Writing While Sick

I picked up a summer cold. I woke up Friday morning with what felt like allergies. By the time I went to bed Friday night, I could tell it was not allergies, but a summer cold. It’s the first cold I’ve had since I was sick at the very beginning of the year. It is also the first time I’ve been sick since I began writing every day back on February 271.

It sucks to be sick, especially in the summer. I am not a particularly good sick person. I’d just as soon be left completely alone until I’ve recovered, but this rarely happens. The kids require my attention, chores require my attention, life requires my attention. Still, I have managed to write every day I’ve been sick so far, and not only that, I’ve exceeded my average daily word count each day. I attribute this to some of what I’ve learned from attempting to write every day, regardless of what is going on. Three things, in particular have helped me write 5,000 words over the last 3 days:

1. Get the writing done early

The normal routine I’ve developed typically has me writing right after the kids have gotten ready for bed, but before they actually go to bed. This is usually a pocket of 20-40 minutes during which I can typically write between 300-600 words. Once the kids are in bed, if I am so inclined, I’ll write more.

Being sick, I can’t trust that I’ll be able to write that late in the day, so I treat it the same as I would treat having plans in the evening, or being out of town. On days when we have plans in the evening, or days during which I will be out of town, I generally try to get my writing done as early in the day as possible. At Launch Pad, for instance, Chaz Brenchley, Doug Farren, and I would write in the student union together beginning at 7 am. Getting the writing done early when I am sick has two positive effects:

  1. It relieves me of the stress of worrying about getting the writing done; stress that might otherwise make it more difficult to recover from the cold as quickly as I might other wise do.
  2. It starts the day out on a positive note. It is a great feeling to know that, despite being sick (and even feverish at times), I am still able to write.

2. Look forward to what you are going to write

This is more coincidence than anything else, but just as the weekend closed in, I arrived at a point in my WIP that I’ve been looking forward to writing for a long time. I have been building up to it for the last week or so, and finally getting to write it makes me eager to write. This is important because, even getting up when sick and forcing myself to write doesn’t always mean I’m enthusiastic about what I am writing. Fortunately, as it turned out, I was eager to write the parts of the story that I tackled this weekend, and that helped overcome any excuses like, “I’ve written the last 156 out 158 days and I’m sick and feel like shit; it is okay to take a day off.”

3. A little friendly competition never hurts

I attended my first WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association) meeting Friday night at the invitation of my friend, Bill Lawhorn. I’d already done my writing for the day, getting in about 1,000 words before I left for the meeting. After the meeting, I arrived home not feeling well. The kids were already asleep, but I knew that I was far from sleep. I thought I might try to write some more and mentioned this on Facebook. Alvaro Zinos-Amaro then challenged me to get to 1,500 words by the end of the day. He actually laid down the challenge to both of us.

Well, I might be sick but I’m not going to refuse a challenge like that. I sat down and added another 900 words to my WIP before slipping off to bed. (Alvaro, as it turned out, outdid me by 100 words, 2,000 words on the day.)

I suspect that were it not for some of the lessons I’ve learned trying to write every day, and even for the streak itself, I would likely have not written a single word this weekend and just let myself stay in bed and be sick. But after 158 days of writing nearly every day, it begins to become unthinkable not to write. I think am finally beginning to understand how it was that Ray Bradbury was able to write every day. It becomes like breathing. You have to do it, or you start to fade away.

  1. My consecutive day streak came to an end at 140 days, but I got right back on the horse, and after missing one more day coming back from Launch Pad, I am back at 13 consecutive days and working toward beating my 140 day streak. Put another way, I’ve written 156 out of the last 158 days.


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