Writing when you are sick!

The flu season has come early, and while I haven’t had the flu for many years I occasionally get a mild sniffle or cough despite my best efforts to stay germ free when I am out and about. It’s been nearly three weeks since the nagging cough has been around, and I am to blame too for it not going away faster. I didn’t think I was that ill and tried to do a long distance walk! I managed about seven miles before I was suffering and exhausted. I know, it probably didn’t help.

Despite this I have been trying to write, but it’s hard when you have to stop when you are in the flow and get a coughing fit or sneezing attack. What can you do? You carry on writing, but accept the fact that you may have to stop mid-sentence to breathe, or stop abruptly to take some medication. It’s disruptive to say the least and also annoying as I like to write my travelogues while things are still fresh in my head, and then edit them at a later stage.

There’s also the problem of exhaustion. While writer’s generally don’t have a schedule (some do), I’m the kind that writes when the momentum is there and go on until I get writer’s wrist or my eyes are too tired to stay open. When you’re sick you sleep whenever the body allows you, and with a hacking cough that meant I barely slept more than a couple of hours at a time until my throat felt it was drained of life. I really don’t know how I have coped, and invested in some vapor rub, which I haven’t bought for more than a decade and I’m shocked at how much it costs now. I’m amazed at how it really does work and that menthol aroma is rather soothing.

I’ve been trying to get some quality rest and all these sleep sprays, well they don’t work. Instead, I’ve had to set up drafts what I want to write, and scribble keywords down because I don’t have the energy to stay awake and write. What’s more infuriating is when you want to finish a piece, but you’re coughing so badly and your eyes water up, you stop only because you are choking so badly and you need your hands to wipe the tears from your eyes because you can’t see.

A writer doesn’t get days off or sick days, because if they need to write they have to do it when those ideas flow, even if they are struggling to breathe. I’m reminded of  Dostoevsky  who used to write even when he was ill mainly because he needed to finish his manuscripts to pay his gambling debts, and Conrad who was constantly ill and melancholy which is sometimes reflected in his writing.

It takes perseverance, and motivation to carry on writing when you are ill because you want to. While I am a little better now, I look forward to getting back to ‘normal’ where I can at least control when I stop writing, rather than the expulsion of excess bodily fluids forcing me to stop. Meanwhile, I’ll be glad to see the back of Lemsip and throat lozenges for the rest of the year at least, and hope to get back to some serious writing. The lesson here is try not to get ill in the first place and ignore those people who say you are over the top when you use hand sanitizer and wet wipes everywhere. Being ill as a writer is hard work and frustrating and it’s a job where no one can take your place.

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