Writing with Chronic Illness

Continuing forward despite, well, everything



Brick wall with bandaids on it

I have a chronic condition. Basically, this means that I cannot count on having good weeks, able to be productive, and writing every day. I will have a good week, with maybe a few days thrown in for good measure. However, being healthy for at least fourteen days in a row, well, that hasn’t happened in years.

What am I dealing with? Hormones run amok, for the most part. I have great hope that some year, my hormones will calm down and I’ll stop having meh days.

Until then, I deal with it as if it’s a chronic illness because that’s what it looks and behaves as.

I’ve blogged about this before, but I figured I’d try to pull all my thoughts into a single piece, for those of you who are struggling as I have been. One of the things I’d suggest, picking up Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s book on the topic as well: Writing with Chronic Illness.

A lot of writers will tell you that you must write every day. That may or may not be possible given your condition. I cannot write every day. I’d like to be able to. Believe me, I write as often as I can. (My regular monthly word count goal is 50K words per month.) And it always, always makes me angry when I can’t write. I frequently have been thinking about whatever story I’m working on, and I have ideas about where it should go, what one character is going to say to another, and so on.

But I’ll wake up and all those lovely words will be gone. Writing a blog post will be difficult.

So one of the things that I do to help is to have a sliding word count scale.

On a good day, I should reach 3000 words. Period. Unless there’s something happening, such as a doctor’s appointment, I should have time on a good day to write. And I need to guard that time jealously, as I won’t always have good days.

On so-so days, I should reach 1500 words. That’s all I have to do. This change was such a relief for me when I started doing this. I would sit down at my computer (because on those days I sit to write when I normally stand) and I would feel crushed by attempting 3000 words.

But 1500? I could do 1500. I frequently find that when it’s a bad day and that’s all I have…




Leah Cutter sold her first short story back in 1997, and continues to write and sell both her fiction and non-fiction. She supports herself with her writing.