Disabled? Differently Abled.

Your job. Your social life. Your kid’s soccer tournament. Only a major overhaul can fix your WIP’s* character arc. And the last story you submitted for publication got a flat rejection. How do you stay motivated to write when the universe is against you?

Two of our members keep writing in spite of challenges. Or maybe because of them?

“My biggest fear is being pigeonholed,” says Paul Martz of Erie, Colorado, who has been effectively blind since 2014. A 2022 Roswell Award winner, Paul serves as the group’s RMFW Spec-Fic Group’s New Member Liaison and Website system Administrator. “I don’t want an editor to think I’m only good for writing blind memoirs. That’s not a problem in my critique group. They treat me like a science fiction writer and help me improve.”

Another member, Bonnie McCune, has a comparable situation, but hers is height. Breaking the yardstick at four feet, ten inches, throughout her life she’s struggled against people’s stereotypes that shorties are less mature, less competent, and, dare we think it?, less attractive. “People literally talk over my head, so discussions leave me out. That’s why I try to have conversations seated at a table.”

Speculative fiction encompasses science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Do any of these speculative genres present challenges to disabled writers? “If I were sighted, it would be much easier for me to watch the latest science fiction film or streaming series, or read the latest print books,” says Paul. “But I write science fiction because it’s not limited by what I can see, only by what I can imagine.”

“My writing always starts with a what-if question. I write in several genres, but the query is the jumping-off point,” Bonnie says. “This can throw content into lots of soul-searching, most of which I have to edit out. Boo-hoo.”

Painful, yes. An ache all writers must accustom themselves to. But a way to grow, both as a person and a writer. Disabled or not, many writers face similar challenges, and the world is a hard place. How can a writer stay motivated when the writing industry seems geared toward rejection for writers with disabilities?

“Present yourself as a writer first,” Paul says. “If your disability isn’t an issue for you, people will see that and respond accordingly.”

“Remember ALL writers get rejected,” says Bonnie. “It’s part of the process. Keep in mind if you never try to get published, the answer to you is always NO.”

How does experience influence writing? “Blind stereotypes are easy to spot, and I try to steer critique partners away from them,” says Paul. “I’m planning my first novel at the moment, and the setting is a technology-dependent world where technology has become too complex to maintain. It’s based on real experiences I’ve had with the assistive technology tools that are supposed to make smartphones and websites usable by the vision impaired.”

Bonnie thinks back. “A writer friend of mine always reminds me, ‘Everything is material.’” Whether you have a disability, a friend with one, or simply are interested in writing from that perspective, you may find your creativity enhanced by that point of view. “I think I incorporate unexpected points of view because my physical world consists of that,” she adds.

Writing is one area in life, one skill, in which the playing field becomes leveled. Writers are evaluated ultimately by their writing. An incentive, an energizer, to keep on keeping on.

—by Paul Martz & Bonnie McCune

1 thought on “Disabled? Differently Abled.”

  1. My disability is invisible. I have a 40% hearing loss in one ear. I joke that since it’s my right, when I’m driving I can’t hear my husband telling me what to do. 😉 But I find it difficult to understand videos that don’t offer closed captions, even if I’m wearing headphones and have the volume up. There are certain frequencies that I simply can’t hear. My hearing aid helps, but I can’t wear it with headphones. I also have tinnitus, and have to put it out of my mind or it would be a source of constant frustration. Few things make it go away.


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