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Opportunity in Adversity: A Personal Note October 9, 2010

Posted by rwf1954 in alternative medicine, books, books into movies, chiropractors, historical fiction, laryngitis, movies, movies based on books, paresis of the vocal cords, Richard the Lionheart, the crusades, third crusade.
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I called this blog “creativeeccentric.com.” I have devoted most of it to posts about issues related to my recently published novel, The Swords of Faith. But when I got started, I knew I would want to use this channel of communication for more than just discussing my novel. I am truly a “creative eccentric.” I have interests in many areas, and I have not hesitated to go where those interests lead me.

This year was set to be a year of three major projects. The Swords of Faith, my novel about the clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, was set for publication. The book, of course, was already written and editing basically complete. (The sequel, The Sultan and the Khan, was also on its way to completion and will be completed by the end of the year.) So there was time to pursue other interests.

The second of the major projects is another writing project, this one written in collaboration with my friend, chiropractor Dr. Alan Fluger. This is a novel, Dying to Heal, revolving around about the combination of conventional and alternative medicine. We expect to have this book out by the end of the year. Dr. Fluger will carry the publicity ball on that one. (But have no doubts—I am proud of my work on that book, and believe it has some timely things to say about health care, a hot issue in our society right now.)

On a very different creative track, I rediscovered my love of creating music. Back in 1977, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue the music dream. My creative focus drifted to writing, but recently, after performing a duet with my daughter at my brother’s wedding, I rediscovered just how much I love this creative activity. I started putting together a viable performance package—a drum-bass machine backing me up as I sang with a stage piano. I also discovered a love for covers I never had when I was younger. I mastered five sets of a total of over fifty songs, about a third original, the rest covers. (There are one minute clips of eleven of these songs at my website). So here was the third project. This would be the year I would start performing my music again. No, I am not expecting to play in arenas or sell millions of CDs. But baby-boomers are coming to retirement (my generation). They/we will have more leisure time, and hopefully a reasonable amount of disposable income. They will want to hear their music live. True, artists of that generation are performing, but at high prices, in difficult venues and on infrequent occasions. I will come in with familiar songs, as well as some new songs in a familiar style, at easy-to-access venues and affordable prices.

The first half of the year went along with me pushing hard on all three of these projects: knee-deep in publicity for the July 4th publication of The Swords of Faith, finishing up Dying to Heal, and starting out my music performances with seventeen hours at the San Fernando Valley Fair in mid June, anticipating there would be more performances ahead. The second half of the year started with a focus in July on getting The Swords of Faith launched effectively. By August, I was ready to get back out to some more performance venues. The first week of August, a sore throat hit. It developed quickly into laryngitis. And the laryngitis just plain hasn’t left. I can barely speak, much less carry a tune. Music would have to wait again.

At this point, I have completed three different courses of antibiotic treatment, and other medications. The last week of September, I had a CT scan of my throat and sinuses, and a chest x-ray. The diagnosis is a paresis/ partial paralysis, of a nerve running along the side of my left vocal cord. Basically, that means the left side of my vocal cords doesn’t work, so the right side has to work extra hard to get any sound to come out of my voice. This was probably brought on by a virus. The scans and x-rays ruled out cancer, and other more exotic (no one wants “exotic” in this situation) conditions. But the doctor is saying this could go on for six months. (And that didn’t sound like any certain time frame.) That puts a crimp in the music ambitions, and hampers my ability to get on the phone or participate in other activities that involve using my voice to sell books. That is a little unwelcome, unanticipated adversity.

Let me add right away that I have been an extremely fortunate person. This is the worst ailment of my adult life. Others of my age have faced much more serious health problems. My healthy, health-conscious brother had a stroke last year (luckily with little permanent damage). My step-nephew’s fiancé, about one-third my age, faces surgery for a brain tumor. So I am not offering this as some kind of tragedy. My voice gets just a little better each day. I expect to recover completely. Unfotunately, the recovery will apparently take some time, and it does put a damper on one third of this year’s planned three-pronged creative campaign.

But, this adversity presents an opportunity. Speaking is difficult right now, with speaking on the phone being the worst. So I cannot be effective using that tool for publicity. What is the opportunity? I am not willing to roll up in a ball and wait this out. Reading and writing are not affected by my condition. I am not really ill. I become fatigued only after extended periods using my voice, especially on the phone. Otherwise, my full energies are available. So what is the opportunity? Focus.

I recently had a brief consultation with a career counselor. I told him all the things I was working on. He told me he suspected I lacked focus. Focus is difficult for me. I love it all so much, and feel I have a contribution to make in so many areas. If I let down in one area, I could be letting down in the one area that will break me through to a large number of people. This weird illness gives me focus. Whether I like it or not, focus has descended upon me.

I do continue to practice my music. I can’t sing, of course. But I have programmed a sixth set of songs (twelve) and five songs of a seventh set. (A complete list of the songs I perform when healthy is at my website.) It sometimes seems a little cruel that someone who loves performing songs would be afflicted with an illness that prevents singing. But I cannot whine about this when there are many others less fortunate than I am, with worse afflictions. I accept and appreciate the gift of focus. I will regain my voice. Until then, there are other places to direct my energies.

Where should the focus go? Into projects that require writing and reading, of course. How can I expand what I am doing now? This blog got the most views when “The Pillars of the Earth” mini-series was running, and I was offering comments about the series, particularly comparing the mini-series to the book. This was an opportunity to expose The Swords of Faith to people interested in period epics. Suppose I did that with all major theatrical releases based on a book? Well, that’s what my new Books Into Movies blog will do. Not book reviews—not movie reviews; a discussion of the comparison between the books and the movies that have been made from them. That blog will launch at about the same time as this post. I will have to step up my reading and writing to make this happen. What a shame, more reading, more writing… not! Poor, poor me… not! (Update – Books-Into-Movies was discontinued at the end of 2010.)

So a little ailment forces focus. I will perform music soon, when this ailment ends. In the meantime, I am grateful to have so many creative outlets—I can simply shift to another during this period. I am also grateful for focus. This will make me stronger!


1. Lisa J. Yarde - October 11, 2010

Richard, first off, best wishes for your improved voice. Sorry to hear you’ve been going through this. Second, the career counselor is definitely wrong. In the brief time I’ve interacted with you, I’ve seen nothing but focus. You were committed to both books and here you are, with one published and the other on the way. You’re obviously a highly creative person; why limit yourself if your talents encourage you in different directions?

rwf1954 - October 11, 2010

Thanks, Lisa. Your comment made my day!

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