Anyone who knows many professional writers (at least writers of novels) knows that writers are self-employed and don’t get holidays or vacation leave. That’s why, when everyone else is posting photos of their holiday fun at the pool and the park on Memorial Day or Labor Day, writers are posting their first-draft word counts or hours of revision/copy edits/page proofs
But what about sick leave? Nope, none of that, either. When a writer is ill, s/he has to decide between going to bed like a normal person when sick or trying to soldier on to finish the current book. Still, it’s not the same as working on a holiday or during the time everyone else is on vacation. Whether we can actually work depends on the type of work we try to do and the type of illness we’re suffering.
If it’s just a cold, we can probably manage most of our writing tasks, though the creative flow for first-draft work can be very hard to achieve. If it’s been bad flu or some other more serious illness and we’re in that stage of the worst is over but we’re weak and spacy, it’s even a good fit for first-draft writing. We’re located much more in the right brain than we usually are. However, it’s not at all easy to gain the sharp focus required for revision, editing, dealing with copy edits, or proofreading.
If our illness is something more debilitating, we may only be able to write a short blog post—or perhaps not even that. In those cases, we have no choice but to give up the work until our strength returns at least somewhat. Those times, though we can hardly afford them if our writing is paying the bills, can often hold a hidden benefit as we drift in fever or weakness and dream often bizarre new characters and stories.
It’s all straw for our little cottage industry of spinning the straw of daily existence into the gold of story. How does illness affect your writing? How does it affect your reading? I know when I’m super ill, I want to read Agatha Christie and other comfort novels that I’ve read many times before. What’s your favorite illness reading?
Linda, you’ve described the predicament facing all self-employed people. As you point out, a writer might be able to incorporate their illness into some future project, whereas a carpenter doesn’t even have that minor hidden benefit.
I’m hoping you and our other sick WWK bloggers all get well in a hurry. (And that whatever you have isn’t a virus that you can share over the internet.)
After a serious illness I was able to create a nightmare-like atmosphere for one of my stories. However I don't recommend that method.
I hope you feel better soon.
I hope you're feeling better, Linda! I'm horrible at being sick because I simply refuse to sit still unless I have to, therefore I actually tend to do more work sick than I would otherwise. Character sketches, plotting, free writing, WIP, whatever. The fact that I'm giving my body time to rest makes my mind extra stir-crazy and ready for writing.
Jim, thank heaven we can't share these illnesses over the internet, or we'd wipe each other out in no time!
You're right about other self-employed people, of course. It's always helpful when I start to feel whiney to stop and remind myself that there are people doing hard physical labor and working under all kinds of horrible, nasty conditions for little pay.
Warren, I'm with you. We can come up with evil or horror without having to put ourselves through terrible physical illnesses. So happy that you recovered!
Sarah, it depends on the type of illness. If it's something minor, I'll usually push on through it anyway. But I have an auto-immune disease and have to watch that I don't allow illness to morph into something that will put me in the hospital and force me to completely shut down for weeks or months.
Linda, I hope you're feeling better today. I rarely get sick - I won't count tripping and falling or something like that - so usually when I do get sick I sleep a lot and read and sleep and read and sleep. I think it's been several years now since I came down with something like the flu or food poisoning, maybe. Whatever it was, it was most unpleasant.
Strangely enough, when I'm sick and can't do anything but sit, I can be very productive. Two years ago when sick, I found that my family stayed away from Typhoid Me. I sat in my chair and wrote a short story from beginning to end with few edits. Because I was able to concentrate without competing demands, the entire story came out whole in one sitting session (about 10 hours). Sick as I was and physical feeling horrible, mentally I was fine and felt satisfied. The distraction from feeling sick was helpful. "Sick" writing was therapeutic for me and the production wonderful.
Sorry, Linda--I hope you have my experience. Nothing is worse than being sick.
I remember once writing while I was taking prednisone. I produced notebooks of pages, most of which was useable. But, at the very end, I mentioned a reaction from a character I had never seen before. I still don't know where that person came from or what he was doing there.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Linda!
Gloria, the reading and sleeping is the ideal for me when I'm sick, but most of the time, I can't afford to lose that time if I can possibly manage to do something else. Like right now. I have copy edits on EVERY HIDDEN FEAR and they're due in a week. So I have to keep working and try to focus in spite of head and body aches, fever and chills, and difficulty breathing. Copy edits wait for no woman!
EB, I've had that kind of experience before, but usually after the crisis is over and I'm slowly on the mend.
Oh, Paula, I know. Prednisone is like speed! I have to take it fairly often for both lupus flares and for breathing problems. I have to watch out, though, and try not to overdo with all that false energy because I can leave myself in physical collapse if I do. So I try to avoid taking it , if possible.
i'm interested in what writers who are ALWAYS sick do. those of us in constant pain for whom a ten minute stretch of productivity is an eternity.
what do you do, those writers out there? how do you cope, besides the godsend of voice programs and standing desks and beds in your office? yes, i have a first world problem. I don't have to write to survive. but i write. who else does, and how? any pointers? you show me yours and i'll show you mine . . .
Working under a deadline is difficult enough without the added stress of being sick. Good luck with the copy edits, Linda. I hope you kick that nasty bug soon and feel better.
Margo, even on "good" days with lupus and fibromyalgia, I live by my timers--kitchen timers, alarms on my cell phone, alarm/stopwatch on my laptop--so I won't spend too long a stretch at any one task but will be reminded to get up and move, slowly and painfully, around for five minutes before I go back to work. 25-30 minute work periods on a good day, 10-15 on a bad day.
When I can't do this--events, travel, etc.--I try to plan in time to crash and burn and recover afterward. Because I know I will get to a point where I simply cannot move if I keep it up too long. I try to keep those to a minimum and space them out, but right now, I'm still paying for a too-long stretch of travel and events. I've come out of the bad flare-up but it leaves my system weakened, and I pick up everything going around.
I've got some other writer friends with various diseases like lupus or RA or MS or, in one case, muscular dystrophy and quadriplegic, and we trade tips with each other. Ought to make it a Facebook group and invite you. Everyone's very individual, and what works for one won't necessarily work for another, and of course conditions change for each of us, so we never really get it figured out once and for all.
Most of all, just do your best. Those 10-minute segments of work add up. We're slower than some others, but over time we can still get a remarkable amount of work done. xoxoxo
Linda - You are still a marvel of productivity, even when sick.
I hope you are tucked up and cozy and that "Mick Jagger" is bringing you a delicious hot beverage....
Shari, actually, "Mick" just brought me a cup of mint tea. He's an awfully good guy. I think I'll keep him.
linda, i think a group is an excellent idea. i am sure we all have a "trick" or two up our sleeves we could share.
Margo, it is a good idea. Just have to come up with the time to do it. Maybe once I get these copy edits off. I'll keep you posted.
I'm currently battling a cold that is sapping all of my energy. Normally I work on fiction in the morning before I get into my freelance work, but right now it just aint happenin'. I managed to power through yesterday, but I think today will have to be a half day! Haha. At least its Friday.
Chris, I hope it gets better for you soon. It is hard, when morning is your best time for creative work, to be sick and lose mornings to sleeping to make up for the miserable night or to just the fog illness leaves us in on mornings.
Best of luck!
Welcome back! We've missed you.
Post a Comment