How To Write With Chronic Pain
It had been a week since the last incident. I woke up with my head throbbing, a stiffness in my neck and the sinking feeling of dread as I realised that it was happening again. I rushed to swallow some painkillers hoping to beat the curb but was too late.
I ended up lying on the couch vomiting until 3 pm.
Then I felt not good, but slightly better. The pain was tolerable so I got up and started working on the things I had planned for that day.
Why did I start working on what any other human would’ve called a sick day? Because this happens too often for me to count them as sick days. If I did I would never get anything done.
Having chronic pain is exhausting, but having to keep up with work on days that you feel like death is excruciating. That being said, sometimes we have to do it. Someone has to get the work done and when it comes to my writing career it certainly can’t be anyone else.
So I got up and I got on with it.
I would like to clarify at this point that I got up and got on with it in the most gentle way I could.
I’m not some monster who can work through ridiculous amounts of pain with nothing but will power and pain killers. Nor do I encourage that kind of behaviour.
No, no. My corner of the internet is all about productivity and self-care.
On days that are really really bad I do not get up at all, I do not think about work. All I do is watch movies and sleep, and that reaction to pain is entirely valid.
So here’s how to keep writing even though your day went awful.
- Figure out your highest priority. If you could get just one thing done today what would that be? Is it writing an article? 500 words? 10 minutes of writing? When you know what you want to do and what is accomplishable it’s time to figure out if you are physically able to do that job.
- Compromise if you have to. Say you can’t get to your desk to write, is there another way that you can manage that? Text to speech? Haphazard notes? Maybe you can’t even manage that and that’s okay. Maybe you can do research, read an article, or even just spend some time thinking about your story in a meaningful way.
- Prepare for the work. If you’re not already in your comfiest clothes… em what are you doing? Get into those pyjamas and either grab or get someone to bring you your favourite beverage. Then snuggle down into a cave of pillows and blankets and begin your work process.
- Don’t get stressed. On days like this stress is not what you need. Gentle is the only appropriate way to start working. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the work it’s time to go back to step two. Compromise, figure out what is going wrong and try to rework the situation. Remembering that doing work tomorrow can also be a compromise. You don’t have to get work done if you can’t get work done. That’s not how this whole pain thing works.
- Get creative. There are so many ways to write a book. I’m learning shorthand in my spare time for days when I can’t get out of bed or look at a screen but still want to write. I’ve tried to text to speech, I hated it, but I tried it… I’ve also tried bullet point outlining so when I can work I’m a little bit faster.
Who says you have to climb the mountain? Pull that sucker into bed with you and get cracking!
All pain is different. Every rough day is a day where I have to figure out how to take care of myself.
That’s physically and financially.
I gotta get the work done but I also gotta take care of number one.
One of the best things you can do is to know your own limits.
Gentle work, if and when you feel like it, is a great way to spend a pain-filled day. You feel productive but you also get to experience the softest of pillows and blankets.
Days like those suck. I’m not going to lie to you, but if you can make the most of it and manage to tick a little to-do box it might just make it feel like less of a waste.
Take care of yourself. As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf.