The last time I worked on my novel was…
I don’t know.
We don’t have time for me to tell you the whole story, but I turned up sick on October 9, 2020 and haven’t been back to my old self since. I’m better, but I have good days and bad days and too many doctor appointments as I work through what’s going on and how to treat my issues. (No, it’s not Covid.)
But whether it lasts days, months, or years, nearly every writer has had their plans interrupted by illness. How can you still make progress when you don’t feel well? Here are a few ways to keep moving forward.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking a break and caring for your health may seem like stagnation of your writing plans. However, it’s actually moving forward, because if you don’t care for yourself, you’ll get less done in the end.
At times, I’ve felt bad, tried to push through, and ended up spending three hours completing a task that would have taken an hour if I’d only waited until I felt better. I understand the frustration of wanting to get things done, but it’s vital to work smart when you don’t have full energy reserves.
Your best option may be to set your manuscript aside and spend time in the fresh air, grab a nap, or take an Epsom salt bath. Prioritize feeling better so that you’ll have the energy and focus to work on your book when you can.
Study Your Craft
If you can’t work on your book, read someone else’s. Or watch movies or TV series, noting story structure, great dialogue, and setting details. Take a Masterclass or a writing class online. Read blog posts about writing (WITS has a lot of great content!).
When my mind tuned out of my book, I tuned into Netflix, Amazon Prime, and audiobooks, sampling shows and books that made for wonderful entertainment and learning experiences.
While you’re having to take it easy, pick up some great lessons that you can later use to write or edit your novel.
Divide your work periods into shorter segments. You may not be able to sit for hours and work on your book, but maybe you can do a scene a day or a set word count. Perhaps what you can accomplish is a blog post, a blurb, or an outline.
One of the lovely symptoms I’ve had is brain fog. I discovered early on that I couldn’t concentrate on a full novel, tracking the character arc, plot, and subplots across chapters and scenes. So, I penned a short story. That was the length I could handle, and my coauthor and I were able to release a fresh story in our supernatural suspense series.
Figure out what length of project you can work or for how long you can focus, and then do that. After all, if you can’t take big swallows, small bites still get the job done.
Do the Non-Writing Stuff
Most authors don’t get to shut themselves away, write their brilliant manuscript, emerge to hand it over to an editor, and move along to the next project. These days, authors also maintain a website, participate on social media, engage in marketing, track their sales, order or create book covers, and so on.
While not feeling 100%, you might still make progress on those tasks that require less effort than writing.
Me? I have a series of paranormal shorts I wrote some time ago that just need a little editing to be publication-ready. Since they will be cheap $.99 buys, I’m doing my own covers. (Not always a good idea. Check out this post, this post, and this post on book covers!) Working up these covers is right at my work capacity right now. It takes little effort to scroll through stock photo sites looking for ideas, download pics, upload pics, mess with text, etc. By the time I get to editing my shorts, I’ll have covers done or mostly done.
What small tasks can you accomplish? You might start by checking off some of these 30+ Ideas for Bite-Sized Book Marketing.
While feeling unwell, you can also feel isolated. You can’t go places, do things, write stuff, interact like you usually do. Keep your spirits up by connecting with other writers.
My optimism gets a boost whenever I chat with fellow writers and learn what they’re doing. We discuss stories, characters, the writing life, etc., and it reminds me that I’m still an author—just on a brief hiatus.
Whether it’s checking in with other writers in a Facebook group, attending a writers’ event virtually, or calling up a friend, stay connected with the writing community. Your peeps can help you weather the short or long period of illness that knocked you back a little, and you’ll be back on your feet soon.
That’s what I’m planning. Soon, I’ll be back in my novel again, polishing it up to a shine so it’s ready for the world!
What other ideas do you have for making progress when you’re sick? What words of hope or encouragement can you offer others struggling with illness?
Julie Glover is an award-winning author of mysteries and young adult fiction. She also writes supernatural suspense under the pen name Jules Lynn.
While not feeling quite herself lately, she still managed to release Gryla's Gift, a Christmas-themed story in the Muse Island series (co-authored with Kris Faryn and free in Kindle Unlimited), and Driving Emma, a young adult contemporary short story.
When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.
Top image credit: silviarita from Pixabay