Woman have a chronic headache, touching temples to relieve pain during working on laptop

Writing with Chronic Illness: Creative Ways to Keep Creating

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on chronic illnesses. Early estimates indicate anywhere from 5 to 80 percent of people experience lasting symptoms after contracting COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://cdc.gov). They join the approximately 51.8 percent of people in the US who live with a chronic condition already, according to the 2018 National Health Institute Survey.

H. E. Casson at the Spoonie Authors Network (https://spoonieauthorsnetwork.com) writes to those adjusting to life with such a diagnosis, “You’re about to become a gatherer” of useful tools. There’s no be-all, end-all answer to managing life with a chronic illness, they write, and some days, it will inevitably mean letting your body dictate the schedule. 

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But in the long run, changing the way you think about writing might be key to better accommodating your health while keeping your author’s heart happy.

Writing in other mediums is still writing

On days that are particularly painful or taxing, words don’t have to come from a keyboard while sitting at a desk. Write on your phone or tablet while lying in bed, or find a notebook if screens are bothersome. 

Dictation is another option, and though several programs are available at a cost, most word processors have rudimentary versions built in for free. Or opt for an even simpler route: Record your words as a voice memo for you, a friend, or your computer to transcribe later.

Don’t tackle everything at once

An author’s to-do list is ever-growing. That doesn’t mean you have to check everything off at the same time. Your work will still be there tomorrow, and completing only what you have the energy for rather than pushing yourself will help keep you from burning out. Cait Gordon, also at the Spoonie Authors Network, suggests creating a fatigue budget to ensure you have adequate time to rest without feeling as if you’re neglecting your responsibilities.

Redefine productivity

You don’t need to write a set number of words in a day to call yourself an author. Be realistic when setting goals, and remember that even small word counts add up over time—check out the Word Crawl for the Motivationally Challenged for proof. And give yourself grace on days your health takes precedence over your manuscript. The Twitter account @CountsAsWriting might sum it up best: “Hey. You’re doing your best. It counts.”

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