Last Friday, I hurt my knee. At the time I didn't know how bad it was—it had buckled a little Friday morning but I was able to get around without much pain, and since I have some arthritis in my knees, I'm used to a little pain. I got through Saturday without too much trouble as well.
By Sunday morning, however, it was clear that this was more serious than I thought. I could barely put any weight on the leg. The pain was excruciating. The whole joint was tight and swollen. Staying off work Monday, I got my doctor to work me in for an appointment.
As I waited for the appointment time to arrive, I went into my typical "worst case scenario" mode. What if something was broken? They'd have to do surgery and I'd be off work for weeks at a terrible time to be off work. I might even lose my job or something. Panic, panic, panic!
It was a great relief when my doctor reassured me that the knee seemed stable, which made him doubt anything was broken. He suggested staying off the leg for a week, applying moist heat and doing non-weight-bearing exercises. He also prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug to help bring the swelling down and give the knee room to heal.
It's now Friday, and I'm a lot better. The knee still hurts, but I can actually walk again. I think I'll be okay to go back to work on Monday. Crisis averted!
So what does that have to do with Harlequin Intrigues, you ask?
Well, as a writer, when something goes wrong in the book I'm writing, when it's a fine hot mess and I can't see my way out of the muck I've created, it doesn't take much to put me into full bore panic mode. I begin to doubt I'll ever be able to write a book again. I worry that I won't make deadline. I worry that even if I make deadline, it'll be such unmitigated crap that my editor will summarily dismiss me from her list.
But as it was with my knee, the worst case scenario really doesn't happen that often. Most of the time, the problem is a lot more manageable. And sometimes, when you work your way through the mess, you find newer, better solutions to the problems that have nagged you for a while. Now that I see how well my pain and swelling responded to the anti-inflammatory drug the doctor gave me, I'm thinking about asking him to add it to my list of prescription medicines to help alleviate some of my arthritis pain. I might not have discovered that particular solution if I hadn't sprained my knee in the first place.
In the same way, sometimes when we slow down, do the "therapeutic" things we need to do to deal with our writing messes, we learn how not only to fix the existing problem but to avoid other, more nagging problems with our writing. It could be as simple as finding a brainstorming trick to make better use of your planning time. Or finding a really good book that inspires you to think about your writing challenges from a different perspective.
So look at your next problem as a challenge, not a disaster, and see what you can learn from the experience.