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A Summary of

Writing a Novel Through Illness: On the Inseparability of Body and Mind

by
Cai Emmons
Literary Hub
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In the winter of 2021, Cai Emmons completed a new novel within days of receiving a diagnosis of an untreatable terminal illness (ALS). The new novel is impossible to categorize, and she was sure it was unpublishable. The novel can only be read as a metaphorical chronicle of her developing illness.

The link between the mind and the body

  • We know the mind can exert influence over the body. Research shows that athletes can improve performance by visualizing what they will do in advance.
  • The mind’s power over the body also aids healing.
  • We are unable to think clearly if we’re under-rested, famished, or in pain.
  • Cai’s work was affected by her physical aches and pains.
  • The function of mind and body are integral to one another and thus cannot be separated.
  • The human gut biome has been found to impact our overall health and well-being and as such it has been dubbed “the second brain.”
  • The gut has an enteric nervous system and the largest supply of serotonin in the entire body. 90% of the transmissions travel from gut to brain; only 10% travel from the brain to gut.
  • Most fiction writers don’t go seeking ideas actively; ideas seem to descend on them, challenging them to bring them to light. The sense of an idea originates beyond cerebral control, not external but deeply internal in our gut.
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