How to write when you’re down and out 4

Okay, don’t worry. It’s not actually as bad as the title suggests. Or maybe it is. Hm. Not very consistent, am I?

My current crisis has nothing to do with my writing, but everything with my health. I’m experiencing a major illness relapse, likely an after-effect of our trip to the States.
On Wednesday I saw my doctor, who directed me to an internest to have some things checked out more in-depth. For reference, I suffer from fibromyalgia, which is one of those “we don’t know why what is wrong with you is wrong with you”-diagnoses, and entails being tired and having achy muscles all the time. For me, a psychological cause has been ruled out – yay, I’m not crazy! I’m not imagining things! – so it’s clear my body is not functioning properly (instead of my mind). Of course, the question remains WHY it’s not functioning as it should and WHAT (the f!) can be done to make it better.

Yeah, I really don’t want to make this blog about my personal shit, but I guess I needed that little rant. Alright.

As with all things disappointing that influence my writing, I try to see this as a challenge. How can I do something useful, here in my bed with my laptop? How can I still feel like I’m part of something? How can I write when I’m down and out?

Break it down
For me it really helps to break down my goals. Normally, I try to write a thousand words a day. BTW, I didn’t set this goal to put myself through bootcamp or anything – it’s simply a way of setting an objective standard so you don’t have to motivate yourself on a day-to-day basis (more about this here (bottom of the post).

Now that I’m more ill than usual, I’ve screwed the number back to 200. That’s a safely low standard, right? On any given day I can manage that number just tampering with the text for an hour or so. So that’s good. It’s instant gratification. And when I manage 300 words, I feel like a boss.

This kind of boss, I’m afraid. But still.

Let it go
I’m not thinking about my book right now. I’m not looking at the bigger picture, like if and when, with a word-count of 200/day, I will EVER finish this manuscript. That’s not important in this situation. If I start thinking like that I’ll only feel bad.
What I try to do, in general, is look for things that make an activity feasable and pleasant for me here and now, and let the rest go. This goes for my household – do one thing each day and not worry about the general mess – for social activities – arrange for a caravan at a festival so I can go lie down when I need to – and it goes for writing too.

I love the activity of creating a world in words. That is what makes me feel good, even if I can only do it for an hour a day. What stops me from feeling good is when I start thinking about the general purpose and effectivity of what I’m doing. So I don’t do that.
Is this a head-in-the-sand policy? Definitely. But I’d rather have my head in the sand than be completely covered by it.

“Hang the sense of it and keep yourself occupied”, to quote Douglas Adams. Let it go.

Feel it out
When you, for any reason, don’t have much time to write, you can save yourself a lot of time by preparing to write away from your computer. You know how, when you start writing, it always takes time to get back into the story? I have found that it helps a lot when I clear my head before I start – I usually meditate – and then I mull my story and my protagonist over in my mind and sort of try to immerse myself in that world. I try out different scenes and sentences in my head and see what happens. It’s not so much concentrating, actually, as it is ‘opening myself up to the DNA of my story’ or something. It’s getting the juices flowing.

The great thing is, I can do all this in bed, while taking a walk or a shower, and it still helps my writing. I think the key is to keep in touch with your story, even if you’re not at liberty to spend a lot of time with it. Engage in a long-term-relationship. Anything is better than no relationship at all.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Don’t give up on the connection with your story. Touch base from time to time. It really works.

Give it over
Lastly, I think it’s important, when you’re struggling to make time – and save energy – for your writing, to have as much support as possible. Have some people who care about you, know what you are trying to do. If you’re anything near as enthusiastic about writing as I am, they will see how much it means to you and be proud of you for going for it.

Whenever I’ve written anything, I get cheered on by Dirk and/or a close group of friends. That’s pretty vital, when you otherwise feel like carrying sand to the Sahara (in a thimble (that’s leaky (during a hurricane (without a map)))).

So there you go. This is how I try to keep my head up right now. Hope it helps!




Share this:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “How to write when you’re down and out