Janet Black: Using personal pain to bring comfort to others > Forward From 50
Janet Black has lived “all over,” but spent much of her time growing up in California. She moved to North Carolina eight years ago. She is married with two sons, two stepsons and a stepdaughter as well as three grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.
Before turning 50, it took her quite some time to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Ultimately, she combined her love for science with her desire to help others and became a nurse practitioner.
“I have like 12 years of college, majoring in everything from art to zoology,” she explained. “Eventually, I decided to become a nurse midwife. However, I soon realized that I can’t sleep during the daytime, and babies don’t often cooperate by being born during daylight hours. So, I opted to become a family nurse practitioner instead.”
She really enjoyed interacting with patients and helping them with health-related questions. Unfortunately, she developed fibromyalgia, a medical condition which causes increased pain throughout her body and can also result in cognitive issues and sleep problems.
“I was having problems with what is called “fibro fog” to the point I couldn’t remember things,” Janet explained. “I was concerned I could make a mistake that would wind up hurting a patient, so I decided to quit.”
A dark period
After deciding to step away from nursing, Janet sat around feeling depressed for several years. She had been approved for Social Security disability payments on her first try, so she had some money coming in every month. The fact she had qualified for disability assistance right away also worked to cause depression by making her realize how bad her condition really was.
Janet had written a book several years earlier to help teens and tweens who were victims of sexual abuse.
“There really wasn’t anything out there in the way of books to help teenagers recover from sexual abuse. There was a lot of material for adults and a few resources for young children, but nothing for teens. So, I wrote one,” she explained.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to find a traditional publisher willing to accept the manuscript, so she tucked it away in a drawer and forgot about it.
One day, while ruminating about her fate, Janet remembered what she had written and pulled it out of her files. Once again, she felt called to publish the manuscript into a book. However, this time, self-publishing had become more commonplace.
“I realized there was a wealth of information in that book that could really help teenagers out of a dark period in their lives,” she said. “After it was published, I thought, well, that was fun. Then I started exploring what else I could write about.”
Her next book helped friends and family of fibromyalgia patients better understand the pain they were experiencing. Then she added books about environmental toxins and weight loss. She’s also working on a book about breast cancer.
“My husband also likes to write, so we collaborated on a fictional book that conveys the story of a homeless man who decided to change his situation and works his way out of that lifestyle,” said Janet.
Without any formal training in publishing, Janet figured out the steps she needed to take out on her own.
“I just read a lot and, using the tools I had, determined what needed to be done to advance the projects forward,” she explained. “It was so much better than traveling the traditional book publishing route.”
Not only is it hard to get publishing firms to even talk to an unpublished author, most of the time the companies require writers to be represented by agents. Those folks usually require cash up front and/or a revenue sharing agreement to try selling a book project to a publishing house.
“Even with traditional publishers, writers still have to do some marketing, and I’m not very good at that,” said Janet. “I would probably sell a lot more books if I took time to effectively market the ones I published.
“But, I would rather just write them and put them out there for people to find when they are looking for information on a topic,” she added. “My strategy works because I hear from readers all the time about how much they have appreciated one of my books and how much it is helped them.”
Janet has the artistic skills to design her own book covers, and her husband helps by editing the books to ensure the information is organized properly without spelling or grammatical errors. The couple did hire a professional editor to review the book they wrote together. However, they have a good working relationship to support each other’s endeavors.
Something from nothing
Janet’s husband actually worked on a book for eight years, but never had the motivation to finish it until she published her own books.
“He had five chapters written, but just needed encouragement to complete his book,” she explained. “I stepped in to help him develop some characters and work on backstories involving them.”
For Janet, it feels really good to have created something from nothing, especially when that book helps someone else.
“I have to do something with my creative energy because I can’t just sit around all day and do nothing,” she explained. “I have helped by volunteering for different projects in the past, but it just feels even better to know that something I wrote is actually helping educate people about a topic I’m interested in writing about.”
At the very least, readers realize they are not alone in dealing with their problem,” she added. “They are empowered to by knowing someone else struggled with the same problem, and they are encouraged by just hearing their stories.”
Janet wasn’t always a writer. In fact, she hated writing when she was younger.
“When I was 15, if you had told me that I would be an author someday, I would not have believed you,” she explained. “I hated writing school papers with a passion.”
That changed when Janet discovered something to passionately write about — science.
“When I had to write answers to questions related to science, that was the first time I was praised for my writing ability because I really knew what I was talking about and could express it well,” she explained.
“One of my talents is being able to take scientific and medical information and simplify it so that ordinary people can understand the subject,” she added. “Many patients told me that when I explained something, it was the first time they really ever understood it.”
One of her readers told her that after giving her father her book on fibromyalgia, he said his eyes were opened to her condition in a way he never understood before. Even people who work with homeless individuals commended her for the realistic tone of that book. If it was true to life, that’s because her husband experienced homelessness first-hand many years earlier and he wrote from the pain of his experience.
Janet’s first book was about sexual abuse, which she personally experienced while growing up. Her book came out of her own healing process. Not only was she encourage to write about her experience, but she had also addressed it in public forums.
“Just being able to get the story out of your heart can really help you get over your hurt,” she explained.
In fact, the process helped Janet heal to the point she is even able to work with perpetrators without it conjuring up horrible memories of being abused herself.
“That’s why it is beneficial to share with other people what you have struggled with in your life,” she said. “If you can heal from the experience, whatever it is, other people can heal from it, too.”
When people she knew learned of her plans to write a book on sexual abuse, they were relatively supportive.
“Before I decided to publish my first book, I had been doing nothing at all. So, I guess they saw me trying to do something and, at that point, attempting anything was a step in the right direction.”
Making an impact
Becoming an author really helped Janet to feel productive and she no longer harbors feelings of depression brought on by a lack of purpose. For a while, she contemplated offering coaching or counseling for people, but decided against it.
“Coaching people means scheduling meeting times and I decided that’s not my area of giftedness,” said Janet. “I would rather just write when I feel like it and do other things when I’m not writing.”
Janet may not make a lot of money writing books, but that’s not the point of her purpose. She doesn’t write to get rich, but rather to find fulfillment in her heart and to share her research or personal stories knowing it will impact someone else in a better way.
“I’m not going to starve because nobody buys one of my books. I do have some income from a pension, Social Security and my husband. So, we live comfortably,” she explained.
For fun, Janet likes to sing and play guitar as well as dabble in arts and crafts. She’s a voracious reader who loves all types of books. She also enjoys music and spending time with animals. She has five rescue dogs, three guinea pigs and a few chickens, so Janet is even putting her early interest in zoology to work in her 70s.
Money has never been a big motivator in Janet’s life, even when she was a nurse practitioner. She remembers how frustrated doctors were because they wanted to make more money by treating patients, but Janet simply wanted to help them through whatever problem they were facing.
“Some doctors would insult me by saying that I think like a nurse,” she explained. “But I thought that was a good thing because it meant I cared more for people than I did about profit.”
Janet remembers a physician in one training program saying that he liked working with nurse practitioner students more than medical students because the nurses had a stronger inclination to help patients. Doctors seemed interested in challenges involved with medicine, but more about income potential.
Even a mastermind group Janet joined a few years ago encouraged her to develop more ways to make money from things she wrote, but she realized that’s not what she was meant to do. She was a writer and if she had another way to pay her bills, Janet wanted to pursue writing to give her life purpose.
More adventures to come
Once the COVID issue completely ends, Janet and her husband want to do more traveling and, ultimately, visit Europe. Her father was Scottish, her mother was Welsh and her brother lives in Spain. Janet’s husband has roots in Denmark, so they’d like to visit there as well to learn about their heritage.
Who knows, another book or two could emerge from that trip. Even if Janet doesn’t write about the experience, she is motivated to remain active.
“Retirement doesn’t mean you just quit doing things. It means you identify different things you would rather do instead of what you did for a living,” she explained. “It is a time to really open up and explore your opportunities.
“If you have some income, when you’re retired you certainly have plenty of time. Retirement is the ideal time to engage in things you’ve wanted to do for years, but kept pushing to the side,” she added.
Janet hopes people recognize her life revolves around caring for others by trying to make their lives better and by helping improve their health. Today, Janet is in her 70s and still feels called to research and write about topics she’s especially interested in learning about herself. She is currently using her own experience of having breast cancer to write a book she plans to publish in 2022.
“I only have so much time left in my life and I really want to enjoy it,” she explained. “I figure that I’m going to live well into my 90s, but in order to do that, I have to enjoy life and not get stressed out about things.”
Janet’s books are available on Amazon.com:
Originally published at https://www.forwardfrom50.com on November 7, 2021.