Last week, I was home with a cold. It wasn’t anything major, just a head cold that knocked me off my feet, gave me a pounding headache, kept me under the covers, and had me breathing through half of one nostril.
Even when my first priority is to get better, I can’t help but think that with the extra free time on my hands, it would be a great time to write. But I can’t. When I am feeling under the weather, words just don’t come.
Maybe it’s related to the fact that my oxygen supply is not at full capacity, or that my ears are affected and that I could potentially throw up at any given moment… it’s a little distracting.
But over the last 3 years of writing the blog, I have noticed that if I want to keep to a posting schedule of at least one or two works per week, I need to keep a few drafts in my back pocket for times like this.
The worst was when I was out with shingles for several weeks. I remember trying desperately to commit words to paper, but everything I wrote was disjointed, disconnected and frankly wasn’t up to my usual style or standards. Maybe it was the medication, maybe it was the illness, but the writing was as crappy as I felt.
When a migraine strikes, forget about writing. Even if I turn down the computer screen to its lowest brightness level, it’s still blinding when light sensitivity sets in. Plus, stringing ideas together in some kind of coherent fashion is beyond challenging when I could swear others can hear the pounding going on in my head.
And of course, when it comes to the common cold, I can’t breathe, I can’t see the screen through my watery eyes and all I want to do is sleep. Yes, those are the most conducive factors to writing a blog post destined to go viral, pardon the pun.
What seems odd to me is that this can happen at all, despite my love for writing and that words come easily to me, even under trying circumstances. As much as a calm, quiet setting is my ideal, I can still scribble ideas from a patio table on a sidewalk in the middle of construction or heavy traffic. Or even at work, I can often come up with the right words, at the right time, under the pressure of a deadline, to deal with a challenging situation.
I pride myself in this skill! If I was a superhero, I’d consider this my superpower!
But yet, surprisingly, it doesn’t take more than a little sinus congestion (which can sometimes look a little like kryptonite, when you think about it) to prevent me from channeling the little writer’s voice, like it has been sent to a room with lead walls. It is most discouraging. I can barely write a grocery list.
When that happens, all I can do is to be patient, not worry, not panic, be good to myself and just focus on getting better.
And then when I least expect it, one night as I am just trying to fall asleep, the inner voice starts pitching ideas like “what about a blog post about getting sick and not being able to write?”
When the mind starts racing, the idea takes off and I have to turn on the light to take notes. That is when I know that I must be feeling better and it is time to go back to work.
How about you, fellow artists? Are you able to work on your craft when you don’t feel at your best?
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Have a great day,
4 responses to “Can a Writer’s Voice Get Sick Too?”
If I’m just feeling week or have a mild cold, I can write and it gives me a good excuse not to do anything else. If I have a bad headache or severe pain in some part of my body, I can’t write or do much of anything. When my head doesn’t work, neither does my brain.
Nope. Not a chance. If I would call in sick (or take a day for a family emergency, funeral, etc.) at an office job, I take PTO (Personal Time Off) from writing with no guilt or recrimination. For me, this is part of what it means to be a pro — I don’t write on vacations or holidays either, I show up for workdays and get busy. If it’s not a workday, my brain and my body need the break. It’s what makes my writing habits sustainable over the long haul.
If I’m ill (cold/chest infection/sick) then I prefer to read rather than write as a way to recover. I was diagnosed with severe depression a few years ago and that had an interesting impact on my writing. I’m a multi-genre author, writing self-help non-fiction and teen fantasy. When I was at a low point I wouldn’t be able to write anything motivational as my ‘voice’ wasn’t the same and yet I could pour words out for my make believe fiction. It was fascinating, and also frustrating! I wrote and published two fiction books in the time it took me to pen half a non-fiction. I believe illness (physical or emotional) has a massive impact on our creativity. Great post.
Hi Shelley! Thank you so much for the feedback and for sharing your experience. You are so right.. there are so many factors that can influence our writer’s voices. Your ability to learn to work through it and still publish is a tremendous accomplishment and an inspiration! Bravo! Cheers, André