Creative writing: what I’ve learnt so far.

This week was the last of term, which means no more Elements of Fiction. I stopped placing my short stories on the blog as I wasn’t sure which two I’d be submitting for coursework- and if your work is found on the Internet after you have submitted it, you can be ‘done’ for self-plagiarising!

So what did this module teach me?
No one is frowned upon for typos and this is important; creative writing isn’t about being meticulous with spelling and grammar. It’s great if you have an eagle eye for errors but these things aren’t as important as a well-told story.

If you are just starting out in the world of creative writing it is far more important to focus on character building and plot development than it is to make sure your apostrophes are in the right place. So don’t let being a perfectionist slow you down. There’s time for that later!

I have learnt the importance of:

  • Crafting characters
  • Good structure and pacing
  • Knowing your theme and how to portray it
  • Using symbolism
  • Being descriptive but unbiased – show, don’t tell
  • Provoking thoughts and emotions in your reader
  • Writing good dialogue

The Elements of Fiction module has allowed me to experiment with these things along with genre and finding my ‘style’. Each week we provide feedback on each other’s work and then use it to improve our next pieces.

If you are a keen writer and lacking good resources for feedback I encourage you to join a writers group – constructive criticism is vital for a writers development.

I’m going to miss writing a weekly short story for this module but next term I’ll be writing a feature article every week for the Feature Writing module. Our Paths to Publication module has also come to an end and will be replaced by Planning a Novel – the big one!

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So what is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and how does it work?

I have been attending the MS clinic in Aylesbury for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). An NHS approved treatment where you breathe 100% pure oxygen under an increased barometric pressure to improve oxygen saturation. In the oxygen chamber, once you are hitting the max, the air pressure is around 33 feet below sea level. In general, the air we breathe normally contains 21% oxygen and the pressure level around you is dependent how far above sea level your location is. So HBOT provides a dramatic difference.

What are the benefits?
By increasing the pressure around you, oxygen is more effectively carried into the cells of your body. The benefits can include:

  • Reduced levels of fatigue
  • Increased bladder control
  • Reduced tremors and muscle spasms
  • Reduced recovery time for wounds and injuries

For MS patients in particular:
Breathing oxygen under pressure causes the dilated and leaky blood vessels around inflamed MS lesions to constrict back to normal size, and blood vessels draining the area to open up. At the same time more oxygen and stem cells are delivered in the blood stream, increasing the amount available to help the body with repairs.

Who can it help?
There have been more than 2 million hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions in the UK over the last 25 years. It can help patients with Multiple Sclerosis, other patients with disorders of the nervous system such as Lyme disease, athletes looking to half their injury recovery time and patients with wounds that are slow to heal. Oxygen therapy is also increasingly being used for patients recovering from strokes and head or spinal cord injury.

the-chamber-and-an-unexpected-bullseye-mark
Pipe work inside the HBOT Chamber and an unexpected bullseye rash (Lyme related) on my thumb which appeared during my first few sessions.

How is it helping me?
With Lyme disease oxygen therapy is not a cure. It is more of a helping hand. Lyme bacteria is not keen on highly oxygenated environments so by increasing the level of oxygen in my body I am creating a hostile environment for the bad guys. So far I have been waking up more tired and with sore lymph nodes -indicating that my body is trying to remove toxins. So whilst I am yet to feel any better I do know that the therapy is having an effect.

me-in-the-chamber

I have Lyme disease should I give it a go?
As with most treatments, medications and supplements, one thing won’t necessarily work for everyone. Whilst it can be helpful for Lyme patients it is important to note that it’s possible you have co-infections and treatment of any kind is likely to stir up some of the bad guys. One co-infection in particular to watch out for is Babesia. It is said that this bacteria unlike Lyme, thrive in an oxygenated environment. I am unsure as to whether I have this as the symptoms for Lyme and its co-infections often crossover and without a tick borne disease specialist at hand, or the money for testing, I have kind of been winging it.

On my second week of treatment I noticed red spots appearing on my chest –petechia. This can be indicative of Babesia, although I don’t feel much worse than before, I will be talking to my GP about it and can add it to my never ending list of issues.

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What do you ‘do’?
The MS Clinic in Aylesbury suggests a standard programme of five afternoons a week for three weeks at which point, the oxygen in your system should be at maximum saturation. After the third week patients are welcome to visit the clinic as and when they feel a ‘top-up’ is needed.

I have been attending the 2pm sessions so I arrive at about 1.45pm, pop my handbag in the locker and head into the chamber with a book.
The chamber holds up to 5 people. Once the door is closed the volunteer operators start to compress the air. We like to do this slowly as the change in pressure can affect your ears and I have found it to be very painful. 2 x Sudafed about an hour beforehand has helped. It is similar to what you experience upon an aeroplane takeoff, but far more intense. Once the chamber is at the correct pressure, our hour begins. We place our oxygen masks on which can be quite uncomfortable but it gets the job done!

Once the hour is up the pressure is returned to normal, the chamber door can be opened and we go about the rest of our day.

the-chamber-iside-and-out
The HBOT Chamber, inside and out.

How much does it cost?
If you have a diagnosis of MS then treatments at the clinic are a donation of your choice and possibly an annual membership fee. If you have another illness or injury then use of the oxygen chamber at the Aylesbury clinic is £25 per session or you can buy five sessions for £100. This will vary at each clinic.

The Little Room (assignment 3)

This week we read two novels with a heavy focus on location which has prompted the following assignment:

  • You are standing on a train platform. There is a board displaying trains. They are all going to different places. Each of those places is somewhere you have been, or lived, somewhere you remember.
  • List these places. And the people associated with them, that you remember. And the incidents.
  • Describe it from overhead, and from on the ground, in summary, across seasons until you reach the moment of time in which the story is set.
  • Asterix half a dozen. Write a page or two in response to each.

I wrote about a young woman called Rose who is visiting her grandmother’s house but has been asked to stay in the ‘creepy’ room that all elderly relatives have!

Continue reading “The Little Room (assignment 3)”

Don’t Forget Me (assignment 2)

If you read my last post you’ll know that I’m studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel. Each week for our Elements of Fiction module we are set a writing assignment.

Below is the brief we were given for week two:

Write a single paragraph that conveys the appearance and essential nature of a character.
Then…
Write a character sketch that includes a present day frame and flashback to five years before the action.  Anywhere between 1000-1200 words.

I wrote a piece of fiction about Jake, a young man with a longstanding health problem who receives a letter from his past self.

Continue reading “Don’t Forget Me (assignment 2)”

Creative Writing: The Novel

As a part of my MA at Brunel University, we are required to produce a piece of creative writing each week for our module, Elements of Fiction.

Our first assignment was to write 1200 words on an open topic that was voiced by two or more characters who were connected to each other within the story. I decided to explore something within the roman-à-clef genre. This is where a story is based on real people or events but with a change of name or location.

Continue reading “Creative Writing: The Novel”

Untitled

August was a busy month, and it taught me a valuable lesson. As my doctor put it: my battery isn’t the same size as everybody else’s and it’s far less efficient.

low-battery

As per my previous blog post, I had visited Ireland for a wedding and put my best ‘healthy face’ on to enjoy the celebrations. I wasn’t well though and had to visit the pharmacy on the morning of the wedding. Later on in the day back pain arrived, and towards the end of the evening, a fever. But unless I had told you, you wouldn’t know. And this is because like most chronically ill people, I suck it up and keep going till I can’t go anymore.

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Waiting for answers

My MRI was back in June. June 17th to be precise. I was in the machine for 45 minutes whilst my brain and c-spine were being imaged.

Four weeks later I still hadn’t heard anything – I called the neurology secretary but there was no answer. I left a message but no one called back. Eventually around week five I managed to speak with someone.

I was told that my neurologist, busy man that he is, wouldn’t be looking at my results until the first or perhaps second week of August.

I wasn’t to worry because anything troublesome would be flagged and I’d have been contacted immediately.

Here’s the thing: a seven week wait?! Seven weeks? Even after he’s reviewed them I’ll be left waiting for a letter and a follow up appointment.

I have four more scans in the pipeline, a referral to an infectious disease doc and a lumbar puncture on the horizon. If there’s this long a wait in between things it’ll be a good 18 months before I’m receiving any kind of treatment surely?

Continue reading “Waiting for answers”