Under The Weather: Writing When You're Sick

Spring in Minnesota: a sloppy, exuberant mess in which ALLERGIES hide

I live in a part of the world where winter is just ending. Winter in Minnesota starts around October and ends around...April? May? We often get the most amount of snow in March. But anyway, the grim reality of this is the second things warm up and start to green and come alive...


This is so horrible, because it's so exciting to get outside and feel sun on your face again after all the dark long cold days. It's also horrible, because in my situation, winter/spring/summer is when I've been slated to draft my books, as I'm on a fall release schedule (that could change, of course; publishing is anything but static). At the moment, I want to walk the dog in puddles and go for runs and sit in on the porch in the sun. So much wanting wanting wanting after holding it all in for so many months! But I have to take Zyrtec and DayQuil to keep my nose from running and my sinuses from clogging and mainly, these medications just make me faceplant into bed.

So. How do you write when you're "under the weather"? How do you write when you just want to be outside on the patio or riding your biking in the fresh air? How do people in tropical balmy climates get anything done?

I can only answer the first question. The second and third remain mysterious. When I studied abroad in the tropical climate of Bogota, Colombia, I got nothing done. I never wanted to do my work; autumn signals school for me and that never came in those latitudes.


Oh, baby. Just stay in your bathrobe & be devastatingly handsome. You'll feel better soon...

 1) Expect Less From Yourself. Self-explanatory. Pushing yourself when you're sick just makes your sickness take longer to leave your body. Surrender to the illness and rest. Fighting only prolongs the misery.

2) Edit, Don't Create. Here's a good time to review what you have and go through some low-level copy-editing crap. Or just maybe look at all the character names and decide what you think about them. Creating new material can be very onerous and cause even more stress to you, which is the last thing you need when your body is already under duress. This is also an opportunity to do some fill-in research you've delayed, like "what kind of car should this character drive?" and "how old do you need to be in Minnesota to open a bank account on your own?"

3) Use The Break As If It's On Purpose. Sometimes our drafts just need us to think about them some more. Take your sick time as an enforced immobility break where you don't DO anything, but just THINK about what you've done. What you WANT to do. What you MIGHT do. Solve the problems while you lie in bed or in a hot bath. Sometimes the work has to happen in our brains, not on the page. We live in a Productivity Culture that doesn't value this, which is a bummer. But whatever; you're sick. Take the opportunity as a gift to your work instead of an interruption of it.

4) Conjure Up Some Fresh Metaphors. Enough with the 'frog in my throat' and the 'sick as a dog' and 'my lungs were burning' and my 'stomach was churning.' Sit and meditate on how awful you feel until you come up with something better than worn-out cliches. You're in the midst of feeling gross -embrace that shit! Push your brain for phrases that encompass how wretched you truly feel. Contemplate every twinge and ache! Make these illnesses good for something, you know?

Yes, Carrie. I will stay in bed & rest.  Maybe do my pec-flex for Jody Casella here and there, but that's it, I promise.


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