When today's guest, author Katherine Schneider, offered to write a guest post about a theme I didn't have on my October list, I jumped at the chance. It's Disability Employment Awareness Month, and I asked Katherine to focus on her writing process. Most of us writers, and readers, are primarily visual in our work, but not all writers are. I find her writing process fascinating, and have to say that some of the life lessons she brings up apply to all of us! ~ Sheila
Being Twice as Good
By Katherine Schneider, Ph.D.
October is Disability Employment Awareness month. As a person blind from birth who is retired after a rewarding thirty year career as a clinical psychologist, I'd like to offer this rumination on a situation faced by minority group members whether it is a racial minority, a disability, or some would even say being female.
Growing up, I knew I had to be better than a sighted person to get a job. My parents told me "Don't act blind." In their eyes, overcome your disability, or be a loser seemed to be the only two choices. Statistics of unemployment or underemployment of people with disabilities show two thirds are un- or underemployed.
Simon and Garfunkel's song "I Am a Rock" was my theme song. In middle age, after proving myself to anybody I could find to prove myself to, I began to realize I wanted more. I wanted friends, hobbies, fun, and relaxation (whatever that was). I met some people with disabilities who weren't quite as far out on the prove yourself 24/7 continuum as I was and began to inch toward a more relaxed stance. In retirement, I'm a very active volunteer, but occasionally let myself say "no"! Twice as good has morphed into "as good as I choose to be in this situation."
My writing process involves writing the original manuscript in braille and editing as I type it out on my talking computer. Then I have a sighted person pretty it up, adding formatting like bullets that I’m not confident about. For my children’s book I hired a graphic designer and gave him ideas for each page, but let him do his thing. Then a friend described the pictures and we discussed a few that I questioned.
Negotiating about the image for the book cover is a fascinating process for me. On my first cover there’s a finger reading braille and the cover designer asked what color to make the nail polish on the fingernail. I hadn’t even considered that angle: a color to attract attention? A color that I might wear? (I don’t wear polish)! Check out To the Left of Inspiration cover to find out how that was resolved! The process of describing images I want really clarifies points in the text for me too I find. Asking for help to achieve results satisfying to my sighted customers is another way I achieve “good enough” without going crazy worrying about it.
Question for reflection: Where in your life do you feel you have to be twice as good and how do you cope with it without going crazy?
Excerpted and expanded from my forthcoming memoir: Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life.
Katherine Schneider, Ph.D. is a retired clinical psychologist and author of a memoir To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities and a children’s book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold. In addition to writing and disability activism in retirement, she enjoys playing bridge and reading thrillers. She’s proud to have been partnered with Seeing Eye dogs for forty years.
Here's Kathy and her beautiful guidedog, Luna