Wednesday 2 April 2014

Being A Disabled Writer - The Creative Process

Being a disabled writer

I don't really talk much about being disabled in regards to my writing. I have done some posts on having a chronic illness (found here and here) as well as having chronic pain (found here). It's not that I don't like to talk about it, just that I write a lot of pieces and don't want to be seen as going on about the fact that I am also disabled.

There is a lot of negativity surrounding disability in the media. Whether it's books, TV shows or films, usually the disabled person is either a minor character or they're the villain, turned bad when their life was destroyed because of an accident/illness that caused them to become disabled. There's a big need for disabled characters who are shown not just in a positive light, but in a general every day one. Disabled people exist and children and young people facing any kind of disability need to be able to find themselves in fiction. They also need to know that just because you're disabled, doesn't mean that you will rot away in a cupboard somewhere and never amount to anything. We need to remove the stigma of disability and show people that we are just as normal as everyone else. We just have additional needs.

I know that in the chronic illness community, there is a lot of talk about how you shouldn't let your condition "define" you, that you should overcome them and be who you are in spite of it. While that is true, there is also nothing wrong with identifying as disabled and not hiding it from people. As you all know, I have several chronic conditions and all of them effect my life, from the amount of sleep I get to the level of pain I am in, and while I do not think that I am my disease, I also see nothing wrong with saying that I am a disabled person; a writer, a student, an amateur musician, but also disabled.

In my uni courses I have done a lot of reading about what makes up a person's self identity. My last course had a whole section on it and the one I am doing right now does as well. I choose to see myself as disabled, but that doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. We should be removing the taboo from the word and we should be allowed to be proud of both what we've accomplished in life - as a student or a singer or a doctor or whatever - but also not be scared to add the words "I'm disabled" into any of that.

I have written a handful of disabled characters, some as main ones and others as minor characters. I have included disabilities that affect mobility as well as other conditions, such as blindness or mental illness. These are all things that affect everyday people and sometimes just looking at a person will not tell you that they are disabled. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to identify as having a disability, but the opposite it true as well. There are writer's in the Young Adult genre such as John Green, who have written disabled characters and written them well. However, for the number of people affected by a chronic illness or disability in the UK alone (over 11 million according to the Fair Treatment at Work survey in 2008), there are surprisingly few disabled characters in young adult or even adult fiction and those who are often have their disabilities hidden or erased. For example, as great as The Hunger Games books are, it's very easy to forget that Peeta has a prosthetic leg after the first book and it's not even mentioned in the movies.

So yes, I am both chronically ill and disabled. I'm not ashamed of it and while at times, I wish for some aspects of my life to be different (who doesn't?), I'm not going to deny it either. I am proud to say that along with being a published author, I am also living with a disability, there's nothing wrong with that.

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