Saturday, May 7, 2016

Writing While Sick

by Linda Rodriguez

I'm a day late getting this blog posted. My apologies, but I'd been dealing with illness, which suddenly took a drastic turn for the worse. I spent yesterday and last night absolutely miserable with fever and chills and vomiting, and I just lost track of my blogging days. But better late than never.

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 grist 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?


  1. I wallow in a PD James book or re-read an entire series in order (Maisie Dobbs, Julia Spenser-Fleming).

    I agree with creativity while drowsy. I try to achieve it every morning.

    Feel better!

  2. Thanks, Margaret. Creativity while drowsy is easier than creativity while washed-out, but good ideas can pop up then.