Writing and Talking With a Lyme Brain is Hard Work. Ask Amy Tan & Rebecca Wells.

This week I’ve been spending my time making changes to the e-book version of Cooley & Rose and working on a format for a paperback version.images

While doing this, I struggled with my Lyme brain where years ago babesia bacteria took up residence, wreaking neurological havoc in so many ways, especially on my ability to recall words. This is a challenge for a writer. Amy Tan and Rebecca Wells have written about their experiences. When Wells created Ya-Ya in Bloom, the sequel to The Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, she had already developed advance neurological damage. 1103_rd_tick

My brain was already frazzled by the time I started working on the novel-version of Cooley and Rose. Still, I pushed on and finished that, then wrote The Wyatt Sisters Songs of Sorrow, a story that is even more complex than the one that I’m hawking these days.

People say, “Oh, everyone forget words now and then.” True, but I will give you two brief examples of what happens with a Lyme brain.

Yesterday I was telling my husband about my new cell phone and all the tricks it could do and how I carried the instruction book around to read whenever I had to wait somewhere, like the drive-thru at the bank or a doctor’s office. He cocked his head and squinted his eyes and said, “You have a clock that does all that?” Years ago, I would have accused him of losing his hearing, but now I know better. Even though my brain thinks one word, often another comes out. This happens everyday. Unless I can’t find any semblance to the word I want. Then I just shut up. And sometimes he’s grateful for that.

A couple of days ago I came across “squawling babies” in Cooley & Rose and decided to look up the word “squawling” but could not find it. Then my mind told me to look up “squalling,” hoping it had a secondary or tertiary definition that would fit my meaning. I had no luck there with that either. Then I started going through the alphabet, and when I came to “B”, I stopped. “Brawling babies,” I said and imagined two little diapered fatties, lying on their backs, flinging their arms and kicking their legs. I was wrong again, but the strain of thinking was exhausting me. And then the word came. “Bawling.” It was the right word although a bit bland. I had to jot it down, because my brain kept insisting on returning to “brawling.” DSCN0143

With this path of thought written down on paper, it came to me that somewhere in my mind, the words “squealing” and “bawling” had merged to become “squawling.” Now, after having taken care of my corrections, I wished I’d stayed with the original because even though it’s not a legit word, it seems more expressive than “bawling.”

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Writing and Talking With a Lyme Brain is Hard Work. Ask Amy Tan & Rebecca Wells.

  1. cbonney

    Real or not, “squawling” is a word I’d have used without guilt. It’s a perfect mix of squawking and bawling and describes exactly the sound you were after. I had no idea Lyme disease had that kind of impact. I use words out of context and mix metaphors all the time, but have no clinical excuse. My wife is famous of having once described someone as having “a mind like a steel rabbit.” Maybe I should ask her to have some bloodwork done?

  2. Terry Perrel Post author

    I regret changing it. I also changed “swolled” which I know is a regional word for pregnant.
    Thanks for letting me know that not all of my synapses are fried. But let me know when I’ve goofed up!

    1. Janet

      Hey, Terry, you know I love a good word brawl. “Squalling” or “squall” appears in every dictionary I know of. I’ve used it myself. It’s perfect; you’re right! Didn’t know Lyme caused such mayhem. You’re soaring over it, though. Anybody who fidgets with words the way you do in the hope of getting things exactly right is tops in my book.

  3. Q.

    I’ve used the word “squall” many times, but often get it mixed up with squawk (love both words, so expressive!) “Lyme Brain” is something that really does sound like “MY aging brain”. Still eagerly waiting to read the book! Kathy

    1. Terry Perrel Post author

      Everyone is divided between the two. I tossed my OED last year. I need to go to the library. The other dictionaries here and the Internet are not reliable. I still have the opportunity to change it in the paperback.


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