Featured Writer on Wellness: Linda K. Sienkiewicz

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on October 8, 2015 • views: 1352

LindaKSienkiewicz 2People laugh when I say writing is hard on your body.

They imagine me a sitting comfortably in a chair all day long, but that’s precisely the problem.

I don’t want to die like the French novelist, Honoré de Balzac. He was plagued with health problems because he often spend over 15 hours at a time at his desk, writing and chugging coffee, for years. He died in 1850, five months after he married at the age of 51.

Sitting is bad for your heart.

I make sure to get my body moving every hour or so. I drink a lot of water, and that forces me to at least get up to use the bathroom. I stand whenever possible when I write, too. I set my laptop on a step stool on the kitchen table, or on a Rice Krispies box on the counter.

my shelf 2Sometimes I sit on an exercise ball instead of my chair. I also built a laptop shelf out of cardboard for my recumbent bicycle so I can pedal and write. I get some of my best ideas when I’m on the biking or walking my dog.

I have issues with carpal tunnel, but it’s manageable as long as I wear wrist splints every single time I’m at the keyboard.

Linda wrist splint 2It’s mostly a problem when the writing gets difficult and I decide to clean out a closet instead. Then I take the splints off and forget where I put them. I have several pairs scattered all over the house.

I’m not going to get into bifocals and my ongoing attempt to get effective computer glasses.

Those Horrible Negative Voices In My Head!

Pushing my way through a first draft is difficult because the writing seems mediocre at best. It’s not cohesive. There’s no drama, no excitement. The plot is weak.

I become plagued with self doubt. I fear I’m wasting my time, kidding myself when I say I’m a writer, flogging a dead horse. Oh, those horrible negative voices in my head!

It takes faith to believe you’ll be able to massage it into something better later. You know what saves me? The early drafts of my published novel.

They were really really bad.

I’m glad I kept them because looking back at them is reassuring. I also remind myself I can’t rewrite something if it hasn’t been written.

The Darkest Moment: When My Dreams of Publication Seemed Trivial

The second darkest moment in my writing career was when I reached that awful juncture with my then-agent: she asked if I had anything else to show her because my manuscript didn’t sell.

Editors overwhelmingly praised it, but they wanted the next bestseller, not what they call a mid-list novel.

It was a crushing disappointment. I had a few other ideas, but getting motivated to put the same amount of time and energy into something new was a struggle. The fear that it too would languish was hard to shake.

Then, the unthinkable happened—the darkest moment. My eldest child, at age 32, lost the battle to depression and took his own life in 2011.

My dreams of publication, my writing goals, everything seemed trivial. The first year after his death was the hardest, and the second year just seemed cruel.

Linda and her son, Derek.

Linda and her son, Derek.

Derek often called me in the afternoon when I was writing to talk to me about philosophy, mythology, Egyptology, Jim Morrison, travel, whatever. It was impossible to sit at the computer, knowing the phone would never ring with his call again.

So I shut my computer down. I let it all go. I had to trust that the desire to write would return when I was ready. If not, well, that was okay, too. Why push it?

My husband and I adopted an adorable one-year old corgi that needed serious retraining, so what little focus I had was funneled into working with her. She was good for me. Clementine didn’t care if I cried when we went on walks. In essence, she became my therapy dog.

Clementine the Corgi.

Clementine the Corgi.

What If Everything I Wrote Sucked?

There were times I wondered if I could ever write again. What if I only had so many phrases or sentences in my vocabulary that could be put on paper, and they were all used up?

Would I ever feel that familiar thrill when I discovered a new plot twist or character flaw again? What if everything I wrote sucked?

After two years, I decided it was time to find out whether I’d flounder or flourish. Remembering that my son was proud of my prior writing accomplishments convinced me it was okay to have dreams again.

My heart wasn’t in the new work, though. I didn’t want to give up on the manuscript that didn’t sell. What was holding it back? Could I fix it?

I spent a few months revising it, including changing the point of view from a first-person narrative to a first-person/second-person address. Soon that wonderful enthusiasm for writing returned.

I consulted an author/editor for feedback, and she gave me the confidence to go forward. Following her advice, I changed the beginning and picked up the pacing. I retitled the manuscript In the Context of Love, queried a handful of small presses, and, shortly after, Buddhapuss Ink offered me a contract.

When I look back, I believe the agent couldn’t sell the manuscript because it wasn’t ready.

The One Thing That’s Kept You On Your Path

I love the sense of purpose writing gives me when I push the world in a certain direction. It all comes down to the message, whatever that message may be.

As a writer, let me help you make sense of the chaos we call life through my story. Let me lead you to a safer place. Let me entertain you. Let me teach you something new. Let me turn your world upside down, and let me set it right again.

I guess this answer tells you I want to share my work. My goal is to get it published.

Writing also offers me a relatively painless way of learning about other realities by allowing me to vicariously experience things I might not otherwise. Through my writing, I can triumph over adversity, explore a world different from mine, go back in time, and challenge myself. I can fail and then get back up.

Advice for a Beginning Writer

Remember that writing is a process. Dealing with self doubt is a huge issue to writers, and all artists, really. So much of what we do is internal. We plot and plan and have moments of clarity, but we’re never sure it’s good enough.

There are times you fear you’re in over your head, and you don’t know what you’re writing about. This is when you have to trust that you’ll somehow figure it out. If you have a dream, don’t let it go. Don’t let rejections discourage you.

Don’t ever quit.

Life threw a lot of monkey wrenches at me, but I kept at it, and now I have a published novel. Writing is a process— it takes time, desire and determination.

* * *

Linda K. Sienkiewicz, author of In the Context of Love, is a published poet and fiction writer, cynical optimist, fan of corgis, tea drinker, and wine lover from Michigan. Her poetry, short stories, and art have been published in more than fifty literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Clackamas Literary Review, Spoon River, and Permafrost. She received a poetry chapbook award from Bottom Dog Press, and an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Linda lives with her husband in southeast Michigan, where they spoil their grandchildren and then send them back home. In the Context of Love is her debut novel.

For more information on Linda and her writing, please see her website, or connect with on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.


Context-of-Love-CoverIn the Context of Love: Is it ever too late to leave your past—and the secrets that haunt you—behind? Angelica Schirrick wonders how her life could have gotten so far off-track.

With her two children in tow, she leaves her felon husband and begins a journey of self-discovery that leads her back home to Ohio. It pains her to remember the promise her future once held, that time before the disappearance of her first love, and the shattering revelation that derailed her life and divided her parents.

Only when she finally learns to accept the violence of her beginning can she be open to life again, and maybe to a second chance at love.

Available at Amazon.

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Comments (10)

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  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s very hard to pick up the pieces of a shattered life, but I’m glad you were able to do so.

  2. Karen says:

    What a touching story, Linda. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your book intrigues me, just downloaded it through Kindle Unlimited.

  3. Wow, thanks for sharing, Linda. I’m so sorry for your loss of Derek. You are an inspiration for people with heartbreak and struggles and the value and challenge of staying on your true path for all the right reasons. Best of everything for you and your debut novel. How exciting!!
    Clementine is adorable:)
    Kay

  4. Thank you, Colleen, for having me on your wonderful (and informative) blog. I enjoyed answering your questions about health. We writers don’t often think about that important aspect of our work.

    • Colleen says:

      Thank you for sharing your beautiful and heartbreaking story, Linda. Wishing you the best with “In the Context of Love!”

  5. Mariam Kobras says:

    Thank you for this post, Linda. Thank you for sharing your hurt, and your joy in writing with us!