Recently I took on a job and accepted the money for it. Almost instantly, I keeled over ill. What could I do about that? I was ten pages into the work.
This is what I did.
I stopped the work, and started getting better. There was no question of doing anything on autopilot. I'd have done a disservice to the client, myself, writing, and the dark side of the moon. Think of the chilblains, damn it.
What can you do, when you are ill? As a writer, generally, you are self-employed and work from home. So the sick-bed may be in your office.
Tempted to keep going through the disease? Here's highly technical medical advice, provided by healthcare professionals...
Fuck that shit.
You may want to take note of that advice. Put it on a magnet and stick it to your fridge. Get better. Let the work pile up. And get better.
There are many examples of authors who lay in sick-beds. If young as a scribbler, the would-be writer traded shares in illness for those in reading.
Some books were written in sick-beds. Others were penned from what would become death-beds.
I've often said that writers are always on the job. This is true. Stumbling back from shopping, I struggled to recall the source of a word.
As Dorothy Parker was fond of reminding us, just say it was all down to Oscar Wilde. In this case, that happened to be true. The weight of the tins in my bag propelled me to this realisation.
As with shopping, so too with illness. The writer is always on the job, even if ague precludes the notion of typing. Looking to write a realistic fever-dream? Simply fall ill and call it research.
I didn't get much done when I was ill. Why the hell not? I am one of those unusual individuals - I rarely fall ill, and seldom recognise doctors if I must trek to the local surgery. That is, assuming the building hasn't relocated since my last visit.
People who don't often fall ill often fall hard when we do fall ill. We are ill-prepared for illness as we're propelled into a strange world of arcane surgery opening-times, tests, test-results, and that peculiar thing called medicine.
Not for me that life, this time out.
I was borderline: sick enough to lose a week to illness, but not sick enough to require expert treatment. Yes, in a very Scottish way that is designed to thin the herd in time of plenty, I struggled on alone.
You'll want to hear that in my fever-state I carved out vast empires of the mind, storing away each dew-drop of sweat in a box of stories marked WRITE LATER.
Well, okay, as I lay there I worked my way through some story difficulties - that's true. After the worst of it, I hauled myself to the keyboard and wrote far more in a night than I felt I had any right to scribble.
There is an urge to write that cuts across illness. You must determine, studying the barometer, whether to cut across the illness and keep writing...
Or just get better.
At the worst of it, I felt as though I'd been hit by a bag of hammers taped to the end of another massive eff-off hammer. Walking from room to room was a fragile experience. I expected floors to splinter under me. Ow.
I know. It's excessively Scottish to seek no help for that. But hey, I managed to scrape a blog post out of the experience without getting killed. That's a result.
Was this post meant to be about contingencies and alternative plans? Fuck no. Sometimes lying there sweating it out - yep - sometimes that IS the contingency.
Fight your battles. Choose the battlegrounds, though. I stopped work at the start of the difficulty. There was no other option. At the far end of the difficulty, I didn't return to the work I'd started on. Instead, I took a sideways move into some old material just to see if the cylinders were all firing.
They were. And in the right order, too.
Obviously, I am still blogging around a week or two ahead, so the flow of the blog was never going to face disruption. Ah well, back to it.