Posted by: janesstories | August 24, 2009

Writing Ill

Judy raises the issue of health problems and how they affect our writing.

I have fibromyalgia, too, and a host of other  problems from two back-to-back auto accidents, involving damaged nerve  roots in my spine and crushed discs. I have such severe food allergies  that I am frequently in trouble in various grisly gastrointestinal  ways. Including right now. I spent all day Friday in the emergency  room doing things I don’t want to mention, and have a week full of
doctors to come. So I’m not producing much right now but editing.

Do I always feel like writing? Heck, no! Sometimes I don’t write for
several weeks, and sometimes I don’t produce much for months. I might
post something on my blog or jot notes, but can’t seem to really get
disciplined. Usually that’s when I travel–get out and experience
something new, do some research, just follow my nose. If nothing is
calling to me from my desk, I just go see what might call me from out
there. Sometimes that”s reading journals or online publications to
see what interests me in topics or tones or ideas. Or, I get really
pissed off about something and want to take the root cause apart and
see what’s there. In the winter, I do not write much because I have a
harder time, healthwise.

The urge to really dig in and move words around on paper alway comes
back to me, eventually, though. Usually, I get intrigued about trying
something new, a new form, or a new sensibility. Or it occurs to me
that something I’ve been rolling around in my head for a while is
actually a story, a poem, an essay, or a novel idea–something I know
how to handle.

It has been very interesting having a two-year novel seminar and
deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, imposed by someone else. It has
forced me to write through my laziness and pain and my reluctance to
tackle certain material.

I think writing groups help you keep your motivation up; at least, it
does for me, and I have noted it works that way for some others. The Jane Writing Circles are powerful motivators!  (If you haven’t joined one yet, email me at and we’ll set you up.)

As a  teacher, I have observed that sometimes when we have writing blocks
it’s because there’s some tough material that’s too close to home that
we are reluctant to air, even to ourselves.

It nearly killed me to kill off a favorite character and to delve into
the effect on her family; I had to force myself to sit in the chair
for hours doing nothing unless I put some words down. It brought out
feelings of grief for my mother, for a dear friend, and also for
another friend who was dying of cancer even as I was writing the death
scene. He died while I was in Louisville working on my novel, and that
was a tough night.

One of the things I do is write dialogues with my favorite writers to
see what I have to add to a conversation they started. That usually
gets me moving into a story. Haven’t done it with poets, though
sometimes I will read everything I can find by a favorite poet until
the ideas start bubbling up.


  1. Glenda, I’m rereading some old posts so that I won’t repeat any nuggets in a possible new one without acknowledging it. Your Blog “Writing Ill” touched me in many ways. I thought, not only about having written for long stretches though in physical and emotional pain, but also about reading about actors who’ve chosen to work during their most traumatic moments like the two older British actresses who each chose to do a comedic series (each proving successful) as part of their grief therapy when their husbands died and the younger actress who wrote and starred in a long running Broadway production of her experience being raped. The question for me is not WHY do we do it, but what do we do to protect ourselves from further injury when we do? Certainly not an easy thing to think about in during white-heat writing. There is an imperative for the writer to care for herself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

  2. Judy, thanks for your comment. I couldn’t agree more about the need to take care of ourselves, but must confess I have absolutely no talent foe doing so. It’s good to be reminded.


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