Welcome! Lenkaland shares my adventures in creative photography, raising two kids, writing, living with chronic illness, raising a daughter with dyslexia, and swimming with mermaids. Hope you have a nice stay!

Challenges of Writing from a Disability Perspective

So this week, inspiration struck.  Lightning from the blue sky.  And I say, I have no time (true).  And I say I have a thousand projects already (true).  And I say later, please, later . . . Except, we don't know about later.  It could be never.  And this book needs writing.  If I were to fall off the earth tomorrow, not writing this book would be my big creative regret. I rushed into the idea, and then remembered my earlier hurdles when writing fiction.  I have a Masters degree in Creative Writing, a Bachelor's in literature.  I have shared my stories in many workshops and heard common questions and themes in response.  Back then, disability was a far-away word, so I didn't connect their questions to my experiences.

I don't expect everyone to be literature junkies who reads this.  So, in short, there is a Master Narrative in our stories- a big pattern that most books and movies follow.  A hero (or heroine) embarks on a journey and along the way they are tested.  They are usually isolated from help.  Then, through wits and strength and against-all-odds, they defeat the bad guy (or girl) and win the day.

I love this story.  It's Star Wars and Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings.

Now.  My challenges.

Most traditional characters choose their path.  They peek behind the curtain, wish for change, want to join the rebellion.  My characters . . . don't.  Often, something happens to them completely against their wishes and they have to deal with the consequences.  This bothered my critique friends.  What does your character want? they would ask.  How does this story help them get what they want?

In my stories, characters didn't get what they wanted.  They got attacked.  Ruined.  Lost.  And they had to figure out what to do next.  Sound familiar?  How many of us chose this disability path?  Not many, I'm guessing.

I also couldn't make an anchor-character.  This is the farm-boy, or Dorothy, or "regular" person who could interpret all of the crazy happenings around them.  I heard the quote, I write about normal people in extraordinary situations.

I did the opposite.  My main characters were often the ones struggling with a difference, with trying to be understood or accepted. I wrote about extraordinary people trying to fit into ordinary situations (The Goblin Queen).

I also couldn't pitch my characters into various tests that would prove their worth.  My characters would lose.  They would be defeated.  I could never write the "believe in yourself" storyline.

Because I have believed.  And failed.  Even before my diagnosis, as a child, I banged up against the "believe you will catch the ball." "Believe you can hike with us."  "Believe you can walk across the creek by balancing on a fallen log."

I fell a lot.

My characters have a lot of weaknesses.  Which doesn't match expectations.

I remembered all of these obstacles and I almost sighed and gave up.  I'm not sure if I can carry a disability perspective that appeals to everyone.

I know I can't write a traditional story.  It's not me.  I'm the outsider.

I want to celebrate that.  I have to believe that there is room for all of our narratives.  Traditional or non-traditional.

So I'm going to write the story.  And we'll see how it plays out long-term.

I try not to argue with inspiration :)

My Town

My House