I started the application process for Social Security Disability today.
For everyone who doesn’t know me that well. I have cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, and I have had it for a while now. It limits the things I can do. Fortunately, I’m a writer, which involves sitting around a lot—and it would be nice also to have a lot more energy to do writing. My job situation has dissolved, and thus I’ve been looking for a new one that can accommodate my needs. As these are few and far between… It seems only responsible that I see if I can get on disability.
While most of my Mary Sue characters happen to also be sick, my best-written characters have amazing strengths. My illness has affected my writing in that I tend to design characters who have strengths to overcome their weaknesses. Vex Harrow may be seemingly crippled by the voices that she hears, but she’s an extremely powerful mage; her obstacles arise directly from the application of her power. Elaine Mercer happens to be somewhat socially inept even if she is brilliant with computers and technology; but she has her friend Frog, who is a social butterfly, to help work her through that.
I’ve never professionally written a character with my disability yet. Possibly because it hits too close to home. Also, when it comes to the audience, it can be a bit of a cheap shot. It creates a false sense of initial intimacy and involves an entire set of coping mechanisms that make the reader feel sorry for the character rather than actually sympathizing with them. Certainly, if I wanted to raise heart failure awareness, I might work out a character with my particularly romantic “rarified constitution,” but I prefer my superheroes somehow “super.”
I need not go into how my kryptonite happens to be walking more than a quarter mile or trying to lift anything heavier than a jug of milk.
Just like Vex I have a talent that arises from my disability—my patience and gentle teasing out of thought from the pliant nature of reality—and like Elaine, I have many, many wonderful and good hearted friends who help me when I’m unable to do things for myself.
I might get on disability, in which case there’ll be a lot more writing for everyone to enjoy; or I might not and instead find a new job, in which case there’ll be fewer projects but they’ll have a better budget.