Writers and Health

Hello Story Empire friends, Gwen with you today. I’ve an unusual topic to share, something personal to each of us – our health. With all that is going on in our world, I thought it might be a good time to consider this topic.

For many of us, 2021 was a year of challenges and if the first two months of 2022 are predictive, then we’ve more hurdles ahead of us. Unfortunately, sometimes those hurdles involve our well-being. Allow me to digress a little.

In December, my sister sent me a novel situated in the early 1900s. The backdrop of the story was the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression. As I turned the pages, I not only saw the parallels between then and now, I saw the sorrows and fear of the people, much like that which is manifest in our world today.

The book gave me pause and prompted more than a few tears. Though the story didn’t end on a high note, it offered hope through the resilience of the people. They survived, so shall we.

Photo from Canva

I think we all feel the weightiness of these last years. The uncertainty and worry have taken their toll. Many of us have lost friends, some of us have lost a family member. And on top of everything else, we have our own health challenges.

Writers are often associated with suffering, as though it were heroic for a writer to be bedridden. It seems there is an unspoken assumption that we need suffering to write. After all, John Updike and Charles Dickens battled asthma, Charlotte Bronte and Sylvia Plath faced autoimmune disorders, George Orwell struggled with damaged bronchial tubes, Edith Warton and John Milton had a multitude of complaints, James Joyce and Helen Keller were blind, Herman Melville lived with ankylosing spondylitis, and the list goes on. Imagine if we added psychological turmoil to this list – the writers who suffered from depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, and more. That would be quite the list, wouldn’t it?

Several of the above writers used their afflictions to develop their characters. Hemingway,  Vonnegut, and Toni Morrison come to mind. Their brokenness became their strength. But the writing was also a gifted relief. No matter what their physical limitations might have been or their psychological demons, writing was an outlet for expressing themselves.

Haven’t you found this to be true as well, especially during these last two years?

Even if our conversations with loved ones are limited to phone calls and our hellos to strangers are brief (and through masks), we have our writing communities. Most of us have never met in person. But we’ve come to know each other through the blogs we visit and the stories we read. Our imaginations join hands, and with that, our hearts as well.

Photo from Canva

We are home-centered these days. But through this reordering of our lives, we’ve adopted ways for our hearts to speak.

Perhaps some of my findings will resonate with you. Over these last years, I’ve discovered the importance of:

  • Honoring “my” time, a part of the day when my spirit can speak and I’m ready to listen. There are no spoken words, but the fullness of this silence stirs creativity.
  • Setting aside time for beauty. Perhaps a walk in nature, or heart-filled music, or spiritual reading – something that leaves me in awe.
  • Practicing mindfulness, being in the moment – not somewhere in the future. When I can do this, the weightiness lifts.
  • Spending time with my community – those unmet friends who share their lives, their dreams, and their vivid imaginations through their writing. You.

Do you have a similar set of practices? Won’t you please share?

We’re in this together, forging a literary path through the world’s confusion. Though our ailments hamper us, they also provide fuel for our stories. We assign words to feelings and help those who can’t do the same. Because we are writers, we are never alone.

Thank you for being part of the writing community. I wish you all the best and look forward to meeting you again next month. Till then…

113 thoughts on “Writers and Health

  1. I find that swimming works wonders for me. I live in Sydney and it’s still warm enough – barely! – to swim in the sea. I’m fortunate to be within five minutes’ drive of a great harbour beach. I went down there this morning intending to swim, maybe, for 30 minutes, ended up going for an hour! It did cool down my core body temperature, but it was worth it for the sheer pleasure of being in one of the most scenic places in the world (OK, alright, in the southern hemisphere, then 😁)

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  2. I never stopped working through the pandemic. I am an essential worker and went to the office every day. It was a bit different, not as much social interaction and masks were required, but I was lucky not to sit and stare a the four walls like so many affected by the pandemic.

    I do have some “me time” but I didn’t use that to write. I freelance and worked two other jobs as well because so many were afraid to go out. There were notes taken and stories to be written from the pandemic. I just need to make the time to get them into print.

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    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Michelle. Four walls can be confining and disheartening, but you had a window into life through your work and that’s beautiful. I hope you find time to write the stories you’ve stored through notes. 🤗

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  3. Such a great heart-felt and inspirational post. Thank you such words! As someone who has just started out on writing venture, this speaks volumes.

    I appreciate the kind of help you are doing through such posts. I consider myself of a similar nature as well. I have a blog here (https://thoughtsofahuman.home.blog/) where I write articles on our deep philosophies, emotions, mental well-being and life in general. I also occasionally delve in thought-provoking short stories which makes us think.

    Please have a look if you can!

    Stay safe and keep writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Really glad I stumbled across this post – such great words of inspiration given!

    Crafting has become my go-to stress buster as a Writer. Also, taking the time to pick up a good book does wonders for my mental clarity.

    Again, great post! I look forward to reading more. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m quite delighted I fumbled upon this comment, Michelle – what a true complement provided to such huge words of encouragement delivered by Gwen!

      As a young writer, I think it’s a lovely journey for writers to travel through other writers adventures or explorations of their lives. No matter how bad or good they were or are. Likewise, it’s like a magnet that is set and meant for us to attract old and new reviews of our trips, and understand how healthy they are to us. To imagine them as a powerful tool bringing us together like a loving community.

      Furthermore, I’m not yet there but this is only the beginning for me to keep enjoying such wonderful posts and comments like the one I’m proceeded into now.

      Unity is the healthy key to writers and may peace be with you all.

      Liked by 3 people

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  9. HI Gwen, I read your post with great interest and I also read all the comments. As is usual, my reaction to lockdown and the pandemic was different to most people. I became even more of a workaholic. I threw myself into writing, working, teaching my sons, writing blog posts and just drove myself on relentlessly. My dad had a pulmonary embolism during the height of the pandemic in SA (June last year) and I struggled to get him medical care. The hospitals were full, there were no ambulances available and all the specialist doctors rooms were closed. We found a cardiologist through the back door (a good friend who had his private email) and managed to save his life. I administered all the treatments here at home. 28 injections of blood thinners plus other things. I’d never given an injection before but realised I can learn really fast when the need arises. Then in August, Michael underwent another surgery for sinus. They found that his whole sinus system never developed properly and he has no upper sinuses at all. The bottom sinuses never became bone and are still cartilage. He has a superbug in his sinuses and his body’s reaction was to grow the cartilage so his sinuses were full of cartilage so no drainage. He stopped breathing under anesthetic and had to be in ICU on oxygen for 48 hours. I learned that I can’t control everything. I learned that the system can let you down badly. I also learned acceptance and that I am stronger than I thought. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Gwen. This post seems to have had a sharing and cathartic effect on people.

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    • Oh, Robbie, my heart goes out to you. What a challenging journey these last years have been for you and your family! I can feel your strength and determination, as well wisdom. When our loved ones suffer, our pain is twofold, but you mobilized and grew from it. I’m deeply moved. I hope I can claim the same at the close of the year. It’s been rugged for sure. You are so right, we can’t control everything and we’re all stronger than we imagine. Hugs from afar… 💗

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  10. Such a beautiful post Gwen. You touched on so much here. 2021 was definitely the most devastating year of my life, losing my husband because of the Covid, not because he had it. What you say about writers is bang on. Many of us have ailment or are broken from circumstances in life, I am definitely one who began writing as a therapy. You know what they say about creatives, they are often the most affected. Hugs ❤

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    • Thank you for sharing so deeply, Debby. I think you are right about “creatives”. We tend to feel intensely and life seems to give us much to manage. I can’t imagine the sorrows you’ve carried this last year or the memories that you hold dear. Thankfully writing offers you a healing outlet and always know, you have a community that loves you. 💗

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  12. Thank you, Gwen, for such an uplifting and beautiful post. The past two years have turned many things in my life upside down (my own health issues, the isolation at home, the overwhelming sense of sadness about it all … all the things you described, and which so many of us are going through. It has had a profound impact on my emotions, and COVID had a profound impact on my energy and my ability to focus on my writing. I like to be totally alone and in a silent room when I write, but when my brain won’t cooperate with producing scenes and chapters, then the silence and solitude is just too much. Honestly, I think my online friends–this fabulous community of writers and bloggers–has saved my sanity more than anything else.

    I’ve also been actively hunting for positive mantras to keep me going. (Some of them show up on my blog as “Granny Says” posts, but there are lots more.) I do try to remind myself to greet each day with a smile, because … I’m still here. (Unlike my parents or only brother.) So I’m lucky enough to have another chance to do it all better. That thought will often carry me along all day.

    And surprisingly, hard physical work helps too. Like taking care of overdue projects here at the house. I just finished painting our guest room, and Mark laid new flooring in there, as well. It just plain feels good to have that room looking fresh again, ready for company when the time comes. And to know that we did it ourselves. It’s a sense of accomplishment, in other words, which is something that can keep me smiling for days.

    Thanks for reminding us to be grateful for what we have and to focus on the things we can do to keep our spirits up. Life will get better one of these days, and our job is to be ready to seize that moment when it arrives. Wonderful post, my friend! 😀 ❤

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    • Oh my, dear Marcia, your heartfelt response touched my soul. I think so many feel or have felt as you do. Even time has changed, it’s all become a bit of a blur. Thank you for sharing so deeply. You inspire me, my friend. 💗

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      • It was your post that inspired anything I said above, Gwen. I appreciated your words very much, and I’m glad you were touched by mine. Mostly, I’m just glad you put it all in perspective for so many of us and offered ideas to help keep things more positive. ❤

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  13. Hi Gwen, thank you for sharing your post.
    Unfortunately, I started writing to face the guilt for my past doings.
    I’m not sure if writing will help me totally forgive myself, but I must say it helps a little.
    Once again, thank you for your post. Hope to read from you more. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing as you have. Writing can help us process the ups and downs of life. It’s a blessing in disguise. I look forward to reading your work. All the best!

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    • Beautifully expressed, Noelle. Thank you. As you’ve mentioned, “we can’t lose our empathy to the pandemic.” I hope you have a wonderful day. 💗

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  16. This is such a wonderful post, Gwen. The past 2 years have been dark and negative. It’s necessary to find that “me time” in our daily lives. I start each morning with prayer and Bible reading. It feeds my soul. I take time out during the day to just sit and think, which often leads to new story ideas. I have a workout room in my basement. I go down there a few times a week, put on my headphones, crank up the heavy metal, and lift weights or ride a few miles on the stationary bike. It helps clear my mind and gets the blood pumping. We live in a world today where mental health is at a premium. It’s easy to slide off into the deep end. Reaching out to loved ones and friends is a wonderful way to self-check and to check on others. Everybody needs to take time out each day for self-care, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Thank you for reminding us of this, Gwen.

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  17. Excellent piece, Gwen! My first thought is that many of us are experiencing the same things (pandemic, loss of life, etc.), and then on top of it, we each face our individual challenges that others may or may not know about, depending on what we’ve shared. It’s like a double whammy. There has to be an outlet, or it all gets to be too overwhelming. For many, that outlet can be writing, exercise, or whatever method of self-care we practice. It’s another of the many reasons we shouldn’t be judgmental of others, as we may not know the personal challenges and demons they’re facing.

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    • Thank you, Pete, especially for your last comment. I think everyone is struggling and most of us don’t know the burdens others carry. I have three sons in the NYC area, and they’ve gone through hell and back (several times). Their stories are probably the stories of the nameless many. Knowing that makes me even more compassionate. We all need kindness, but especially so during these crazy days. Thank you again. 💗

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  18. I missed your post yesterday. Glad I found it today. I’m always struggling to find balance in my life, so you gave me lots to think about. Writing is a release for me, and fellow writers are inspiration.

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    • Thanks so much, Judi. I think your point about finding balance speaks for all of us. The COVID years have taken a toll, and part of what they stole is our sense of balance. Thank you for bringing this up. 😊

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  19. I love this Gwen. It has been quiet a journey through the last two years. I find my peace in nature and bringing myself into the now. We are very lucky to each other and this community. Inspiring post!

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  20. This post could not be more timely, Gwen. I had to stop in the midst of all I am juggling and go get some relief at the chiropractor. I was practically in tears from the pain. I am the world’s worst at setting aside time for myself and taking care of my body. I will admit I am a workaholic. When I’m not working, I feel guilty. There must be some other name for that. I love the examples you give from authors who are household names. We can use our pain, our life experiences, and our own growth to write into our characters. Thank you so much for sharing! Hugs!

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    • Thank you so much, Jan. I hope the chiropractor was able to free you from the pain. I totally understand not making time for yourself. You’re a healer, Jan, in addition to being a writer, so at least you know when to stop and smell the roses. I think those beautiful flowers are calling you. 💗

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  21. This blog and your writing really made my day! I can relate to so many points mentioned here. It’s true that writing helps me find a deeper connect to my self. I feel refreshed after writing my thoughts. I definitely feel part of the writing community even though I am not an author.

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    • Thank you for sharing this, Ranjana. I think writing helps us all and I suspect you are a writer at heart. You express yourself beautifully. 💗

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  22. I love this post, Gwen. I practice everything you mentioned. Getting disconnected from the world because of COVID led me to go inward and focus on my mental and physical health. It’s a silver lining I’m grateful for. I am also grateful for my writing community who helped me feel less isolated during the worst of times. 🙂

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  23. A very timely post, Gwen. The last couple of years have been challenging. I think your advice is excellent. We must stop and contemplate the good things that we can still do. However, I think about those in Ukraine and feel another jolt of sadness, knowing that no matter how hard they try to be positive, the bombs keep coming.

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  24. Such a thought-provoking post, Gwen. I am left wondering how much of being upset or bothered has less to do with loss than change. I hate change and get pretty hyper just because a routine disappeared. I wonder if that’s what going on for lots of others, too.

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    • Good points, Jacqui. I think you are right about routine. I struggle to set aside time for writing, for me. My prior routine disappeared as other concerns emerged. Thank you for this insight. 😊

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  25. Such an important topic for writers, Gwen. Finding peace in one’s life is irreplaceable. I love spending time in nature and with wildlife (my crows especially). Meditation or self-hypnosis keeps me sane during the winter when time outside is limited. I also love Zumba. It’s a fun way to exercise. Hope you have an amazing day, Gwen.

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  26. This is such a lovely post, Gwen. My life hasn’t changed much during the pandemic, but I feel the stress anyway, as if it circulates in the air. Thank goodness for writing and blogging and this wonderful community of friends. Great ideas for staying centered and finding beauty and inspiration. Thanks for the uplifting post.

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  27. A thought provoking post Gwen and one that we can all relate too… I have found I have become an introvert in the real world which is strange for me as I was far more adventurous and willing to go out and get on with life before. I thankfully am able to be all of those things online. We are planning to go out for one of our date lunches next week for the first time since March 2020.. looking forward to it.. Without the blog and the writing community it might be very different. For me, my escape is music and cooking… I can do both at the same time.. ♥

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  28. My grandmother turns 104 this year. She was a “flu” baby and since our pandemic, talks about that often. Her generation knew the importance of finding peace in daily life. It’s a lesson I’m trying to learn from her. (One of many, to be sure.) Thought-provoking topic, Gwen. Thank you.

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    • So true, Dan. And bright spots in the day, like reading your posts, offer solace and a sense of community. Thank you for visiting and commenting. 😊

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  29. Gwen, I love your bullet points and may well take some of those on board myself. Like Mae and some of the others here, there was that lockdown period when I should have welcomed the lack of distraction to write and found I couldn’t. I couldn’t even think properly – Anita’s soup. I’m on what they call here The Shielding List. One of my problems is that I had pneumonia as a student and it damaged my lungs. Even a cold can put me in hospital and so we’re still meeting family in the garden and keeping our distance from all and sundry. Fortunately, this blogging community has filled the vacuum very effectively. The support, advice, kindness and humour has made an incalculable difference to the quality of my life.

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    • Oh, Trish, your last sentence warmed my heart. I feel similarly. We writers have an understanding community, just a few blogs visits away. I can only imagine the caution you must feel with lung problems. The Shielding List for sure! Take good care of yourself, my friend. 💕

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      • Thanks, Gwen. Four years ago I knew nothing about blogs and I know I’d have really struggle during the last couple of years without the four that I follow. Virtual friends are just as important as any other. ♥♥

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  30. I worked from home for the first five weeks of the pandemic. Not being able to get out among others was difficult (and I’m an introvert). Not only that, but I didn’t realize how much I used my drive time to relax at the end of the day. It was hard for me to write. But like many of the authors you mentioned, we have to forge ahead. Our weaknesses can become our strengths.

    Lots of food for thought here, Gwen.

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    • Thank you, Joan. I remember my long drives home from work, and you’re right, it was a relaxing time after a busy day. I marvel at everything I used to accomplish but I’m finding peace now with a different set of achievements, some more interior and unseen. Forging forward, for sure… 😊

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  31. I’m with Anita on the soup head thing. I hate not writing, but I have to be patient and trust it will come when it’s (and I am) ready. And when the energy isn’t there, it isn’t there. For certain, the ideas are coming, just when I’m in that half-asleep/half-awake state. I’d love to do a direct record from my brain at those times, lols 😂
    Wonderful tips and practices, Gwen. Thanks so much for sharing 💕🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • For me, time is a blur. I’m regularly taken aback by its elusiveness. Perhaps it’s part of Anita’s soup, but we don’t have the usual measures anymore. The birthday party, the gatherings with friends – our calendars are absent such celebrations. As you’ve mentioned, energy can be elusive as well. If only we could “direct record”! 😊 Thank you, Harmony.

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  32. I was under contract during the pandemic, so I had no other choice but to push forward. I discovered that disappearing into my fictional world gave me peace of mind. Of course, some days, I was filled with worry for loved ones, but a lot of prayer got me through those challenging days. I agree that setting aside time for beauty is always a must. Great post, Gwen! xo

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    • My goodness, your contract became a lifesaver because it pushed you through the heaviness – a blessing as well as a challenge. 💗 Like you, prayer is my comfort and through it all, I’ve learned a lot about patience and self-care.

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  33. The first six months of the pandemic left my creativity sucked dry. I simply couldn’t write. It was an odd and thoroughly unpleasant feeling knowing how my creativity was changed. Probably from worrying too much–about family and loved ones, the world in general. It took me that time to adjust and realize I had to adapt to the situation. I’m still doing that today as new challenges and situations arise. I’m thankful for the writing community who grounds me and my own moments of mindfulness and spirituality. I’m also more conscious of my health these days. All of that keeps me centered enough to write and inspired enough that my creativity has realized, it too, has a new normal.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Your “new normal” is inspiring, Mae. I’ve marveled at your recent publications. Having a writing community to turn to is a precious gift – sometimes a light in a dark tunnel. Thank you for sharing as you have. 💗

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your health, Charles, and I know you are not alone. Many of us have felt that “hit”. I agree with you that stress reduction is key, whatever form that might take. Thank you for sharing as you have.

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  35. You are speaking from my heart, Gwen! These last two years were like a tornado, and have blown away most of regular structure of life. It’s a bit comforting to look back in history and see that others have been through this as well. Thanks for sharing your set of practices, to find back to the essentials. For me its most time walking in nature, with silence around. Thanks, and have a beautiful week! xx Michael

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