Sunday, December 17, 2017

Should We Write When We Are Sick

Not a Christmas blog for you, nevertheless, it is seasonal for many, I am sure.





You’re as weak as a kitten, high on medication, defying healing advice, and the ‘r’ word: ‘rest’.

Why the defiance? Why can’t you just give in and concentrate on getting well?

Because you are a writer of course, and you are at a time in your life when writing is on a par with breathing. You have words to capture, protagonists to develop, and scenes and sequels abounding in your head. And yes, you still have stories to tell.

Especially in November.

November seems to be my month for picking up some bug or other and depleting my strength. It keeps me housebound and I get through copious amounts of tea.

It is also National Novel Writing Month. A month on thousands of writers’ calendars as the 30 days in which to draft a novel. This year was my 11th official year, and I’d almost decided give NaNo a miss. That was until some of the members of my incredible international writing group, Writers Abroad, threw the temptation my way.

But I was sick.

I kicked the month off with cellulitis requiring high dose antibiotics, you don’t really need to know that, other than it affected all I did for the rest of the month. Mid-month left-eye cataract surgery meant I was functioning on blurry vision while waiting for the right eye. Then, shock horror, a serious chest infection flattened me.  Some of the meds induced hallucinating effects. 

But, you know what, I didn’t stop writing. Hallucinating effects can be precious to a writer. Delirium is like treasure. My NaNo novel was like a runaway train, sometimes clocking up over 3,000 words a day. I began on November 1st with only a title and a book cover design (because that’s the way I roll), and then I wrote up a storm to fill those covers and do the title justice.


I crossed the finish line on November 20th, a week before my 74th birthday. Over 50,000 words accomplished in under 3 weeks.

So, I ask you again, should you write when you are sick? It’s a personal question. My reply is, ‘yes’. This draft novel wouldn’t exist without the NaNo challenge and the team spirit of Writers Abroad, and here’s the thing, those words would be different if I hadn’t been sick, if I’d been bright eyed and bushy tailed. Quite different.

And that’s what makes our writing unique, we haven’t just captured words, protagonists, scenes et al, we’ve captured the way we, as writers, feel at a particular moment in time.

And I know that when I open up my draft novel in the new year I will ask myself, ‘did I really write that?'

My congratulations to my WA colleagues on achieving their NaNo novels too. Between us, we’ve written over a quarter of a million words in 30 days.

A very happy Christmas to you all.

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