ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

Is it Still Possible to Write When You are Sick?

My COVID Test was negative. But still, I am wrecked, so how can I stick to my daily writing plan?

Cloudman was feeling run down after a few too many life-saving missions (Photo: Cottonbro)

I am perched up in bed, hyped up on panadol, and some dreadful watermelon throat spray called Difflam.

I feel as though a hedgehog (kind of like a porcupine to you Americans) is dancing the Macarena in my throat, and I’m shivering like Liam Neeson in ‘The Grey’ surrounded by the wolves of my literary self-loathing.

Aren’t we all sick to death (excuse the pun) of hearing that the key to writing well is consistency?

I mean, that is why I gave myself this Medium goal to publish an article every day. Yet, here I am, twenty-one days, in the midst of a massive obstacle. (Or am I?).

Yesterday was challenging. I forced a thousand-word article on the notion of prayer and slapped it together like a fishmonger wrapping a trout.

Shortly before I published, the mystery Doctor who heads up the publication ‘Illumination’ kindly added me as a writer. This left me in a sticky situation.

Do I submit the article to Illumination, or do I self-publish?

I just couldn't think straight through the fever.

What if it’s no good? What if the publication judges me on the first article I sent over? Maybe I should write a disclaimer saying;

I take no responsibility for the poor quality of this article as I was under the spectre of illness as I wrote it.

In the end, I skipped the disclaimer, and I sent the article to Illumination. I hadn’t self-published an article that day but I didn’t have the energy to go through it again.

I realised that I had been focusing on publishing an article a day.

But when I thought about why I wanted to do that, it was about the writing. So I changed my goal from ‘publish a daily article’ to ‘publish or submit a daily article’.

As long as I was writing an article a day, what did it matter?

I have never read an entire Stephen King novel, but I have read his book on writing twice.

He writes about his battle with being sick at various points in his life, from being hit by a car to having life-threatening pneumonia. Yet, throughout it, he remained one of the world’s prolific authors.

It’s almost as if a good, prolific writer needs to use whatever material they have available, no matter how dark or painful it may seem. King himself tells us:

I had double pneumonia, and I was in the hospital for a long time. I was very ill, and my wife took the opportunity to redecorate my study, which was old and beat up. To me, it’s almost like a terminal, where I go to blast off.

After I came out of the hospital, she said, “Maybe you don’t want to go in your office. You won’t like it.” Of course, I went up there, and it’s in a transitional state. All the books had been packed in boxes to go back on the shelves. I was on different medications and looked around the office and thought maybe I was dead. That’s what would happen: You’d have to clean out everything after the person died. Then I thought this would make a great opening for a story, and the rest of it fell into place. (Irish Times)

As writers, aren’t we always looking for that next piece of inspiration — waking up in the middle of the night, sweating and tapping hastily into the notebook on our phones? Maybe a utopian life isn’t the ideal setting for the greatest art to come forth.

When suffering befalls us, shouldn’t we be grateful and use the material at hand to create rather than using it as another excuse for procrastination?

To keep ‘polishing our craft’, we need to write and write and write, and if that means producing turd, then so be it, publish turd and don’t use any disclaimers. No excuses. That's what I think anyway.

In hindsight, rather than forcing the prayer article on that first sick writing day, perhaps it would have been easier to write about the sickness itself (instead of seeing it as an obstacle).

This very article is an example of what I’m talking about. Today my writing is more effortless because the material is right here in front of me.

I am perched up in bed, hyped up on panadol, and some dreadful watermelon throat spray called Difflam but my sickness is no longer an obstacle.

If ya think this was alright, sign up for my free newsletter. That’s where I put all the really good stuff.

Also, do you like books, kind Sir/Madam/Other? How about bald, penis rocket spacemen who sell books? If so, visit my author page at the cracked head gasket of the economy AKA cockrocket.com.

More from Frank T Bird (That’s me):

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Frank T Bird

Frank T Bird

Australian author of urban stream-of-consciousness fiction and psychedelic short stories. franktbird.com