Nearly every writer will be faced with a health issue at some point in their life that will interfere with their ability to write. As writers, this lack of creative activity can be disheartening, guilt-inducing, and crippling. So when these problems in our physical or mental health occur, how do we keep ourselves creating through the troubles?
1. Understand the illness. The first step in overcoming a problem is understanding what to expect and knowing how to evaluate your ability. For example, someone with depression is likely to have motivational problems and fatigue while someone with a physical illness such as multiple sclerosis or cancer may be forced to contend with pain and lack of energy. When you know what to expect, you can create a plan to address those problems if or when they arise with your doctors, family, and friends. They all want to help you.
2. Know your limits… don’t overextend yourself. Once you understand the illness, take it easy while you understand how it is affecting your mind and body. Pay attention to when you have overextended yourself or when you haven’t pushed yourself enough. Take notes on what makes things better or worse. This can also help you create a plan and a schedule to keep working.
3. Set reasonable goals. Only you can define what is reasonable, but use your knowledge of yourself from point 2 to define it. For me, for a while my goal was simply to write one sentence per day. Maybe for you what it looks like is keeping a journal or writing one paragraph from a writing prompt or cutting down to one writing day per week. And I will be the first to tell you that it isn’t easy to maintain, and you may fall into a creative drought in which nothing is accomplished. It’s okay. Don’t waste the energy on blaming or berating yourself, no matter how justified it feels. You will get past it, and being sick isn’t your fault. Just take care of yourself. Which leads to…
4. Your health comes first. Creativity and creative energy will follow. Make your health and recovery a priority. Talk to the doctors. Follow their instructions. Take your medications. Get enough food, sleep, and exercise. And I know that can also be hard to maintain. That brings me to my last point…
5. Get support. Find an accountability partner to ask you about your health, well-being, and writing. Trust your loved ones to be there for you and encourage you, even when it feels like they don’t or that you are a burden. They do care, and you aren’t a burden. They care, and they want to help. Beyond your loved ones, find support groups. Meeting with other people going through similar things can be very encouraging and helpful to your overall recovery. Find encouraging blogs or posts online and make yourself a motivational or inspirational file, Pinterest board, collage, whatever works for you. I myself have both a Pinterest board and a file on my computer filled with things that encourage me when things aren’t going so well for me.
Whatever you’re going through, please remember that you aren’t alone. There are people who understand, people who have experienced or are experiencing similar issues, people who care, and people who can and want to help. Reach out.
And whatever happens, do your best to keep writing. For a writer, writing can be one of the best forms of self care.
Chin up, my friends. It’s going to be okay.