Don’t let your writing make you dizzy

Word count: 705 words

Reading time: About 3 minutes

A current bout of vertigo has taught me to ask for help when I need it. Does your writing ever make you dizzy?

So there I was, walking down a relatively quiet commercial street early one Saturday morning — aiming to meet a friend for breakfast — when, against my will, I started veering left. “Why am I doing this?” I wondered.

Then, all of a sudden, the world started to spin. And when I say spin, I mean twist, turn, wheel and gyrate. It was like being, suddenly, very drunk. Or like watching a film when the director wants to show the main character is going under anesthetic –- everything shifts out of focus and the lens twirls around a bit before the screen goes black (either that or it morphs into a bizarre dream sequence.)

I stumbled over to the side of the road and grabbed onto a stranger’s car. Then the world started to throb and fade and I knew I was about to faint. The only thing that kept me upright was my saying firmly to myself: “I CANNOT afford to faint right now. I don’t want to hit my head on the car or the sidewalk.” After about 60 seconds, the world righted itself and I continued walking to my breakfast date.

Why was I so calm? I knew I had benign positional vertigo (BPV). While it doesn’t feel the least bit benign, it doesn’t signify a major health problem. It’s an inner ear issue and, from time to time, it makes you feel either nauseated or as though you are stuck on a Disneyland ride from hell, or, both.

I started doing the Eply procedure which is supposed to help fix it. But about five days after the breakfast incident, I returned home from an errand feeling vaguely dizzy and nauseated and then couldn’t find my purse. It was late in the day so I persuaded my kids to help me look for it. We tore the house apart but couldn’t find the purse anywhere. My son even started looking in crazy places like the fridge. Finally, I had to borrow money from my children to be able to buy groceries for dinner. (Embarrassing –- but strangely satisfying!)

When my husband returned home from work, he was upset to hear about my struggle and decided to look for my purse himself. Slowly, methodically, he searched through the entire house and…found it. Mysteriously, I’d dumped the purse behind an exercise ball near his computer. (How weird it that? I don’t even remember being in that part of the house!)

So here’s the thing. Did you notice I called on an entire team of other people to help me find my purse? You sometimes need to do the same for your writing.

I know, most of us hate asking for help. (Believe me, it was only the threat of having to cancel my credit cards that forced me to do it for my purse.) But asking for help when you need it is not only sensible, it’s often necessary.

This week I coached a client who is a brand new reporter. I sat beside him and discovered he was taking days (plural) to write a single 400-word story. A quick chat with his boss changed his former deadline schedule from five stories a week to one story per day. Then the reporter and I started talking through the stories before he wrote them. Then I persuaded him to mindmap each story. Then I pestered him when I noticed he was skipping the mindmapping stage. Then I persuaded his boss to talk to him about the stories before assigning them. As a result of this last change, his boss wound up replacing one of the assignments because, after discussion, he could see the original story idea made no sense.

Win, win and win. Talking before you write is a great way to solidify your thoughts and your approach. You don’t have to talk to someone like me. Chat with a friend, a family member, a colleague. It doesn’t have to take a long time. Even five minutes can make the difference between staring at a blank screen for half an hour and writing so quickly your fingers are flying across the keyboard.

And best of all, you don’t have to have vertigo to do it.

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