substack for awhile kicking the body fluids out of the critical voice that was nagging him. (grin)

Be sure to check out the Archives and other free downloads at the Journal website.

Writing Through Pain

a guest post by Dawn M Turner

Note from Harvey: Although the post was fine as it was, I did reparagraph parts of it so it would present in more bite-sized pieces on the page. Here’s Dawn Turner.

I started having chronic health issues in my early twenties, and they’ve snowballed since then (I’ll be 54 in a few days). Rheumatism, migraines, fibromyalgia, and connective tissue disease are my worst offenders. Needless to say, I’ve done a lot of writing despite/through/with pain. How successfully largely depends on the type of pain and where it’s located.

If it’s in my head, it often muddies my thinking too much. I can usually ignore pain elsewhere in the body well enough, though, as long as it’s not so bad my brain obsesses on it. It can take a bit of time and deep breathing (into the belly, not the chest) to help me get there, but when I can, it allows me to forget the pain for a while.

If all else fails, I write about the pain itself. What it feels like. Where it is. How it hampers my movement, activity, ability to concentrate. How exhausting it is, and how THAT affects my life. What annoys or eases it?

To make it more fun than just listing symptoms or jotting notes, I give a character the same pain. Regardless of whether the cause/source is the same, I pour my symptoms into them.

  • How do they react to it?
  • Do they get as frustrated as I do?
  • For the same or different reasons?
  • Do they want to curl up under the bed and stay there until it passes?
  • Power through it?
  • Try to ignore it?
  • Are they wanting to give up?

It turns into a great outlet as well as a fun writing exercise.

Or create a different writing challenge. Put yourself in the shoes of a character dealing with a loved one suffering with the symptoms you have.

  • Are they annoyed at the inconvenience?
  • Feeling helpless because they can’t fix the situation?
  • Trying to find solutions?
  • How do they deal with the affected character’s response to their attempts to help?

This is actually a great way to step outside the pain for a while but still use the outward way it manifests (limited mobility/activity, for example).

I’ve done this often over the years. Not just with pain. When I can’t sleep, I put myself into the head of a character with insomnia or, conversely, who is exhausted and falls asleep.

Have a head cold? Inflict a character with it and put into words the coughing, sneezing, runny nose mess.

Battling depression or anxiety? Write a character’s experience with it. Maybe even help them overcome it, whether through their thought processes or due to help from another character.

Suffering from a migraine? Have a character describe the knives plunging through their eyeballs with exposure to light, or how every sound feels like crushed glass grating on raw nerves.

Below is an example from when I had a head cold a while back. This is just the first few paragraphs of a larger scene that became a chapter, but it’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

In my case, I ran out of Kleenex. Resorting to paper towels was NOT fun, but I decided not to wallow. I wrote this instead:

Is it truly possible for one person to feel so miserable and not die? I’m pretty sure I’m putting that to the test.

Macy blew her nose for the umpteen-millionth time, grimacing into the rough paper towel.

From now on, I keep a whole roomful of facial tissue, even if it busts my bank account to do it. At least a case of it, in every room, at all times.

If I have to go through it, I might as well make it useful. When I can find a way to smile about it, all the better. At least, that’s what I finally decided when I got really aggravated by pain one day and couldn’t sit at the computer. It basically becomes fodder for stories.


Thank you, Dawn.

Folks, Dawn also creates bead pattern designs. You can see those here.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

The Importance of Crafting Connected Settings Read it, absorb it, and forget it. Your creative subconscious will do the rest.

AI Update: Copyright And Other Things Royalty-free photo site CanStock is closing. All due to AI. And there’s a great deal more. READ THIS.

Canada’s Wattpad Updates Its Paid Program: ‘Originals’ If you use or have thought of using Wattpad, read this, especially PG’s take.

The Flashback: A Greatly Misunderstood Storytelling Device

Troy Lambert talks the writing life and balancing marketing with creativity

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 400

Writing of Blackwell Ops 11: More Jeremy Stiles (novel)

Day 1…… 5214 words. To date…… 5214
Day 2…… 2657 words. To date…… 7871
Day 3…… 2481 words. To date…… 10352
Day 4…… 0923 words. To date…… 11275
Day 5…… 3424 words. To date…… 14699

Fiction for October…………………… 6828
Fiction for 2023………………………… 224370
Fiction since August 1………………… 109783
Nonfiction for October……………… 4450
Nonfiction for the year……………… 202790
Annual consumable words………… 427100

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 4
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 6
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 75
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 234
Short story collections…………………… 31

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Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

14 thoughts on “Writing Through Pain, and Essential “Of Interest” Items”

  1. Talking about writing during illness and so – there’s complete book on it by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (yep, the wife of DWS) – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QMTXVNV?ref_=dbs_m_mng_rwt_calw_tkin_16&storeType=ebooks&qid=1696504727&sr=8-21

    There’s a book on dictation On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer (by Kevin J Andersen and Martin L. Shoemaker) https://www.amazon.com/Being-Dictator-Dictation-Million-Writing-ebook/dp/B0BTSHHC81/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2F9CMLQWNB1RJ&keywords=being+a+dictator&qid=1696504965&sprefix=being+a+dic%2Caps%2C181&sr=8-1

    Ad there’re some of Kevin J Andersons interviews.
    Of course he tells a lot how much does he outline (wink). So I hope to find a famous author who dictates in the dark. And DWS mensioned at 2022 Dan Shamble’s Kickstarter campaign, he has the raw audio files of the entire new book he dictated, untouched.

    And to be exact, the most of ancient literature was dictated. We know conversation of Socrates were recorded by Plato (and some were imitations, written by Plato and his pupils as well, like Republic and Laws). It’s a legend that Muhammad was illiterate so he dictated Quran to his secretary. According to Indian legends, all Buddha’s teachings were dictated after his death to scribes by his pupil Ananda.

    https://sathyanand.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/dictate/ – here is mentioned that Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, John Milton (Paradise Lost), Dostoevsky, Alexander Dumas, Voltaire, Dan Brown, Henry James, Sidney Sheldon, Barbara Cartland and Kevin J.Anderson did it.

    • Thanks, Rikki. The person who requested this post had read Rusch’s book and found it less than useful. But I’ll direct other readers to your comment in tomorrow’s post.

      • I would add to this list Bertrand Russell. He wasn’t a fiction writer, but his “History of European Philosophy” is still used a lot. And he even got a Nobel Prize in Literature at 1950.
        And of course we can check Richard Feynman and pretty much other scientists whose books used by generation of students were just shorthanded or took from records of their lectures.
        Georges Simenon started dictating after cancelling writing fiction. He just ordered a recorder and started doing something like podcasts about his early days. He promised the publisher that he’ll dictate fiction same way, when he’ll learn to use it as easily as a typewriter, and “you can broadcast it by radio, as well”. Sadly, he died after 6 years of dictation and 21 books of auto-fiction.

        Talking about my experience, the only problem with dictation that it’s a skill to be learned. It’s just very unusual for a creative mind that is used to keyboard to produce words so fast and don’t miss depth. And obviously a lot of words will spelled wrong. I tried to use Yandex speech recognition, that should have better Russian. It was about 10% better then Google one.

        So for me dictation should include cycling as well – after a session (typically next morning) you make this blocks readable and add stuff your creative mind says to you. The critical mind can attack you easily.

        I even did a fun experiment – there were a novella a dictated a year ago. I just didn’t touch it’s draft, being afraid that edition will be boring. But no, cycling was fun and after year I understood all mondegreens and fixed them.

        • I definitely agree re cycling.

          The old pulp writer who wrote Perry Mason and so much more dictated to his secretary. He would often hit 10,000 words per day.

          For me and the way I write, dictating is something I don’t personally want to do. I enjoy the feel of the keys under my fingers. That’s part of the joy of writing for me. Also the way my mind works, I often cycle as I’m writing, then do a separate cycling session afterward too.

          • Yep, Erle Stanley Gardner. He was very popular in USSR (for a reason, he was published a lot). Even not being, like Samuel Dashiell Hammett, a member of Communist Party of USA.
            And he never cancelled his day job, as I know.

          • I’m the same way about dictation. I took dictation when I still worked as a secretary years ago, so I thought GIVING dictation would work for me. I mean, I already knew how to transcribe from dictation, so I could “write” while driving and doing all sorts of things then put it in the computer when I got back to it. Abject fail. I hated it. Found my creativity stifled instead of enhanced, not to mention I dreaded having to type all of that in. (I should’ve expected that, as taking dictation was one part of my old job I never liked.) Went back to the old keyboard. Definitely works much better for me.

          • Yeah, I don’t have anything against dictation and certainly not if someone else wants to use it, but I need the feel of the keys. I often think of my characters as being like anyone else except they don’t have fingers or fingertips. I’m happy to lend them mine in exchange for being the first to hear their stories.

  2. This is an excellent post. I was recently diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis and while (thankfully) the pain hasn’t been too bad yet, I can definitely relate to battling through pain to write. I’ve written a story with a character who has IBD (though he had Crohn’s, not UC) and it was a nice change of pace from what I usually write.

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