Write It Sideways

How to Keep Up Your Writing When You’re Sick

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, it’s probably cold and flu season around your parts. Even though it’s summer here in Australia, we’ve still managed to get quite a few illnesses circulating recently.

Well, a couple of months ago, at 22 weeks pregnant with twins, I developed acute bronchitis.

I’d already been sick with a head cold for two weeks before that, and suddenly the cough took a turn for the worse. For three weeks after that, I could barely leave the house. I was in the middle of finishing an eBook, planning a launch, conducting a search for two regular contributors, and trying to keep up with my daily child care and routines.

While I can’t say I was as productive during my illness as I would have been otherwise, I did manage to keep up with my writing schedule to a reasonable extent.

There are a few keys to how I was able to continue carrying my workload while I was feeling under the weather. Next time you’re hit with a bug, try the following tactics:

Call in reinforcements.

When you’re sick, your parents, mother-in-law, friends, or neighbours may be willing to watch your kids, clean your house, or run errands for you. I don’t usually like to beg for help, but the worse I felt with this cough, the more willing I was to ask.

My mother-in-law was kind enough to give me a hand with the kids when she was in town. Just having someone to play with my 2-year-old and do the pile of dishes on the counter for me was a huge help.

Having a few household tasks out of the way gave me more energy to keep up with my writing.

Cut out unnecessary activity.

The school year was just wrapping up when my illness was at its peak. As a parent, this meant there were still before-and-after school runs to do, and extracurricular activities to attend.

I got my husband to take over picking up and dropping off our older son from school, and I asked a couple of other moms who also attended the same extracurricular activities if they wouldn’t mind taking my son with their own kids. My husband took over all the grocery shopping until I started to feel better, as well.

Not having to leave the house as much gave me more time to rest and recuperate, and gave me a chance to work on writing tasks when needed.

Get as much done as possible when you feel the least rotten.

Some days, I felt like I couldn’t pull myself out of bed, while others I had a little more energy. Mornings and evenings were particularly bad (because I was hardly sleeping at all, and the cough seemed to be worse at those times), so I made sure I didn’t do anything for the first and last couple of hours of the day.

In between, sometimes I’d perk up a bit—enough to allow me to write a blog post, work on a short story, or answer some important emails. Because I knew afternoons were the best times of day for me, I allowed myself to rest morning and evening, and did as much as possible in between.

Most of us can ‘look forward’ to catching at least one cold, flu, or stomach virus this season. While being sick is never fun, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean the death of your writing schedule until you regain your health. A hand from friends and family, cutting back on your physical activity level, and working hard during those brief times of relief can help you emerge from your illness without a lengthy to-do list.

When you’re sick, do you allow yourself complete rest? Or, do you push yourself too hard to maintain the same level of productivity you usually have? Have you managed to achieve a healthy balance between the two?