In a perfect world, I’d begin my writing day after eight hours of sleep, a large cup of my favorite coffee, a clear idea of my story, a perfect outline, and all day to write.
It’s not a perfect world. But you knew that already. The overwhelming reason why my perfect writing day went out the window (or down the toilet) had everything to do with being sick.
I did everything right. I got my flu shot. I kept myself hydrated. I got seven to eight hours of sleep every night. I ate right and exercised. Then how did I get sick! Not only did I get sick, but it hit me the day after my daughter came home from the hospital with her new baby.
Here is our new Caylee Eva. I was quarantined for a week while I got over the brunt of my cold and finished my antibiotics.
Okay, so I shamelessly got a picture of my new granddaughter into this post. And this is five months ago. Here she is now now.
But I digress.
Book blogs and seminars on writing stress that writing every day is key to sharpening your craft. It’s the old joke, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
But every day you don’t write your writing skills dull. It seems that writing dulls faster than it sharpens. After a week of not writing I knew I would have to work harder to get back into gear.
My cold had settled in my chest. Bouts of coughing and wheezing kept me up at night. Our new cold water humidifier helped some, but not enough. Cold medicines, cough medicine and even an inhaler got the symptoms under control by mid-week, but the rust was settling on my writing gears.
I was still tired, congested and chugging bottles of cough medicine but I made a large cup of tea with honey and lemon then sat down to write. So here is my list of 5 things that helped me along.
After a few days of not writing I found I was not close to the story. I read to get back into my character’s head. In truth, after I finish the first draft I usually step away from the story for a few days to get that distance. That way when I edit the story it’s with a fresh eye.
I do this with all my projects, but after a few days of not touching the work it was the perfect time to update my outline and again, get back into the story. I use bullet points to note what generally happens in the chapter, identify the point-of-view character, and note in red anything that is missing. This gives me a quick view of what needs to be done.
Now, I’m ready to write. Depending on my energy level (and this time it was really low) I decided to add in those pieces that I identified as missing and removed them from the outline. Later in the week, when I felt better I was ready to move the story forward. I found that I tired easily and wrote in short spurts, but several short spurts were better than none.
#4 WORD COUNT
I keep my daily project word count on an Excel spreadsheet. I have a daily word count target and try to reach it. This is similar to having a deadline and surprisingly, I enjoy working toward the deadline. Last month, my local RWA chapter had its own writing challenge for the month, 30K words. I used my spreadsheet and was excited as I reached the goal.
Sometimes, no matter how much you plan or how diligent you are, your body tells you to stop. Another indicator is falling asleep at your desk. That’s not a pretty sight. Look. When you’re really sick, you need to put your work, as much as you love it, aside and let your body heal.
One other thing you can do while you’re sick, journal. Think of it as research for a story that has a sick character. Write down how you feel, record how others respond around you, and dream. Your body may be defeated but your mind is fine. Dream out your story and when you’re ready to write it will be there.