Friday, 18 July 2014

Spoonie Writer: When You're Too Sick To Write

Spoonie Writer: When You're Too Sick To Write

One thing you quickly learn when you're a "spoonie" and chronically ill is that you have to choose how to spend your "spoons" wisely. Just as you have to learn how to say no (a piece about this is found here) and you have to learn how to write whilst actively having a flare or an attack (a piece about this is found here), you also have to learn that sometimes you're simply just too sick to do any writing - no matter how much you wish you could.

In my thirteen years of both being a writer and being chronically ill, I have learnt a few tricks for what can be done when you want to write, but are just too sick to do it. These things can be done alongside an ongoing project, or as a way to keep your creative juices flowing. They may not work for everyone, but they have, over the years, worked well for me.

When I started going to college back in 2005, I was given a Dictaphone as part of my Disabled Student Allowance. The idea was that if I was too sick to attend a class, I could give it to someone and they could record all that was said. That would then give me the chance to go through the tape at a later date when I was more able to make notes. These days, there's an app for everything and most smart phones will have a note taking system that allows you to talk inside of type. I use this a lot when I'm stuck in bed to talk about an idea I have, or a writing piece I want to do. This piece was thought up during a recent overnight hospital trip and I was able to use my phone to record eveything I wanted to cover.

Now that I'm feeling able to sit at my computer, I can play it back and listen. Some of what is said is purely ideas that will go nowhere. Other pieces are bits I can use in my current works in progress as well as in this very writing piece. My advice to anyone who finds themselves unable to write on their phone or on a pad of paper, is to look into a free app (or use the phone's default if it has one) and play around with it until you get what you're looking for. It is also really useful for those late night thoughts. (I covered this idea in this piece here).

While the mind is not always reliable when it comes to recalling things at a later date, especially if you're overtired, in pain or struggling to breathe, it can be a useful tool when you want to plan something or write something that your conditions are preventing you from actually doing. Sometimes, slipping away from the reality of being sick can be a great blessing and a way for you to plot out the next chapter, or think about a blog piece you've been meaning to write. I find that when I am too sick to leave my bed, or stuck in hospital and too sick to write on my tablet, I can spend a good few hours just thinking about plot devices, blog pieces, character traits, anything to keep my mind off the pain or how crap I feel. You may not be able to look back upon a record of it later, but it can help you work out some problems with the plot or direction of your story that you possibly wouldn't have thought of, or might have spent time fighting with during an attack of writer's block instead. When you're sick, sometimes you need to have an escape and sometimes that escape can be just a mental visit to the set of your novel.


I am the kind of person who likes to plan and discuss plot lines with a few trusted friends. Sometimes I'll have an idea but nowhere to take it. Other times I'll have some semblance of a plot but no idea how to begin or flesh it out. It's times like these that I find that talking with my best friend about it, and discussing everything that could happen really fills the hours we spend at hospitals and with me stuck in bed. She's helped me craft some of my best ideas - and talked me out of some of my worst ones! So, if you're not up to writing, but you are able to talk, then this is a way to keep the flow of ideas going by discussing it with a friend, or another writer that you trust.

Although I may not be well enough at times to delve into my plot head-first and start to create, there are other aspects of writing that I am well enough to do. One of those is making notes about a new project, or planning a chapter or two. I can also do some light research or catch up on some emails. I can plan blog pieces and even write out an outline of what I want to do and where I want things to go. I can contact a few places for a review. Or I can read a book or two to give me some ideas that might work for my own novels. As discussed in the reading piece I did (found here), it's a great tool for any aspiring or published author. It allows you to see how others are doing things and work out how you would deal with the same situation.

So, those are my tips, and things I do when I'm too sick to actually sit at the keyboard and bang out a chapter or two. Everyone is different and every condition is different, so these might not all apply to you. In fact some of them may even just not work for your situation. So, if you have any of your own tips, please feel free to add them in the comments below!

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