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.