Writing sick days

When I was little, being ill meant a day in bed, or on the settee, curled up in my duvet with someone bringing me hot drinks and tasty tidbits of food while I watched daytime television or indulged in a movie or a book – or both. Now, as an adult, when I’m sick I first have to assess to what degree I am feeling unwell – could I go to work?; check my emails?; work on researching that topic? If I decide that work is out of the question I feel pathetic and weak: even though, by all rights, I am pathetic and weak because my body is doing its best to fight off a viral invader.

But what about when you’re ill and your ‘job’ is to write? Many authors have summarised the benefits of treating writing like work: you need to be able to do it no matter what your mood, you need targets to aim for and praise when you do well. Does this then also mean that you get ‘sick days’, when you need to put down the writing and let your body heal?

As you may have surmised from this post so far; I am ill. Had today been a work day in the typical sense I would, indeed, have called in sick. Yet, somehow I still find myself accountable to the targets I set in my writing schedule. I’ve been doing so well up until this point I seem to be under the impression that if I let the virus prevent me from managing my target for the day then somehow this equals failure on some level.

Yes, I know – it’s ridiculous: but that doesn’t make it any easier to surrender to the duvet and hide away from my writing goals.  I know that I need to allow myself sick days, just like sometimes I need a day off or a holiday, but I’ve become so great at feeding my habit that I’m having a little trouble understanding the sudden need to fast.

There are multiple rationales for my thought process: from assuring myself that I’m not bed-bound sick to convincing myself that a blog post and 1,000 words of the novel really isn’t ‘that much’ (especially when I’ve already done 600+ words today). However, I should know better. It’s this push and pull attitude that made me ill in the first place: trying too hard to maintain the full-throttle speed of life when really I needed to stop and refuel (as it is, I broke down – I have been suffering with M.E. for 3 years now).

So , I need to be kind to myself. If writing really is my job, then today is going to be one of those days when I end up cutting my losses and going home early to rest. I may not have accomplished everything today: but I did some, and that will have to be enough.

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6 responses to “Writing sick days

    • Thanks. Still under the weather (and the weather is pretty grim here at the moment!) but holiday is close so can recover then!
      Take Care, Cat

  1. I agree with taking a bit of time away. Sometimes, it’s better to do that and come back fresh. I personally don’t like to take too much time away (I would consider a week being too much time) because the story sometimes slips. A day or two though, yeah, I’ve done that. Even if I don’t sit down and do a quota, I have a smart phone. If I’m laying in bed and my mind won’t stop, I’ll write on it, even if it’s just a few paragraphs to quiet the caged beast, at least for awhile.

    Drew Merten
    amazon.com/author/drewmerten

    • I agree, sometimes even when you want to stop the story still taps out its rhythm in your head! Although I’ve reduced my schedule a little, I’m still managing to write/plan when I intended.
      Thanks for reading.
      Take Care, Cat

  2. I do not buy into the mentality that a writer writes every day, even when sick. People who do this type of thing call this working hard–which is complete BS in my book. Its far better to work SMART. Working smart means giving yourself a break if you are sick. Think about it, if you are sick, you are not going to be at your best when you write and you will be wasting your time. Also, writing is work, the opposite of rest, which the body needs when it is sick. Rest up, heal up, and come back to writing when you are feeling better.

    • Thanks for this encouragement and support. I was of that mentality a few years ago – where I thought working hard was more respected that working smart: then I got M.E and had no choice but to rest. I’ve learnt the hard way, but it’s a valuable lesson.
      Still, I don’t find rest easy – being a writer, my imagination often grabs hold of me when I’m ‘supposedly’ resting…
      Hope your own writing is coming along well.

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