No One Gets It, Until They Get It

13406757_10154276464332990_8115580060279571721_n(Courtesy of HealingWell.com)
 

“No one gets it, until they get it.”

There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

With more people sick than ever before, it can affect each and every one of us.

If you recall, in my last post, I talked about consistency and how important it is in order to make progress. That it’s not to be confused with perfection. That we’re all going to experience failures and setbacks at one time or another.

But what about those of us that are sick?

None of us are immune to the common cold or occasional flu. Yet, there are those of us that suffer from chronic illness such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Migraines, Hypothyroidism, Chronic Fatigue and more. It is illnesses such as these that can put a real damper on our life as we weather the course of consistency.

This, of course, can have an affect on our writing. Just how can we remain positive and productive without becoming discouraged?

One thing we can do is to try to stay focused.

For those of you that have a good measure of health, even though you may suffer from an occasional illness, you may be capable of writing full steam ahead without interruption. And that’s totally awesome you are able to do that.

Me?

Well, that’s a whole other story.

I, like mentioned above, suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I’ve had it for years. And when it strikes, which for the last several years has been often, it’s a struggle just to stay vertical, let alone consistent. (See Unbroken and Undefeated)

So what can we do to keep writing even when we’re sick?

Today I’d like to share highlights from a post written by author Lucy Flint entitled,“Six Ways to Keep Working When You’re Sick” I think you’ll find it inspiring.

Here’s a few ideas to keep our focus and remain productive!

#1: Put your daydreams to work.

“This is like a perfect recipe for daydreaming. I think of intentional daydreaming like making a smoothie: put a few good ingredients together in a blender, and flip it on.
So when you’re sick and you’re crawling back to bed, mentally grab about three things from your work-in-progress. Maybe: a setting you want to explore, or a relationship between characters, a scene or a plot point that you’re stuck on, a beginning or ending that you want to rework.”

I like to stick a notepad beside my bed and let my mind roam. I might take a nap and when I wake up, let my mind meander around my story and characters. Although, this can happen at any point of the day regardless of illness.

Progress.

“Honestly, you might surprise yourself with what you dream up. Keep feeding your subconscious during the day, and jot down notes as ideas float by. You can deepen so many parts of your work this way… and it’s practically effortless!”

#2: Mind Map your way to better ideas.

“Being sick can be a great time to explore your ideas in a more concentrated way. I’ve heard again and again that if you want to do better brainstorming work, you need to put yourself physically in a different space. And if you’re leaving your desk for your bed, swapping a screen for paper and pen–well, you’re halfway there!”

Grab those ideas, mull them around and you may come up with something exciting and new!

Progress.

Lucy suggests that if you’re feeling up to it, grab a big pad of paper, and create a mind map of a project or two. “Thanks to the dreaminess of being sick, you have a chance to have a looser process, to let more air into your work, and to just think differently as you brainstorm.”

#3: Create a mini writing retreat.

“What’s something you want to learn about in your writing, but you don’t ever seem to have a chance? Grab that writing book you’ve been meaning to get to, or explore the writing website you found but haven’t yet read. Fill your feverish little noggin with writing articles and podcasts.”

Right now I’m reading one of Marcy Kennedy’s wonderful series of craft books for busy writers. I find that when I’m unable to write, it’s a great time to immerse myself in the craft of writing. What better way to use the time than to sharpen my skills?

Progress.

#4: Fall into an excellent novel.

“This is a great time to dive into a book. Declare a reading holiday!”

“Pick up a novel that’s like the one you’re trying to write, and as you soak in the words, push yourself to think like a writer. Pay attention to where the plot tightens up, to how the character relationships unfold, to whether you want to keep reading (in spite of being sick!), or where the tension slacks off and you’d rather nap.”

This is something that I persoanlly love to do. So again, keep that writing pad close, so that you can take note of the author’s craft strengths and techniques.

Progress.

#5: Have a movie festival.

“Find a few movies about authors, or writing, or really–anything to do with books.
You could also dive into a handful of that kind of movie that reviewers call “visual feasts.” Rewatch some quirky films that delight or inspire you. Have yourself an inspiration picnic…Nourish the places that might have gone a little dry, while you were being so productive before. “

Sometimes when we’re really sick, it is virtually impossible to concentrate on the reading. Thus watching a movie becomes the perfect antidote to keep our focus on writing!

Progress.

#6 Let yourself off the hook.

“Look. If you’re really really sick, just put the work to one side. Let yourself sleep like crazy. Heal. Because ultimately–and you know this if you’ve been around here a while–I’m all about taking good care of yourself as a person first, and as a writer second. And honestly, illness is a good time for me to re-orient on this principle.”

Yes, it can be frustrating at times. You’re plugging along, everything is going well, and then Kaplunk! Life happens and we’re faced with illness again.

So give yourself a break. Go back to bed, curl up with a hot cup of tea and rest!
And guess what? Our work will be there when we feel better.

One of the things I’ve learned is no one is going to get upset because we’re sick. There is no shame in not writing. If you’re not feeling well, for whatever reason, this is the perfect time to reach out to a friend for help and encouragement.

“No one gets it, until they get it.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

And we wouldn’t wish our illness upon anyone for anything in this world.

But we’re writers. And writers write.

We’ll figure out a way to make it work. And we’ll figure out a way not to quit.
 

So what do you think? Do you suffer from one of the illnesses above? How does it affect your writing? Are you able to write during a bout with a cold or flu? And now that summer’s approached, what ways help you to stay focused and productive?
 

29 thoughts on “No One Gets It, Until They Get It

  1. Denise D. Young

    Thanks for this post, Karen. I’m a migraine sufferer, and I suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety, and if I’m having a migraine day, I’ve learned not to work through the pain. And I learned that lesson the hard way, when I wound up with a migraine so severe that I had to go to the ER. I learned that the best thing we can do when we’re sick is rest. There’s no point in putting our health at risk to get a few words on the page.

    What I’ve learned over the years is a lesson in self-kindness, to treat myself well and take care of myself, even if that means missing a day or two of work. Great post, Karen!
    Denise D. Young recently posted..Grappling with Story StructureMy Profile

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    1. Karen Post author

      Ooh Denise, Migraines are the worst! No, you cannot push yourself. I know others who suffer from migraines also and have made many trips to the ER. That is some serious stuff. And we need to take care not to overdo with requires that we treat ourselves with kindness. Why is it we have no problem being kind to others, but overlook ourselves? We are just as important. So appreciate your kind words of wisdom girl. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I know it is bound to helps many others! ((Hugs)) 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jenny Hansen

    Karen, this post is amazing! Inspiring, gritty and practical all at the same time.

    There is little worse than illness that takes over your life. These tips are a creative way to keep fighting for your creativity.

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you Jenny! I don’t know if I’ve ever been referred to as inspiring, witty and practical in the same sentence before. But I like it! Stay healthy and creative!! 🙂

      Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you Kelly! Yes, #6 for some reason is probably the hardest, isn’t it? I think for most of us, we’re uncomfortable taking time for ourselves. And yet, it is essential to our health both as an individual and writer. Big hugs right back atcha girl! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Coleen

    It’s difficult to let myself off the hook, but it’s probably the most helpful. I was diagnosed with small fiber neuropathy a few years ago. It’s kind of like living in a house with faulty wiring. I’m lucky I don’t have the extreme pain some people get with it. For me it mostly affects autonomic systems, especially my digestive. And like with many chronic illnesses it’s easy to succumb to depression. So I’ve got to let myself off the hook, and also I find focusing on creativity simply for the process, no high stakes, is helpful too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience, Karen, and for the helpful tips. xo
    Coleen recently posted..Illustration Friday Challenge: Wisdom (a Book Made Me Do It)My Profile

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    1. Karen Post author

      Coleen, I think letting ourselves off the hook is the hardest! We are so driven and expect so much out of ourselves, regardless of how we feel. I did not know you suffered from fiber neuropathy. My hubby has a form of neuropathy also. So glad to hear you don’t have the pain cause it can be miserable. Not to say that what you experience isn’t uncomfortable. Our bodies are all connected so I am not surprised that you suffer from digestive issues. And that does bring on depression. I’m sorry to hear this. But I love that you set attainable goals so as not to bring on more heartache and frustration. Great suggestion. Can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience. It does help others to understand and give them hope through their struggles. xo 🙂

      Reply
  4. Lynette M Burrows

    Karen,
    Thank you for sharing this. As you know, I don’t have the chronic illness but my husband does. As a result, I have become his caregiver and have ‘caregiver fatigue.’ Many of the suggestions you have are ones I have used, but I haven’t done the movie festival. What a great idea! Thank you for being such an inspiration.

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Ack! “Caregiver fatigue.” Lynette, that does suck the blood out of you girl. It is exhausting. And you do amazingly well. But you need to take care of you! And it sounds like you are ready to treat yourself! The movie festival rocks. You are gonna love it. Let me know how it goes. I’m so glad you came by. You always make me smile! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Shannon Esposito

    This is perfect advice and all of it is exactly what I’ve had to do since getting hit by a truck (aka fibromyalgia) three years ago. Writing has saved my life in this respect, I can’t do much out in the real world anymore but I can create worlds of my own. I have to keep reminding myself when I see a mom riding her bike with her kids or someone walking their dog and it takes my breath away with pain and grief because I can’t do those things anymore, I have to remind myself that in my work, the pain and fatigue have allowed me to go deeper into my writing than I would have ever gone. I’ve actually started listening to my muse, because what else can you do when you can’t lift your arms, right? 🙂 And I’ve started a project that is filling me with fire and a new passion. I feel alive. So, it can really be a gift if you turn it a certain way. Anyway, I also wanted to say that you inspire me! Your so kind and giving and your light just radiates, even from a computer screen, even through your own battle, and I’m happy to have connected with you here. xoxo

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Oh Shannon, yes, I remember you had said you had fibromyalgia. It IS like being hit by a truck. Oh sweetie, it is heartbreaking when we are not able to function like we used to. I totally understand. When you’re struck with this type of illness, it’s really hard to function day to day. I haven’t been able to for years. My boys practically only knew me from my bedside. That is/was my mode of operation. I am so grateful for the computer. I can take my laptop to bed with me if I need to. But my illness will also zap me so hard, I haven’t the strength to write. How are you able to keep writing? I am thrilled to hear that you’ve turned this into a positive experience. Because it is a battle. And sometimes we win and then there are days when we’re not so successful. I am so glad that I have been able to encourage you. We all need the support girl. And I really thank you for sharing your personal struggle. It does help others to see that they’re not alone. Big hugs to you!! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Julia

    This is inspiring, and not just for people with illness. First, because it’s good to be reminded to take advantage of down time to do deep reading and cultivate imagination, second, because so few understand what it means to snuggle with a chronic disease. You are in good company, Some of my favorite artists were forced to spend time immobilized by illness: Laura Hillenbrand and Frida Kahlo, to name two.

    Thank you for this inspiring and positive approach. Cheers, and hope this is a happy and healthy week for you!
    Julia recently posted..Follow-up Wednesday: I Take It BackMy Profile

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    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you Julia! That is really kind of you to say so. Yes, we all can take advantage of down time to keep our minds active while we rest/recover. And yes, I love Laura Hillenbrand. She and I suffer from the same ailment actually. It takes a lot out of us to write. So the process takes longer. Just trying to keep it positive around here, not just for me, but for others who may be suffering from illness. And a happy and healthy week to you girl! Cheers! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Patricia Rickrode

    Well, since I’m not prone to sickness, I rarely find myself abed during daylight hours and if I am, I am either sleeping or so miserable I wish I was sleeping. If I’m not well enough to get out of bed, I’m usually sleeping in said bed.

    I guess I’m just one of the fortunate ones. That doesn’t mean I don’t suffer from ailments, because I do, but I’ve learned to embrace them as part of my make-up and work around those limitations. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    Hang in there and keep daydreaming.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt
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    1. Karen Post author

      So glad to hear that you have your health girlfriend. Yes, you are fortunate. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Absolutely!! And that’s what I’m trying to inspire others to do. Work around our limitations. Hey, I’m a Daydream Believer! And I’m hanging!! Thanks Patricia. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you August! I’m so glad that you don’t. I would not wish this upon anyone. It can be frustrating dealing with long term illness. And because I am living it, I felt impelled to write about it and give others like me encouragement to keep going and not to give up. We’ve got to stay positive! And having you stop by always helps! Thanks girl! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Kassandra Lamb

    Karen, you are a real trooper!! I’m amazed at how you stick with it, even when not feeling well, and you also take time to support others.

    Love this insightful post on ways to use the down time of being ill to still make progress. I have hypothyroidism (actually, I HAD hyperthyroidism, so now I have no thyroid). It is stable most of the time now with medication, but I remember the battle with fatigue all too well.

    I still have problems with insomnia sometimes. Often I get up and read a novel when I can’t sleep, but sometimes I just lay there and contemplate where I am in my current WIP. Either some brilliant idea hits me while I’m in that dreamlike state, or I bore myself to sleep. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Ack! Kassandra, I just try to take things one day at a time. Sometimes that’s all I can do. Just like this week. I wrote and published this post. But then I wasn’t well enough to respond until today. Life can be a challenge. And I’m not the only one as mentioned above that is suffering. There are quite a few who have left comments on this post that expressed their personal struggles with a ongoing illness. It takes a lot of determination to keep moving forward when we’re not feeling well. And insomnia is an epidemic. You are not alone. Lol, you bore yourself asleep. You’re too funny girl. Thanks as always for your support!! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Jennette Marie Powell

    Wow is this all so true! I have Adrenal Fatigue, which is much less severe than CFS (and curable). I hate to even mention it, because that sounds like complaining, and…well, it’s not like I’m fighting cancer. I’m just tired. But it’s a mental tired as well as physical, and it does make it hard to get to the writing, especially after working a day job. Your tips are all good ways to keep the writing in mind while we wait for the illness to pass. My fatigue is worse in winter, so I let myself produce more slowly then. I also take writing workshops (many of which are videos) or read craft or business books. Or other nonfiction that has nothing to do with writing, but still informs it.
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..Rolling ThunderMy Profile

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      1. Karen Post author

        Oh, and thanks for your additional comment. So true. Although when we’re ill, it’s more work on our part to stay positive. “Focus on what we ‘can’ do.” That is a great point! And it really works. Thank you. 🙂

        Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Jennette, you so do not sound like you’re complaining! Tired, is tired. I totally understand Adrenal Fatigue. It’s a real thing and deserves much attention because it not only affects us physically, but mentally as well. Nothing more frustrating than the feeling that you’re not able to move forward. I love how you incorporate writing workshops to keep you active. And as #6 brought out, sometimes we need to just rest and take care of ourselves. Thanks my friend and stay well!! 🙂

      Reply
  10. Amy Kennedy

    Karen–I find this amazing, I don’t work when I’m not feeling well, or stressed…yet these tips would help anyone no matter what was ailing them. Thank you for your openness and vulnerability in sharing this. ❤️?❤️
    Amy Kennedy recently posted..Found BeautyMy Profile

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    1. Karen Post author

      Aw, thank you Amy! Yes, my hope was to encourage anyone who feels under the weather and would like to remain active, even from bedside. Being sick is no fun. But even if we’re sick, we can still stay active and keep our minds fresh. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Yvette Carol

    Hi, Karen,
    I did not know you lived with this condition. I think it’s absolutely wonderful you’ve found a way to turn the experience into a way to take care of yourself and to come up with creative ways of investing in your craft. This post shows a great spirit. Keep up the good work 🙂

    Reply
    1. Karen Post author

      Yvette, I have had this condition for longer than I’d like to remember. If I didn’t keep things positive, I think I’d lose it. It’s so easy to become stuck when you’re ill. So in order to move forward, I devise ways to keep progressing. Thanks girl for your encouragement. 🙂

      Reply

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