Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. With that said, I have not partnered with any of the authors or publishers for sponsorship. All recommendations and endorsements are based solely on my personal experiences.
I have arthritis. It’s osteoarthritis, and it’s in my fingers, wrists, and elbows, among other joints. Osteoarthritis comes from overuse, but it isn’t something that goes away. I’ll be dealing with this for the foreseeable future.
Despite my chronic pain, I still make progress with my writing. It’s difficult, but I’ve found some strategies to help. If you also struggle with moving forward in your books when dealing with a flare-up, check out my top five tips for writing with chronic pain.
MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR WRITING WITH CHRONIC PAIN
Take rest days. On days when the pain is too great, you might have to take some time off. And that’s okay! In my most recent newsletter, I talked about taking breaks when you’re feeling low. “The book will still be there when you’re feeling better.” The same holds true for chronic pain.
KT tape. My friend and fellow writer Kate Mitchell recommended this one to me. If you can’t find this tape, try compression gloves. I had mixed results with those, but they might work for you. Buy KT tape here.
Writing via dictation. Text to speech is an absolute godsend. I use Google Docs in Google Chrome, so dictation is built right in. If you want to use this feature, open your document, navigate to Tools, then select Voice Typing. Note: This feature only works when using Docs in Google Chrome. If you don’t use Google Docs, try Dragon or another dictation option.
Communicate. As authors, we frequently have to deal with deadlines. Since I’m self-published to this point, I don’t have to worry too much about that. However, as an editor, I juggle due dates for various clients. When I’m in the midst of a terrible flare-up (like right now), I let my clients know to expect things with a delay. When you communicate what’s going on, people tend to be understanding. If they’re not, maybe they’re not the best people for you to interact with.
Prioritize quality over quantity. Marathon writing sessions are phenomenal, but they can’t happen every day. If you’re in too much pain to get a lot of writing done at once, try doing a few sprints. That way, you’re still getting words down, even if you don’t think you’re getting much done. Every little bit matters.
For more tips for managing chronic pain, check out this post with hacks for living with chronic conditions, or this one featuring tools for pain management that aren’t medications (thanks again, Kate!). Final note: I am not a medical professional. Please take all recommendations with that in mind. If you are truly having a hard time managing chronic pain, your best bet is to make an appointment with a qualified physician.
Let me make the case to you for setting micro goals. Writing a book is a complicated process. Some days, 100 words are more than doable. Other days, it feels a gargantuan task. When I have days like the latter, what helps is telling myself I only have to write one sentence. It’s almost impossible not to talk myself into doing just that much. Usually, once I have that one sentence down, it’s enough to motivate me to keep going with the work.
Take this blog post, for example. I told myself I was only going to write a topic sentence. But a minute or so has gone by now, and I am still writing the post. I can’t keep this little sprint going for much longer, but it’s given me a solid start. That’s the power of micro goals.
When I’m working on a draft of a novel, I set a word count goal for 2,000 words per day. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember, maybe since college. But on days when writing feels impossible, like the last thing I would ever want to do, I lower my expectations.
On days when I’m struggling, I focus on a much lower word count target, say, 500 words, or 100. Once, I even set a target for like, 50 words (a Very Bad Day). Still, it counted as writing, because I was getting words down. Even if my word count goal was lower than I wanted, I still got something done. That is the power of micro goals.
So, the next time you’re struggling, lower the bar. Decrease the word count goal. This is not only good for morale, but also productivity. You’ll be surprised how much progress you’ll make.
As I write this, I am dictating it. I’m in the middle of a pretty bad arthritis flare-up, I have it in my hands, so it makes writing difficult. I wanted to get this blog post done, however, so I set a goal to just write the next sentence. Here we are now, at the conclusion of this post. It’s going to be a short one, but I hope it helps someone as much as it’s helped me to figure this out.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
As I edit, polish, and refine my manuscript for Pitch Wars (eep!), I can’t help marveling at how much this one book has changed my life. When I started out writing Reflections, I knew it was going to be important. It tackles several difficult issues that need to be addressed, and it has more than one personal connection to my own life. However, I never anticipated it becoming a kind of nourishment for me.
Writing this novel changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. I learned so much while writing this book–about myself and the world around me–that it almost doesn’t matter to me if anyone else reads it. Of course, I do want someone to read it, and even better if they’re as effected by the novel as I have been so far. This book is more important to me than anything I’ve written. Writing Reflections changed my life because it allowed me to connect with victims, confront my own issues and experiences, and move through tough stuff toward positivity and acceptance.
WRITING REFLECTIONS ALLOWED ME TO CONNECT WITH VICTIMS
I know a lot of women who have suffered various kinds of abuse–too many women who have been hurt in ways non-victims can never understand. While I was in college, I was lucky enough to participate in a production of The Vagina Monologues. One of my favorite parts of the show, and arguably the most profound, happened toward the end. After a brief video conveying sexual assault statistics, the show’s director asked everyone who had ever been hurt or abused to stand up. The number of women rising to their feet was staggering. It hit me like a punch to the gut. These were women I saw on campus every day, women I had classes with, even women who had just performed onstage with me. It was heartbreaking, yes, but it was also powerful.
These women deserve to have their stories told. They deserve to know that what happened to them in the past does not define them. More than anything, they deserve to get a taste of what it’s like to be the hero. No matter how broken they may feel, they are stronger than they know. Writing this book–writing Rama–not only allowed me to grasp the truths I most needed to hear, it also allowed me to connect with other victims of various kinds of abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual.
WRITING REFLECTIONS ALLOWED ME TO WORK THROUGH MY ISSUES
In the past, I’ve been betrayed by men. My trust has been destroyed more times than I can count. For the longest time, I thought I would never be happy. I had a hard time making peace with myself because of my extensive trust issues. After all, if I couldn’t get over myself, nobody would love me, and if nobody would love me, I couldn’t get married and then I wouldn’t have kids and then andthenandthen–
But that isn’t what matters. Ideally, I’d like to learn to trust the men I meet, but I recognize now that isn’t necessary for my happiness. I can still be happy and comfortable with myself, flaws and all, by embracing my lack of perfection. Sure, I’ve been let down, but none of that was my fault. At the same time, the fact that I’ve been a victim doesn’t mean I have no control of my life. Instead of focusing on the past, writing Reflections helped me forgive those who have hurt me and redirect my energy toward building the life I desire.
If I can be happy being alone–if I can accept myself fully for me–then and only then will I find any kind of peace.
Of course, this philosophy applies to physical features as much as it does emotional ones. Like everyone else, there are things about my body that I’ve often wished to change. As a teenager, I struggled to come to terms with my height, cystic acne, and the shape of my nose. I was even bullied because of the way I looked. Instead of considering all the things my body did for me and the aspects of it I actually liked, I dwelled only on the negative. My self-esteem eroded and dwindled down to nothing. Over the years, it has slowly improved, but while writing Reflections, it skyrocketed. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve loved myself so fully. I adore and appreciate every part of my face and body. Sometimes I have off days, but for the most part, I am now able to drag myself out of the funk and smile at myself in the mirror.
This post might be the longest on my blog to date, but it’s also the most important. While I am of course hopeful that Reflections will be picked up by someone someday, if nothing else, I can say it’s made a difference in my life. I should be so lucky if it helps someone else.
Hello, friends. It’s been a while. Thankfully, I am back on the mend.
Today’s guest post comes from my dear friend Mariella Hunt! What makes a writer? Who decides? What do you think? Check out Mariella’s thoughts, and feel free to share your opinion in the comments!
During NaNoWriMo, I found several controversial articles stating that writers write. It triggered so many arguments, I couldn’t help meditating on the matter. I wound up agreeing with both sides to an extent.
We have to remember that life makes it hard to just write, and it’s unfair to disqualify someone as a writer because they can’t do it every day. Sometimes writers can’t write, and it’s not that they don’t want to. Other duties get in the way.
These are other signs you may be a writer. Pay attention to your daily routine—maybe you’ll notice a few of them! While these aren’t all the signs, they’re the ones I found most of my writer friends relate to.
- Writers daydream when we’re supposed to be working on chores or school. We might be unloading the dishwasher, but our minds are somewhere else—not in a messy kitchen, but the universe we’ve crafted in our books.
- Writers get frustrated when people say writing’s not a ‘real job.’ Those people don’t know the effort it takes to craft a story, let alone a novel. They’ve never faced the challenge of focusing on a storyline when we have so many ideas. They never felt restless staring at a blank document, praying for the perfect ending to write itself. Writing is work. You’re a writer if you’re passionate about helping people understand that.
- Writers have a habit of correcting peoples’ grammar, sometimes out loud. We might spend long hours thinking of better ways to say what that other person said. Most of us have issues with chatspeak and harbor a fascination for big words, sometimes even dead words. Because of this, we might confuse people in daily conversation and enjoy it!
- Honest writers are never satisfied with our work. We struggle to ignore the inner editor so we can reach the end of a chapter…then we scroll up and change things again, but don’t ask because we’ll deny it! After all, editing is for later drafts…or so they say.
- We gaze out the car window at buildings, wondering what the background music would be if we were in a movie. Our imaginations panic over situations that will never happen; they whisper solutions we’ll never need.
- It frustrates us that we can’t write our life stories to make them more exciting or comfortable. Since we can’t write our life stories, we write novels. Most of us don’t make characters representing ourselves, but we might accidentally give protagonists our traits!
- We’re often caught staring into space with looks of contemplation. Most of us have had to assure people multiple times that nothing is wrong—we aren’t angry, and we’re not tired. We’re plotting!
- We carry a bit of each book we’ve read in our hearts. Even if we didn’t enjoy the read, we catalog the book as an example of what not to do in our writing.
Sometimes you can’t write as you’d like to, but that doesn’t make you less of a writer. Writers can’t always write. It would seem a true writer is the person who always wants to write (even when they put it off. It is a lot of work!)
If you’re too busy to just write, don’t be discouraged…you’re still a storyteller with a heart full of ideas!
Would you add anything to this list?
Check out this special guest post for @brianawrites in which @mariellahunt discusses what it means to be a writer. (Click to tweet)