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This Writing Life: Dealing with Illness

3 December, 2010

This morning I woke up and was immediately struck by the fact that I felt fairly crap. Apparently, I’ve finally succumbed to a cold after managing to avoid doing so for months. My first thought was, “At least I don’t have to work tonight.” My second thought followed with, “But what about that short story?” If you saw yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I was planning to spend the next few days working exclusively on a short story for an anthology. If I’m ill though, that’s not going to happen.

Now, as you can probably guess from the fact that I’m posting here, I’m not that ill. I’ll probably still write this morning, even if it’s only a few hundred words while powered by copious amounts of tea and hot chocolate. It has set me thinking about illness and the perils of setting tight deadlines, though, so here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

  1. First of all, work if you can. Even when you’re ill, getting a few hundred words down will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something with your day. Even half an hour at the computer – or in bed with a laptop – might be enough. I often plan to take days off for a rest, but end up feeling like I’ve just wasted a day. I know I’d have felt a lot better if I’ve done an hour of work in the morning and then read or played computer games.
  2. Pick the least strenuous work you can. This will vary from person to person, but I find hammering out first draft words takes less brain power than trying to fix them in revisions. You might be the opposite and find revising easier, or researching, or plotting a new story. Whichever is easiest, work on that, regardless of what you’d planned to do.
  3. Read. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said this, but writers need to read. If you don’t have the energy to do anything else, catch up on that huge To Be Read pile that all writers seem to have!
  4. Cut yourself some slack. There comes a time when you simply can’t do any of the above because you’re just too ill. This is the point where you have to stop worrying. Watch TV, drink hot drinks, sleep. Get better. Running yourself into the ground with worrying will only make the situation worse – and you more worried.

This is, incidentally, about the course I will be following should my minor cold turn into something nastier. For now though, I’m feeling reasonable so it’s time to make another cup of tea and get back to that short story.

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