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Imagine waking from a deep and troubling sleep after 15 years to find that everything you once had is gone, but that you’ve been given a rare gift that might help you recapture a few lost years.

That’s the journey I’m taking now with my partner, Kristina Robinson. We married under ominous circumstances, during my twelfth year of daily migraines, when I had lost hope that I would survive. The body — and more importantly, the soul — can survive only so much physical pain. I was unable to work, let alone write. I had no prospects, no plans for the future. Not to be maudlin, but I expected to live out the rest of my short life in quiet desperation.

But when the migraines slowly stopped twisting every waking hour, I found something in my possession that I did not expect: two, fully-formed ideas for novels. The challenge, of course, is actually writing them. With debts piled high, creative writing seemed like a luxury we cannot afford.

And yet, I have been unable to shake the feeling that this is where I am supposed to be. That this is my time to prove myself.

I call myself a freelance writer. I graduated from the University of King’s College in 1990 with a journalism degree, a Governor-General’s Medal, and job writing arts features at a local newspaper. I have a thousand bylines, a national writing award, and nominations for more than a dozen writing awards from various editors with whom I’ve worked.

That — and a loonie — will get you a cup of coffee in 2010. Newspapers and magazines are hurting. The editors who used to take everything I’d write have moved on, or no longer have time for me. But the new media isn’t ready for prime time. Even popular blogs pay so little that it’s almost impossible to cobble together a living, and freelancing feels like dead end. We have enough work to survive, but not to live.

And so, with help from our families, we’ve decided to roll the dice, to find out if I have what it takes to write a book and get it published.

I am not the writer I once was. The years of illness have taken their toll, and my prose is neither as tight nor as pretty as I would wish. But I’m getting better, improving with each month and with the very act of doing. I have a few advantages; my wife is a gifted writer and editor who improves my copy immeasurably. And I have more than 15 years' training in Shotokan karate, so I have the discipline needed to write every day.

I am also lifted with gratitude. I feel blessed by a generous second chance, by opportunity. So I’m praying, like so many, that better days are ahead.

I’m frightened and excited, like the characters in a cracking good yarn from Boy's Own Paper. And that’s just as it ought to be.

Get in touch: richard (at) richardlevangie.com or richard.levangie (at) gmail.com

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