Writers Health Care

career indie author

career indie author introduction

The best writers health care starts with prevention, but when minor illnesses get you down, you don’t have to lie back and take it.

It is not the job of The Career Indie Author to dispense medical advice. That said, we can give advice about what to do if you fall ill with a cold or other problem that threatens your productivity.

writers health

Getting sick carries double the problems. Not only did you get sick, but so did your boss.

I’m talking about minor problems like a cold that lasts a week or longer.

Freelancers have a problem with illness that most workers don’t have. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. If your former co-workers at your old job get sick, they can take a day or two off and still get a full paycheck at the end of the week.

(I know, I know, that’s not always the case. I faced it myself. When I delivered bread, I was told specifically that if I didn’t come in, a substitute would come in and he’d get that day’s sales. And there are jobs out there that come with no health benefits at all. Some business owners seem determined to get as much out of you as they can, as if you’re to blame for the crappy way they run their company into the ground. But that’s another rant for another book.)

But getting sick at your writing job carries double the problems. Not only did you get sick, but so did your boss. And as the writer, you can’t just hire a substitute for the day. It’s not like they know what you were planning on doing next. They won’t have access to the ideas in your head you’re just itching to use.

But that doesn’t mean you have to write off the day, either. Unless you’re so dizzy you see two spouses asking, “Honey, how’s it going?” you can push on and feel like you’ve gotten something accomplished, even if it wasn’t moving forward on your next book.

Here are some ideas:

1. Reading: Those articles you’ve set aside on your hard drive that you always meant to get back to; that book by your bedside you promised for a friend; work off your shelf that you hadn’t touched since you bought it years ago. Or, maybe some short stories in your field that are considered classics.

2. Editing your notes: I don’t know about you, but when I’m working on a book I’ll leave notes everywhere. Tucked in the manuscript, in files on the desktop, in my notebook. Going through them will refresh your memory of what you’ve done, but remind you off good stuff you had forgotten. Reorganizing them will mean one less thing for your brain to keep track of, and prime the pump for when you’re ready to return to the fight.

3. General maintenance: A pile of emails that you meant to print out and file. Business expenses you meant to stick in your database. Your iTunes music that contains albums you no longer want to hear.

4. General computer maintenance: Defragging the hard drive, running a deep scan of the system, or maybe trawling through your file folders, discarding the ones you no longer need. And by the way, when was the last time you backed up your writing files?

computers writers

When was the last time you backed up your files?


5. Listening to podcasts: If you have to stay in bed and reading hurts your eyes, listen to podcasts, particularly on writing and marketing.

6. Story ideas: Lay in bed with a notebook computer, or a big pad of paper and pen you’re confident works. Free-associate ideas, writing them down with thinking or editing them. Let the ideas flow. Some of them may spark a new direction, or a character, or a scene, or a joke. Let the world come in and surprise you.

7. Take care of yourself. The key words are hydration (drink plenty of water), sanitation (wear fresh clothes and take a shower), and aeration (if the weather permits, open the windows; even in winter, five minutes will air out the room and leaving you feel chilly, but refreshed).

Sidebar: Cat Scratches

Don’t do like me, Dear Reader. Don’t play with your cat until they start biting you.

writers health cats

Cue the horror music

We’ve had cats for years. We still do. Heck, I had a cat when I was a child, a black cat the family named “DC” (for “damned cat”).

I’ve played with cats. I’ve been scratched by them. On one memorable occasion, I tried to rescue a feral cat. We were at a restaurant in Lewes, Del., when the staff told us about a beautiful young cat they were feeding salmon to. They were hoping to find a home for him.

So, armed with salmon, I tried to make friends with the cat. Then I picked him up by the back of his neck.

Cue the horror music. The cat, I swear, the cat turned around inside its skin and proceeded to shred my arm, raking the flesh with its claws and furiously biting me over and over again.

An ordinary person would have dropped the cat. An ordinary person wouldn’t have tried a damn fool thing in the first place.

I hung onto the cat for about half a minute, trying to adjust my grip while it dug deeper and deeper into my arm, turning it into a piece of bloody sausage. Then I let it go and it fled under the restaurant’s porch.

The staff let me clean up in the bathroom, and I tried not to make it look so much like a murder scene.

Over time, the arm healed and so did my ego.

Then, while playing with my cat, Ivan the Terrible, he pounded and sank a fang deep into the palm of my hand.

About 24 hours later, while working in the press room, I was telling the crew about my adventures with Ivan and showed them my arm.

They saw what I hadn’t: a dark line running from my hand and up my arm.

A few hours later, I was in the emergency room, receiving an IV full of antibiotics.

That’s when I learned a few sobering facts. Cat scratches can get infected. Cat mouths are full of nasty bacteria. Getting a tooth into your hand (and about 80 percent of strikes are taken into the hand) means you’ve been injected with all kinds of possible toxins. Not getting it treated until you start feeling sick (36 hours after the bite or longer), and you could look forward to a hospital stay.

That’s not all. Getting bitten in the hand is bad enough, but if you’re bitten near the joints, the cat could inject bacteria into deep pockets around the bones, and it’ll stay there, attacking the tendons until a nice doctor with a knife can come along, cut your hand open and scoop out the nastiness.

And that feral cat that got the opportunity to shred my arm like Axl Rose on a Strat? He could have had rabies.

I dodged several bullets, needing only the magic bullet of penicillin from doing serious damage to my health.

Don’t let this happen to you.