Managing a Writing Career When You're Sick

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Most of you know I have rheumatoid arthritis, a degenerative autoimmune disease. I was diagnosed over a year before I got my agent and roughly three years before my debut published, which is to say, I've never not been a professional writer who wasn't chronically ill.

Managing a writing career when you're sick has, well, a lot of ups and downs.

In many ways, I consider myself fortunate. I started a new medication in January that at last, five months later, has started to have some positive effects, including less frequent flares and lessened swelling in my hand. I can still walk without assistance (up to a certain distance, anyway, which unfortunately is less than it was five years ago), and all in all I know I could be in a worse position with my disease.

But I'd be lying if I said being chronically ill hasn't intersected with my writing career.

While I haven't yet thankfully had to cancel an event because I was too sick, I did just recently go to an event while flaring, and I have had to cancel writing days because a flare knocked me out, which has been frustrating. The most important thing for me, I think, has been to learn to be flexible and gentle with myself. I am undoubtedly a workaholic, and having to take days where I honestly didn't have the energy to do anything but watch Netflix and drink tea has been hard. But I've had to remind myself that if I tried to force myself to work on those days, the work I would've gotten done would've been half-assed and not nearly as well thought-out and effective as I would need it to be.

Being sick has also forced me to learn my patterns. I know I'm much more likely to flare mid-day or later in the day than I am in the morning, so getting up early and getting right to work helps me get some work done even on my bad flare days.

I'm not going to lie, being a writer would be easier when I didn't have to deal with frequent flares or the constant worry of lessening ability. But the good thing it's done is shown me the startling lack of positive chronic illness representation in children's lit, and reminded me not to judge someone based off their appearance—after all, people who look at me have no idea when I'm in pain or my knees or hips are getting stiff.

Managing a writing career is different and sometimes difficult when your body is actively working against you. But it's not impossible—it just requires figuring out what strategies work best for you and above all, being gentle with yourself.

Twitter-sized bite:
What's it like to manage a writing career when you're chronically ill? @Ava_Jae shares their experience. (Click to tweet)

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