As part of our occasional #WritersWednesday series on writing with particular health conditions, British novelist Chrissie Parker's describes the challenges of writing with epilepsy. Her positive attitude will inspire authors everywhere.
The life of a writer can be very rewarding but it’s also hard. Motivation, a thick skin and determination are all strengths required. I have all of these to varying degrees, although it isn’t always easy. My writing life is a little different to the norm. Whilst many writers I know wake in the morning, put the coffee on and rush to their desks prepared to put in a ten, sometimes twelve-hour day, mine starts very differently.
When I wake up, the first thing I do is take my medication. I then eat breakfast. If I don’t, I’ll feel rough for the day, as if I have a bad hangover, coupled with no energy and a feeling of sluggishness. Once I have eaten, I then gauge how much energy I have for the day ahead, both mentally and physically for work. I have to see if it will be enough to get me through the day.
An Invisible Illness
I have epilepsy, a condition that affects people in different ways. It's an unseen condition that I’ve lived with for decades. Even though I’m currently seizure free, I still have to take medication three times a day, I have to eat three times a day, and I have to get between eight and ten hours sleep a night. My energy, both physical and mental, gets used up a lot quicker than the normal person. A late night, too much physical exertion, or stress impacts me and leaves me feeling overtired. All of this means I can't just work through lunch or pull an all-nighter. My day needs to be structured around my condition to ensure I stay healthy. This means my ability to function changes from day to day. Some days are good and I can work a reasonable number of hours and get lots achieved, other days I’m tired, my brain fogs over and I only work for a few hours.
More than Just Writing
As a writer, there’s more to writing a book than just writing. There are edits/revisions, marketing, answering emails and keeping social media updated. There are schedules to plan, events to prepare for/attend, and other numerous tasks. It’s more than a full time job, and there’s no one else to do it but me.
This is where frustration sets in. I see other writers working fourteen-hour days, six-day weeks. They release multiple books per year; at the moment I only release one a year. I look at them and think, why can't I do that, why can't my body and brain just understand that I need more energy, why can’t I find the energy from somewhere – anywhere – so that I can do what I want to do?
I want my condition to stop dictating to me. I don’t like dealing with the unpredictability.
But then I remember my epilepsy is part of me. It is me.
I've had it for a long time and I’m better than I was ten years ago, I’ve been seizure free since July 2009 and feel the best I’ve felt in along time. I may not be releasing multiple books a year, but I’m still releasing one a year. I’m still marketing, I’m still attending events, and I still have my loyal readers, respond to them and keep them updated with all my news. I have to learn to stop getting frustrated. I have to realise I can't do it all, I'm not superhuman; I’m me, that’s just how it is.
I have epilepsy, and that's what makes me who I am, and as long as I'm still writing that's all that really matters.
OVER TO YOU If you'd like to share the challenges of writing with a health condition, we'd love to hear from you.
- How Illness Turned Me into an Author by Nelly Harper
- How Self-publishing Saved my Life by Paul Tomkins
- Feel the Fear and Write It Anyway by Linda Gillard