Annndddd she’s back! The absolutely awesomely, amusing Cass Alexander has given up yet more of her time to guest post again. Check out this post and if you missed her last one, shame on you! Go read it here. (after you finish THIS post!)
Writing, You’ll Be the Death of Me
by Cass Alexander
In June of 2016, I made the decision I was finally going to write “that book” I’d wanted to write for the past few years.
My family had just moved from Charleston, S.C. to the Midwest, and I decided I would not look for a teaching job. I had the luxury of time and it was a now or never feeling I was experiencing.
Little did I know, that decision could have had catastrophic consequences—and I’m not talking about the mockery and ridicule I could get from writing a piece of crap. I’m talking a Cass-is-no-longer-with-us euphemism being thrown out because she’s dead.
It never entered my little brain that sitting and writing for hours on end could possibly be bad for me. I’m a super-active person. I rarely sit for long. I exercise daily, I eat right … most of the time. I do have a mild problem with dark chocolate. And wine. Wait, does wine count? Asking for a friend.
I assumed if I ran 4 miles in the morning, then sat for an hour or two, they cancelled each other out. Sounds logical, right? Yeah, not so much. I found out the hard way. Like, the truly horrendous, worst-case-scenario, way.
When I first started book one, I was also unpacking and getting my house in order. I fell into a routine of writing an hour here and there, off and on for about three months. I really wasn’t sitting for very long. Writing was sort of a break from real life. It was quite nice.
I published in September, took a short break from writing, and went back to it after the holidays. This time, I was conscious of finishing faster. I forced myself to write in lengthy increments. It was easier for me to find five hours on a Tuesday than an hour each weekday.
I was still active, still working out, but also more dedicated to writing. I wanted to get that second book out so I could write the third. I finished that sucker in five weeks. It was heady producing a book that fast and I thought, Hey, I could crank out 10 books a year at this pace.
I immediately started writing the third book. This one was a little longer than book two, and I gave myself a 6-8-week timeline to finish it. It was totally doable. Then March 27th rolled around and I was knocked on my ass. My world was drastically altered and I was thrust into a life-threatening situation.
I noticed something was wrong when I was stretching after a run. My left leg felt swollen. I stood in front of a mirror and could see there was a difference between my two legs. It was also darker. I wasn’t in pain, but I had an issue when I ran the day before that felt like the nerve pain you get from sciatica in your lower back and down your hip into your leg. It was not sciatica.
That morning, I ended up in the ER. I woke up and couldn’t walk. My hubs was at work and not answering his phone. I had to call a friend to come to get my kids. She sent her husband, who happens to be an EMT. After crawling to the door when he arrived, he took one look at me and told me he was taking me to the hospital.
When we arrived, the nurses saw my leg, which was now purple and swollen, and immediately had me in a wheelchair and with a doctor. I knew something was really wrong at that point, but nobody said what it was. The doctor put his hand on my leg, looked me in the eye, and said, “Call someone to be here for you. You’re not leaving.”
Cue the record scratch. Ever? I thought but didn’t have the balls to say aloud. I didn’t want the answer to that. Every person who touched me had an inkling of what my body was doing, but couldn’t say until it was confirmed. Instead, lots of loving nurses, doctors, and technicians continuously told me, “I’m so glad you’re here.” I thought they meant in the ER. I’m starting to think they meant, here on Earth. Alive.
After a CAT scan and an ultrasound, I was informed I had a blood clot so big they initially thought I had a tumor. It was 30-cm-long, spanning from the base of my spine down into my leg—the same path the sciatic nerve takes. I would have to have a surgical procedure to try to remove it and they were prepping the room.
At this point, I was handling it fine. I was in total denial of the seriousness of it. Then the doctor had to burst my little bubble. He told me I was lucky I came in, that I was in a dangerous situation, that the clot was inside my iliac, which leads directly to my heart. If any of it broke loose, I’d be in trouble.
They needed to act before that happened or else risk cardiac arrest or a pulmonary embolism, or several other things that could kill me. I just stared at him. Then things got kind of weird.
I was only 39 and in good shape. He started asking me questions so he could get clues as to the cause. Blood clots are no joke and if I was doing something to encourage limited blood flow, he needed to know.
He started peppering me with questions, such as: “Have you been on a long flight? Long car ride? Do you live a sedentary lifestyle?”
“No to all of the above.”
Then he asked, “Do you ever sit for longer than an hour at a time?”
“Why?” he asked.
I hesitated. Why, indeed. What could I say? That I write funny, foul-mouthed, sexually explicit, naughty books? It’s not something I wanted to say in front of two doctors and a nurse. Remember, I use a pen name. So, I told him I work from home and sometimes I have to sit at my computer for a couple of hours. Yes that sounded way better than, “I write Mommy porn.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “Sitting slows that flow. You can’t do it anymore.”
While that news sucked and would interfere with my writing flow (pun intended, y’all!), I didn’t care. I could probably prevent this from happening again. I was more upset that sitting and typing for so long could have been the root cause. I know it’s not great to sit around, but I didn’t know it could kill me.
Weeks later, after lab work, I found out I had a gene mutation (on the MTHFR gene) that probably exacerbated the issue and helped the clot along. I started researching that little MoTHer F-eR gene and the list of issues it causes was mind-boggling. Google it if you want to scare the shit out of yourself and not sleep this week.
Something I found out that made me thick of all the writers out there in the world, sitting for hours on end, is that an estimated 40-60% of the population carries a mutation on the MTHFR gene – and most don’t know it. While the list of issues the mutation can cause is scary, the one I pay attention to is the clotting risk. I now have to keep an eye on the clock and not sit for too long.
This means that the third book didn’t get finished until June. And my plans for the next two books got shelved. I’m just now getting back into things.
Everyone knows being a couch potato is bad for your health. But do writers know that sitting and cranking out pages for hours on end, without getting up to walk around, is dangerous? I knew it wasn’t “healthy,” but I had no idea the level of risk involved. I’ve gotten up twice since writing this. Did you get up while reading it? No? Time to get your ass moving, Universe.
Working For It, Book 2 of The Persimmon Series
by Cass Alexander
College senior Jen Dixon wants one thing out of life. To get the hell out of the Midwest. She has big plans for her future and nothing will get in her way. Not her crazy mother, not her ex, not even the sexy object of her desires, Scott Kalite. She’s not interested in being tied down in any way other than in the literal sense.
Scott’s been waiting three years to make his move. In his mind, Jen’s already his and always has been. Now he just has to convince her that he’s right.
Working For It is Book 2 of The Persimmon Series, but it can be read as a standalone.
Connect with Cass
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For more thoughts on being a Healthy writer – check out my article Healthy Body, Healthy Brain
Well I don’t know about you, but that scared the heck out of me! As writers, we are all guilty of spending too much time on our ass. Big thanks to Cass for letting us know the dangers.
As always please leave comments for Cass below and share the love, click on her links to get to know this lass.
Want to be a guest poster, or just want to drop me a hi? Reach out. Feeling shy? Don’t know what to say? Here’s an ice-breaker question for you to answer: if you were suddenly invited to a fancy dress party…what would your costume be?