Many writers deal with the usual stresses of life, but also with chronic illness. Writing can be a great career when managing cycles of pain and energy, but you need to take extra care of yourself.
In this article, Ivi Jayde shares five self-care tips to support writers in this situation.
You might also find Writing with Chronic Illness by Kristine Kathryn Rusch useful.
I am twenty-eight and a writer but I also have fibromyalgia. Like many with this chronic condition, it’s hard to get through the daily grind, let alone write with it.
As all you writers out there know, writing requires mental stamina and concentration. When pain and fibro fog have you staring at the screen before you, you simply want to quit. However, not all of us can do that. Perhaps it’s the main form of how we sustain ourselves.
So without further ado, a few suggestions on how to handle a chronic illness and doing something that requires thinking and focus.
1. Take breaks
Write for a half hour or hour and a half, then chill out and watch Netflix or Acorn TV for an hour. You deserve it! Perhaps even read that novel you’re dying to finish.
It might take more time, it might mean a prolonged schedule in the writing process, but it’s worth it. In the end, if it’s just one of those days you can’t do it, then listen to your body and take that day off.
2. Reduce stress and anxiety levels
I know your doctor has said this, but if you have too many projects on the go, consider cutting down to one. Consider sharing a project with someone, a writer friend or a writer family member. Perhaps make it a three-person act.
Consider doing novellas, rather than larger projects. Short stories or poetry might also be a viable option.
If you find yourself fearing rejection or having low self-esteem, consider listening to meditative sounds on a phone app or meditative soundtracks on Youtube. Underwater sounds. Classical music. Rain falling. Cat purrs. Tibetan monks chanting. Wind chimes. Birds chirping. All of these can help lower stress (it might even help with descriptive work too).
3. Get enough sleep
I know it’s obvious and plenty of people have told you this, but sleep is essential. Get to bed early. Have a good sleep schedule. Calm your mind with essential oils, natural sleep aids, and comfortable clothes and linens.
Don’t write deep into the evening (your mind will only want to circle, and race, as you try to figure out plot points and character motives). A tired writer is no good.
4. Get support
Look online (or in your area of residence) for chronic illness groups and writer’s groups. Both can be good places to discuss issues with handling chronic illness and working on a project. They are good places to find like-minded people you can discuss your project or writing in general with, and in doing so, take your mind off the pain.
Email friends, close co-workers, and relatives as well and see if they can spare time to look at your work. Feedback here and there can prove to be beneficial for us writers. They may even give you ideas or offer to edit a few things, to lighten the load. You’ll never know unless you ask.
Please do them a favor: acknowledge their participation.
5. Get organized
Use a phone app to make lists, buy a journal to write things down, use your calendar to mark down important dates and goals.
When your brain is dealing with not only pain and exhaustion, but things like plot and character, it’s easy to forget due dates, chores, and deadlines.
When appointments, deadlines, events, bills, and other important things start to pile up and you forget, it will only wreak havoc on your ability to write. It will cause more stress and that in turn will only make everything worse.
6. Laugh. A lot.
As the old adage goes, laughter is good for the soul. It helps you deal with stress and pain, as well, as scientific research has shown.
Read something funny. Watch something funny. Listen to something funny. Think of something funny. Farts. Jokes. Cats gone crazy. Dogs gone crazy. Kids and babies gone crazy. People falling. Stand up comedians on Youtube. Sitcoms. Humor movies. Chatting with a funny neighbor or roommate.
Anything to get you hooting and roaring with pure delight. The more you can laugh in a day, the less pain you’ll feel and the more you can achieve. It may even help you write a humorous character or plot, who knows!
Are you dealing with chronic illness? How do you nurture yourself while writing? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Ivi Jayde is a history graduate. Feminist. Cat mom. Anglophile. Avid reader. Chai tea, dark chocolate, flavored coffee, and macarons enthusiast. She is currently working on a historical fiction project about Pandora’s Box (with a feminist twist). Ivi is also always taking online courses and reading various articles about writing fiction. She believes that one can never learn too much when it comes to gaining skills in this field (blame it on how competitive the industry is). She plans to travel more this year as well, which will prove to provide great opportunities for story ideas and new experiences.