My Questing Helper -- by Jane Kelley

On March 23, shortly after we all began staying safer at home, I began a new novel. I was very excited. It was going to be a great escape for readers––and me. Most importantly, it was going to be FUNNY. After a month of writing, I had reached the middle. I hate the middle of a first draft under normal circumstances. And these days are anything but normal.

Doubts crept in. I tried tricks. I watched a lot of inspirational webinars. I read mentor texts. I changed the plot. I added characters. Nothing was helping. One day I announced to my family that I had fired Jane Kelley from the project. She wasn't pulling her weight. She was, to quote an ancient and reprehensible politician, a nattering nabob of negativity.

My family talked me back from the ledge. But there were certain aspects I couldn't solve. Chief among them was the sinking sense that this project was destined to remain IN THE DRAWER.

But––unbeknownst to me––an odd kind of help was on the way.

I should say that we live at the edge of a woods called Fairy Chasm. A century ago someone thought the children resembled fairies as they ran along the paths. Now wild turkeys and deer gambol there. We love to see them. But one of those deer shed a tick.

Ixodes scapularis --commonly known as the deer tick 
That tick waited in a position known as "questing." Its back legs clung to a branch. Its front legs were outstretched, searching for an animal's body heat. It needed someone to feed on. It found me.

I don't know when. I don't even know where it bit me. All I know is that in mid June, my struggles at my desk abruptly ceased. I had a fever, chills, and a splitting headache. I spent the weekend as a horizontal person––apart from a brief excursion to get a COVID test, which was negative.

When I rejoined the vertical world, I felt a surge of energy. Renewed. Inspired. Ready to get back to work. Amazingly, I read an article in the New York Times that solved the problem of how to end my novel. It was a miracle!

And then, the next day, I noticed an angry red rash on my chest. Hmm. Could I have Lyme disease? My test for that was positive. I was given a prescription for antibiotics. After another day, the rash faded. All symptoms disappeared. But my newfound determination remained.

I joked with a writer friend that my infection had cured my malaise. My brain had been preoccupied with all the reasons why I shouldn't be writing. The fever had burnt away my doubts. After those clouds of smoke had been blown away, there was much more room for creativity.

Believe me, I'm not suggesting that getting sick is the solution. All too often it causes worse problems. Far better to find other ways to clear one's head. Like taking a walk in the woods (wearing long pants and sprayed with tick repellant).

The woods behind our house


  1. so glad you are on the mend and back at writing. Take care, Jane!

  2. The creative process is a weird beast. I’m glad you were able to tame it again, and also that you are feeling better!

  3. The universe works in mysterious ways, no?
    Love that you fired yourself. I may need to keep than as an option in the future :)

  4. Thanks all! Of course having the support of writer friends is a huge help too!

  5. Oh, man--I'm glad you're feeling better!


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