Sunday, June 1, 2014

Writer's Corner: Writing With Chronic Health Issues

Like many people, I have chronic health issues. For me, writing has always been a way to escape the worry and pain, the never ending cycle of doctor visits, testing, and hospital stays.

Writing has always been my chosen drug.

But what happens when your passion and art becomes part or all of your livelihood? When all the excitement of having your work accepted has waned a little, and now you have responsibilities and deadlines staring you in the face? Whether self-imposed or contractual, finishing the book means money in your pocket and others are depending on you.

So you push yourself and of course, the cycle begins anew, irregardless of any agreements you made to your publisher/agent/readers. The chronic illness that seemed to go away comes back with a vengeance.

I think there is a tendency to get really mad at yourself. Or maybe that's me.

I'm just not fast enough at my own pace, and with my health issues, to keep up with all my writing friends, and that depresses me a little. Because my book wasn't ready, I lost out on an opportunity. Not their fault, not really mine. Just the way it is.  I know beating up on myself isn't going to help me edit or write faster. It's at this point that the writing panacea no longer works.

I know there are others like me, writing and editing and struggling—all the while dealing with chronic illness. So I wanted to say a few things I recently had to remind myself.

1. Allow yourself the time to heal - If it takes a month or a year, the world isn't going to go away and writing can wait for you until you're ready for it.

2. Stop judging yourself by other people's standards. Just because one friend can write eight books a year doesn't mean you're less of a writer. It just means you are an individual with your own pace and your own obstacles to overcome.

3. Make allowances for your disability, but not excuses. If you suffer from chronic health issues, build in extra time to complete a project, so you still can work toward an achievable goal. But if you still miss deadline, it's better to finish than give up and not finish at all.

4. Money flows where love goes. If you love what you're doing, it will pay off if you give it time. You may never make as much as Nora Roberts, but go back and read #2 and realize there is only one LaNora. Likewise, there is only one you. Tell your story the best you can, and let it go.

5. Always remember you are not alone. Somewhere, someone else is battling similar problems. By sharing and finding solutions, maybe you can help each other. It's worth a try and you have nothing to lose.

6. Forgive yourself. Often we place erroneous blame on ourselves for our illness. Instead, look at the illness as a challenge to overcome, an opportunity to achieve something special—self acceptance.

And finally...

7. Nothing done is ever wasted. Make sure whatever you do, you learn from it and carry that knowledge onto the next project.

Life is what you make of it, despite setbacks and hardships. It is through the difficulties we face that character is built. Now go be your own character and WRITE!

About the author: Cassandra Curtis is a former EPPIE award finalist, bestselling author, and cancer survivor. She also battles with COPD, sarcoidosis, epilepsy, diabetes, congestive heart failure, degenerative disc disease, neuropathy, and other chronic illnesses. While health issues may slow her down, she refuses to let them keep her down.

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