Over the last several years, writing has become an important and rewarding outlet for me. It has taken an especially important place in my life due to the fact that for the last 15 years, I have been living with and trying to effectively manage a chronic illness. I'd like to share some of the ways writing has enriched my life and helped me to compensate for some of the losses and limitations I experience, in the hopes that I might encourage some of my fellow members of the constantly sick club to take up the metaphorical pen.
Creative and intellectual fulfillment
I have a degree in chemistry. I was a straight-A student. Lupus makes it impossible for me to work a full time job without becoming dangerously and constantly ill. Many people with chronic conditions are in the same boat, and it can deal a terrible blow to one's self-esteem. Writing, whether for publication or simply for oneself, can provide a sense of accomplishment that can make the difference between contentment and despair. Sharing your writing can make an impact on the world around you and provide you with a new sense of purpose. Even if you only reach a few people, those few people have richer, happier lives because of you and your work. Moreover, many of us experience the "brain fog" common to the chronically ill. Mental deterioration is especially common if your disease is neurological in nature. Writing or other creative outlets can help keep the brain firing on all cylinders.
Flexible hours and work environment
Writers don't have a fixed schedule. The work can be done any time of day and in almost any location. You can write in bed. You can do research in your doctor's waiting room. You can brainstorm with an IV needle in one arm and a blood pressure cuff on the other. You can set your own realistic deadlines, keeping in mind your strengths and your limitations. Chronically ill people hate the perception that we are unreliable because we often have to cancel plans or make adjustments to schedules in order to manage our symptoms. At least with writing, or other artistic pursuits, we don't have to worry so much about letting anyone down or pushing ourselves so hard that we pay for it later.
Escaping the house with your imagination
Being sick all the time can be incredibly boring. Being stuck at home can be depressing. Limitations posed by your condition can be infuriating. But your characters can do everything you wish you could do and go anywhere you dream of going. I will never be able to sunbathe on a beach, and I'm unlikely to run a marathon, but my mind has no such limitations. Daydreaming is fun and stress reducing, and as a writer, you get to call it work.
Isolation can be one of the most damaging aspects of chronic ailments. Sharing your writing with your friends and family, or with the online world at large, can help you make connections. The internet makes it easier to find people with whom you can share your thoughts as well as your art. You don't have to write a novel. You can share a poem or a short story. You can blog about your favorite show, or book, or sports team, or hobby. You can write about the political or social issues of the day and discuss your views with the like-minded and not so like-minded. It can be terrifying to put your work out into the world, just as it is scary to go to a party with a bunch of people you don't yet know. I try to tell myself that nothing worth having comes without risk.
Trying to practice what I preach, my new adult paranormal fantasy novel She Dies at the End is now available fon Amazon Kindle.