As a newly budding writer, (who has written all her life), I have developed quite a sense of loyalty to the writers that I have read over the years. Writers who have created worlds for me, books being portals to walk into after a long day just to feel something different for a little while. As a small child I roamed the forests of Narnia, forged the hollows of the Misty Mountains, even fought alongside the brave children on the planet Camazotz. As I grew into my teens and older, I quickly developed a repertoire of names that I returned to time and time again, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Madeline L’Engle. Over the years I have come to love my writers and the stories they create. The respect that I have for these artists cannot be put into words.
A writer can create an entire universe out of absolutely nothing. Words on paper, lines and symbols communicating to the reader everything that a human being can feel or experience, planets and worlds and other dimensions. This is why it brought me such sadness to learn of the illness of one of my heroes, Sir Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2007.
Pratchett is probably best known for the Discworld Novels in which a rag tag cast of characters live in the city of Ankh Morpork atop a planet shaped like a disk, balanced on the backs of four elephants, standing on the back of a giant turtle, slowly swimming through the universe. He has won multiple awards and accolades including the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, no less than eight honorary doctorates, and a knighthood.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s includes a full mental decline, for which there is no cure. Pratchett has faced the news with bravery, stating early that he plans on taking part in Physician Assisted suicide before loosing his ability to create stories. The form of Alzheimer’s that Pratchett affects the part of his brain that controls motor functions. He has lost the ability to use a touch typing device, but this has not stopped the prolific writer. Terry states in a recent article in The Telegraph, “Fortunately, technology has come to my aid,” describing his current process of dictating his story to a voice-recognition program. The stories are still fresh, and at the time of the article Pratchett has shown minimal signs of decline.
While I am not here to declare my own opinions on Euthanasia, I cannot help but have respect for Pratchett as he fights to raise awareness and funding for dementia research, taking part in several documentaries about assisted suicide. He has stated that he wants to live as fully as he can, until the time that ‘words fail him’, and then he wants to die in a chair on his lawn listening to music, with a brandy in one hand and a deadly cocktail in the other. He has lived his life on his own terms. His wish now is to end it on his terms.
I cannot put myself into his shoes. I cannot imagine being faced with the scenario that he faces. Except to say that I am inspired beyond words. For a very long time I have made so many excuses as to why I am not writing. There isn’t enough time. I need more structure. I should take a creative writing class. I don’t have time to take a creative writing class. I’m too tired at the end of the day to write. I’m too tired to get up in the morning to write… and so it goes. But then I hear about Terry Pratchett and I realize that I have no excuses. Pratchett believes in stories. He understands their importance. I do not pretend to be as talented and prolific as Pratchett, but as a sign of respect to him, I put proverbial pen to paper and make myself write.
Since his diagnosis, Terry Pratchett continues to create new stories and his new novel Dodger is available through Doubleday Children’s Books.