Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Are You Sick?

"I have an answer to your question," he announced as he walked into the Sunday school classroom that then served as my "submissions station." I was working the Bayou Writers Group conference in Lake Charles, Louisiana, taking queries for Port Yonder Press and Hartline Literary agent Terry Burns.

The man surprised me. Not only had he carefully followed my instructions for submitting to me--amazing in itself--he had read a few posts in my (currently dormant) blog, 777 Peppermint Place.

I'd written one piece during a period when I thought I was coming out of a Crohn's disease flare-up (I was wrong. I'm still fighting it), and was wondering how other authors who suffered from chronic illness managed to keep writing. Even now, I find more solace in editing than in writing. My creativity seems to have abandoned me--I can't develop a scene that doesn't get axed upon the reread. So I asked my readers what tricks they used to keep writing.

The young man who faced me in my submissions station has a chronic illness that is in the same family as mine. Getting "well" isn't in his future. Like me, the best he can hope for is a series of short-term remissions punctuated by surprise flare-ups. He knows his condition is going to get worse, so he has a pragmatic view of his writing career now: "I don't want to look back at these times when I'm not as bad and be angry that I didn't take advantage."

His carpe diem attitude is a great response to the question I posed. It encompasses other responses I received, particularly one by "mlfables":
I am a habitual writer. I sit down in the same place at roughly the same time of day, so my writing is automatic. It's been the most effective way (that I’ve found) to keep myself writing, no matter how else I may be feeling.
For an hour each morning, I can let go of the stress of life and disappear into the imaginary world of my story's characters. 
This takes self-discipline. Writing regardless of how ill you are or what you're facing in your daily life takes will and determination. Professionals don't wait to write when inspiration hits or when they "feel like it"; they don't wait until they have time or can make time. Writing is their job, and like anyone else with an eight-to-five schedule, they work at their jobs and "make time" for everything else. Sick leave is reserved for serious illness.

My inspirations are Diann Hunt, who has been battling cancer for quite some time and still managed to publish one book and several short-stories for anthologies last year alone, and Debbie Macomber, who wrote through her grief after her son's suicide in 2011 and continued to meet her deadlines. These women, and others like them, are amazing. What they've accomplished isn't easy, but they are professionals. They take their jobs seriously.

Of course, there will be days when working is physically impossible, but when you can, seize the day. Disappear into your story world. You may find you feel better when you re-emerge, or at least feel a little more light-hearted. If, like me, you can't seem to work on your WIPs, work with writing prompts, work on your journal, write for your blog, or start something entirely different. Don't lose the habit of writing.

Be a professional.

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