Please give a warm welcome to the wonderful S. G. Willoughby, the first (hopefully of many) guest poster here at Paper Strider.
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Writing is hard. I think we can all agree about that, right? Marring a blank page is harder than it appears, and even once the words start flowing, you have to organize them into sentences and paragraphs and make them coherent. Imagine that, having to be logical.
Being a writer means squeezing in writing even when you’re exhausted. When you’re busy. When you’re emotionally drained. When your little sister keeps interrupting you. And . . .when you’re sick.
Writing is hard, but you know another thing that’s hard? Chronic illness. Yeah, that got heavy fast. The thing is, thousands of writers around the world face a chronic illness. And when you have a chronic illness, it can seem nearly impossible to write anything, let alone let anyone read it.
When Jessie first took up my offer to guest post, she suggested I talk about how to find time to write when you’re chronically ill. But the thing is, a lot of chronically ill people have time. Just not energy. We often have too much time on our hands. Illness makes us stop many activities because of inability, but writing is something we can do from bed.
Sure, we often have doctor appointments to attend and symptom research to do, and even little things like showering take us way longer than they should since our bodies force us to move so slowly. But while our families are at potlucks or work or soccer games, we find ourselves staring at the ceiling fan making circle after circle above our beds.
So we write. We write about the worlds we wish we could explore. We write about people facing insurmountable odds, yet who overcome them — as we dream to. We write out of the painful, lonely, guilt-ridden depths of our own hearts.
But so often, it’s hard to work up the energy, mental functioning, or creativity to write while chronically ill. I’ve been there. I still am there pretty often. So today, I’d like to share four tips with you to help you write when you aren’t at your best.
1. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
Chronically ill warrior, you are fighting a huge battle already. I need you to have grace for yourself. You don’t have to be the perfect writer. You don’t have to use every single second of the mystical ‘extra time’ you’re supposed to have. Remember that every single moment, writing or not, you’re fighting to function through pain and nausea and exhaustion and countless other symptoms.
That’s way more than many writers have to deal with. So guess what? You don’t have to be everything a non-sick writer is. You don’t have to do things the same way or at the same pace that they do.
Seriously. I mean this. If you don’t get anything else from this post, please remember to have grace for yourself. When you give yourself grace, it will help you to persevere in your writing in the long run. You’re being kind to your mind, body, blog, book, and long-term writing career.
2. REST AND CELEBRATE
You heard me. Sleeping isn’t wasting time. It rejuvenates your mind and body and helps you so that when you are able to write, it will be the best it can be. Reading isn’t wasting time. It lets you explore the world even if you physically can’t, which fuels your creativity, and often your writing motivation.
Resting is a crucial aspect to being able to work on your writing well. Also, celebrate. Celebrate the moments when you get a writing win. Even the small ones. Reward yourself with a food you enjoy or a movie you desperately want to see or by buying yourself a book or simply by resting. Give yourself and your body something you like. This is helpful for any writer, but especially for those for whom writing is hard — like chronically ill writers.
It can feel like you’re moving at a snail’s pace, but you really are making progress and an impact in and through your writing. It is worth it. So don’t forget to celebrate the small things too. They really are a big accomplishment. I mean it.
Sometimes it’s sad how such small things can be such big things for chronically ill writers, but just the fact that you do more than lay around in bed all day is amazing. And that is something to celebrate.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO WRITE BRAINFOG-FILLED PIECES
Don’t be afraid to write stuff that sucks. Again, applicable to every writer, but as a chronically ill writer, I feel like I write stuff that sucks more than most people. When brain fog or pain-filled functioning beat me down, my writing can come out disjointed, typo-filled, and illogical.
Instead of striking a chord in the reader it makes them rub their eyes and reread the same sentence over and over again. But there’s a really weird phenomenon I’ve noticed in my own writing. The pieces of writing I write in moments of weakness seem to be the ones that people relate to most.
I think that’s often because I’m writing from my own struggles and pain. And everyone has struggles and pain. So don’t be afraid to write brainfog-filled pieces of writing. They still have a purpose in getting words onto paper, helping us practice writing, and even impacting readers.
Besides, there’s such thing as editing.
Plus, when we work hard to push through and write despite the brain fog or depression or physical pain, just imagine the mental muscles we’re building! When our brains and bodies do get a moment to function normally, we’re going to be writing powerhouses.
4. GET A CHEERLEADER
Find someone to remind you of the above tips. Someone to tell you to have grace on yourself when you’re beating yourself up for not being able to do everything a healthy person is able to do. Someone to point out the purpose and benefit of your brainfog writing.
And someone to force you to rest when you’re refusing to even though you need to. Someone to bring you allergy-friendly ice cream and dance around the house with you when you hit 10k words or write a scene that makes your mom cry.
They can tell you the truth and keep you going when all you want to do it curl up in bed and cry over another dream that illness killed. Because guys, your writing dream doesn’t have to be over just because you’re chronically ill. I’m living proof of that.
There were months at a time when I could not write because of my illness. When it was simply impossible, despite the desperate ache to pour out some words on paper. Yet there were still times I was able to write. I still blogged and journaled and wrote and published my debut book.
It’s still possible for you, too.
So chronically ill warrior, keep writing. Don’t give up. Your voice is needed. Your story is needed. Even though you’re chronically ill. Especially because you’re chronically ill.
S. G. Willoughby is the 18-year-old author of He’s Making Diamonds: A Teen’s Thoughts on Faith Through Chronic Illness. She loves to read, write, and have adventures, be it off to Narnia one more time, wading through mud chasing the family dog, or playing a new board game with her two younger siblings. Sara is also a Lymie, TCK, and Bright Lights leader. You can find her at sgwilloughby.com.
Her book is available in both paperback and ebook formats from Amazon.