I recently experienced vertigo for the first time. What a bizarre thing to feel the earth tip under my feet, or my body spinning out of control. I spent several hours in a fetal position with my eyes clamped shut—when the barest movement of my head would result in dizziness. Even when I felt better, I told my husband, “The boat is docked, but I can tell it’s still on the water.”
Isn’t this what we do to our protagonist? Just when her life seems to be perking along, we disrupt her sense of equilibrium. And when she recovers from one episode, we gleefully send her into a fetal position again. It's in those dark, topsy-turvy moments when she has her deepest realizations.
You’d think I’d be more sympathetic now, wouldn’t you? More compassionate and empathetic? Heck no. If anything, I’m more determined to bring on the waves and hide the motion-sickness meds.
As for my own experience, I remember the wise words of Garrison Keillor: “Bad things don’t happen to writers. It’s all material.”