I’ve been a bit sick for the past few months. In fact, back in September I got sepsis and had to make a trip to the emergency room at the hospital. I had a high fever and plummeting blood pressure, so the doctors put me on fluids and a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
Once you start treatment, you have to sit and wait to see if the antibiotics actually work. If they do, great. If they don’t, there’s a good chance that you will go into organ failure and die.
While I waited, I asked my wife to pick up my laptop so that I could get some work done. You see, being a writer is easy—less physical than any other job I’ve ever had. So I got my laptop open and began typing. The nurses frowned at me and sent the doctor in.
He watched me for a minute, then said, “Are you sure you should be doing that? I mean, just a couple of hours ago, you were within twenty minutes of meeting your maker.” I told him I felt fine. I really didn’t think it would hurt.
He added, “Your blood pressure is so low right now that you probably shouldn’t be conscious.” Again, I told him I felt fine, and I kept working. I kept at it for a couple of hours, then rested a bit, worked a couple more, and so on. I got my eight hours in for the day.
However, I’m not going to recommend this to you. When you type with IVs in your wrists, they really do swell horribly. So, maybe I should have listened to my doctor.
Last week I got sick again, this time with pneumonia and a heart attack, and so I’m taking it very easy. Haven’t done a thing all week except some very light exercise, and it is driving me crazy. You see, when you’re a writer, and you’ve got down time, your mind naturally turns to composing, and you find yourself writing in your head, which makes you want to get to the keyboard. What makes it even tougher is that I love what I do—writing, teaching, contest judging, and so on. I’m eager to get healthy and return to work.
Yet a lot of people who want to write find endless excuses to avoid work. I recently listened to a book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art, which deals with how to push through writer’s block and win your creative battles. I highly recommend it in part just because Pressfield categorizes the myriad and bizarre ways that writers invent to avoid writing. Beautiful book, full of insightful gems, and I love the narration.
On a physical level, writing is easy. It’s much easier than Basic Training in the military, or working on an assembly line, or picking crops, or just about anything else that I know of.
But on a mental level it can be a dragon. I sometimes wonder if perhaps for inspiration, we should keep in mind a pantheon of writerly heroes.
My writerly hero is an Irish writer named Christy Brown, an author who was born into an impoverished Irish family. He had cerebral palsy and therefore was incapable of typing or even writing block letters with his hands. So he wrote his books entirely by holding a pencil between his toes and composing with his left foot. (His tale was made into an inspiring film called My Left Foot in 1989, for which the actor Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar as Best Actor.)
So next time that you find yourself making excuses to avoid writing, I’ll recommend that you pick up The War of Art or perhaps watch My Left Foot to help you get inspired. But please remember this disclaimer: Before you begin writing, check with your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough to write!
I will also be teaching at SpikeCon in July, also in Layton, Utah. Learn more here.