Writing Despite Cerebral Palsy

Writing is a challenge on so many levels. We all know the terrain.  Imagine, then, adding the very ability to type, to capture your words quickly and effortlessly, to the list. Novelist Karina Bartow could write a book about this. In fact, she has, and here she shares her story of courage in overcoming the limits that life throws at us.

Please welcome Karina to Write Despite.

When one starts a writing journey, there are often many obstacles. You wonder if you really have the creativity and skill to get anywhere, and you might struggle with whether or not you have the time and dedication to devote. When I began my first novel in 2008, I contended with all those doubts…plus a disability. 

Born with Cerebral Palsy, I’m limited in various ways, the most inconvenient being my lack of control with motor skills. I say I have one good hand, but it still isn’t a showpiece. Nonetheless, it helps me to have a high-functioning life, especially in my writing. 

When the writing bug bit, my family and I discussed the logistics of me typing out a book. I experimented with speech recognition programs, but my speech doesn’t register well with them. My sister and mom typed little children’s stories I composed when I was a kid, and we threw around the idea of me dictating my thoughts into a recorder.

But I was determined to do this all on my own merit. Plus, I knew my wonderful and well-intentioned mother wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to chime in.

Thus, I set off and began to type with my one good hand. Because of past disappointments, I didn’t set a deadline accepted however long it would take. To my surprise, I finished my first draft within about a year-and-a-half. Nowadays, I can typically complete one in a year or less. 

As with many writers, my writing is a very personal art form, and through it, I release a lot of my own inner battles. So, you might expect I’d rush to write about the challenges inflicted by my handicap, but that wasn’t the case. In my first novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You, the protagonist suffered an accident, so I incorporated a few of my struggles there. 

Still, I resisted leaning in too much, because I didn’t want my disability to define me or my work. 

Then, a mystery novel started to form in my mind. I believed in the plot and all, but I wanted some way to make it my own, mainly because I don’t like mysteries that feature investigation without anything personal. Mulling it over, I saw an opportunity to channel my experiences as a handicapped person striving to defy the odds. 

Hence, my character Minka Avery was born. She’s a deaf detective, who often gets underestimated. Though she has a different kind of disability, I’ve worked in many of the highs and lows I’ve encountered in my efforts to live a normal life despite my differences.  You can meet Minka in Husband in Hiding and Brother of Interest.

Whether your challenges are external or internal, don’t give up on your dreams. As they say, turn your mess into your message. 

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