So you want to write a book while chronically ill? Here’s what you need to know.

Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to fulfil your dream because of your chronic illness. If you are one of the 81% of Americans that wants to write a book, you may be struggling to see how you can achieve that with your illness. It certainly makes it more challenging. I know, because I have just done it.

There’s hundreds of articles out there telling you how to write a book. And you should read some of them if you do want to write a book. But this is not one of those articles.

If you want to write a book, but you are struggling to get started or finish, because of your illness, then follow the tips below. There’s no reason your illness should stop you fulfilling your dream of writing that book.


Be honest

I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2010, and my disease has taught me a lot over the years. One thing it has taught me is to be honest with myself. I achieve much more if I just admit to myself what I struggle with. Which is hard at times, for a stubborn guy like me. But admitting my limitations has allowed me to plan around them. This has enabled me to achieve the things I didn’t previously think possible.

If you are planning to write a book, you need to be honest with yourself. It will help you determine how you approach the book and the writing process.

We are all different. Some like to sit at a desk with headphones in, and some like to go to a coffee shop and write. Neither of these may be options for you, depending on your disability. And that’s fine. If you need to sit on the sofa to write, or do it in bed, so be it. Sometimes having limited options can be a good thing. But don’t beat yourself up because you can’t leave the house to go somewhere quiet to write. You know your body better than anyone else ever will. Admit it, so you can plan around it.


Plan for bad days

Bad days and “flares” are inevitable. Plan for them. You know you’ll have them, so add them to your writing schedule. Adding a buffer will stop you getting deflated, help you keep momentum, and help you stay focused. This will make it much easier to hit your goals.

For me, I decided to only plan to write for 5 days a week. The general advice when writing a book is to write every day. Ignored it. I knew it wouldn’t happen. Some days I’d be in too much pain, or have too much fatigue to write. So why plan to write daily when I knew it wasn’t possible? I would have just set myself up to fail.

By saying I will write 5 days a week, I gave myself a little buffer. In the time it took to write my book, I missed that weekly goal only once. Had I not had the buffer, I would have only achieved my goal once. That’s a big difference. I may not have had the focus to complete the book if I’d kept missing my goals.


Set appropriate goals

The other thing I did, in addition to the buffer, was set appropriate writing goals. Again, the general advice is to write 1500 – 2000 words a day. I did just 500. That’s less than half the length of this article. If you’re not a fast writer, or you can only concentrate, or sit, for short periods of time, then why set yourself up to fail? Writing a 100 words a day is better than none. Finishing your book in 3 years is better than aiming for 1 year and failing to complete it. Setting manageable goals that account for your own limitations will be the key to your success.


Make yourself accountable

It’s easy to give up something if no one knows what you’re trying to achieve. Giving up on something that people you care about know you are trying to do is much harder. Peer pressure can sometimes work in your favor, especially if you’re prone to procrastination, or get distracted by “shiny things.”

Oh look… Star Wars Blu-Rays are on sale…

I’m sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, make yourself accountable. For me I wrote a blog post telling everyone of my intention to write a book. I even gave myself a deadline based on my word count goals. So whenever I spoke to others online they would ask me “how’s the book going?”

So if you’re like me, and you don’t like letting people down, then you should definitely make yourself accountable to someone.

And remember: your illness is a barrier to writing your book. Barriers can be broken down or navigated around. Your illness is not an excuse to not achieve your goal. Don’t accept it as one.


Use the buddy system

There are going to be days when you will doubt yourself and wonder if you’ll ever finish the book. It happens to everyone. And I’ll bet money it’ll be when you’re in the most pain, or feel the most fatigued. You are the most vulnerable when your disease is the most active. Fact.

This will be the time when you quit. Guaranteed. Even if you don’t really want to.

The buddy system is great for this situation. They’ll be there to pick you up when you’re down and be your cheerleader when you’re doing well. If you can find someone who also wants to write a book, too, even better. Make each other your accountability partner, and your buddy. Be there for one another.

My buddy was my wife. She’s always been my biggest fan and greatest cheerleader. She’s also really good at nagging (I might be in trouble now). I respond well to nagging, which is probably why she does it so much. In either case, I can categorically say that I would have never completed my book if it wasn’t for my wife picking me up when I was about to give up.

If you can’t find someone to nag you, I’ll do it. 😉


Be generous

I’m not talking about being generous to other people. Of course, do that, too. However, the person at the end of the line is often you. I’m going to tell you to stop putting others first all the time! It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But the better your physical and mental well-being, the more you will be able to help others. That’s a fact. So help others more by helping yourself first.

Now I’m not saying you should be indulgent. That’s not the same thing. We all like being generous to ourselves when it comes to slicing the chocolate cake. But that’s greed, not generosity.

What I’m saying is reward yourself when you hit your goals. Put some R&R time into your writing schedule. Make sure you don’t neglect your exercises, stretches, or treatments. Plan time with family. Do what you need to do, so you can be in the right mindset to do your best work. But don’t be indulgent and neglect your writing, you will fail to meet your goals. The same goes for burnout. Find your balance.


Ricky is a stay-at-home dad by day, and an author-entrepreneur by night. His bestselling book is titled “Taking Charge: Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You”, and is available worldwide on Amazon in both eBook and paperback formats. You can follow Ricky on Twitter and Facebook, or stop by his website and say hi.

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