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How I Write With Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a bitch. If you’re reading, I can only assume you know that, but I wanted to reiterate the point. It sucks. The little things that others seem to take for granted are now a struggle, and explaining how much it sucks gets you branded a whiner. It sucks, but your novels don’t have to. If you’re anything like me, you’ll give up the marathons, you’ll give up the winter hikes, you’ll give up sitting in non-ergonomic chairs, but you’ll be damned if you give up that book.

I’m with ya, but I’ll warn you, the journey is a little easier said than done.

In September of 2018, I decided I was going to write every single day. Come hell or high water, I was going to churn them words out, and when arthritis started knocking at my joints, I had to get a little creative. For those of us juggling pain meds and pen names, I wanted to share the few tips that have gotten me through the year and, with any luck, will help you along this treacherous journey.

How Much Is Too Much?

Joint pain can be a tricky thing. For those of us who struggle with constant, underlying pain, it can be a toss up between rest and movement. By 18, I had realized pretty quick that excise was the biggest help I could have for my JRA, but too many long nights at the gym only ever seemed to make the problem worse. Chronic pain is a balancing act, and it’s important to know what’s helping and what’s hurting.

This is your journey. Don’t let some dumb bitch on the internet tell you how to live your life. Take a deep breath, listen to your body, go at your own pace, and be sure to contact your doctor if you’ve got any questions. Remember: we’re striving for progress here, not perfection.

My Favourite Ways to Write During A Flare

Most of my journey, as you can imagine, has been trial and error. As much as I love blog posts put out by the Arthritis Society and WebMD nonsense, I truly believe most of your solutions will come from dipping your toe in the water. To find out what works, you’ve also gotta find out what doesn’t work. For those you looking for ideas on what to try, here are my three secret weapon:


If you’ve been around the chronic illness corners of the internet for more than a hot minute, you’ve probably heard of speech-to-text software. These are programs that are designed to automatically transcribe your spoken word— kind of like Siri but for your novel. Even within the past few months, I’ve noticed speech-to-text has improved, so if you’re an early user who abandoned the platform (me!) I’m begging you to try it out again.

Looking for suggestions? For those looking to fork out some cash, Dragon is supposed to be the top of the line. If you’re as piss broke as me, I’m gonna do you the massive favour of directing you over to the dictate option in Google Docs. You’re welcome 😉

Mechanical Keyboards

I wish I could take credit for this. I wish so badly I could take credit for this and say I came to this realization all on my own. I worked remotely as a proofreader for years before my brother finally sent me a message asking if I’d ever invested in a gamer keyboard. Honestly, I’d never thought of it but once the idea was floated out there, I felt like a total idiot. Gamers can spend 12 hours a day in front of their computer, leveling up their Wood Elf Dark Magician Girl (I assume). Of course they’re going to have the finger-friendly secrets I was seeking.

The keyboard you’re using is important. It’s as important as the shoes on your god damn feet, and if you think it’s not important, I’m willing to bet you’re simply used to using a garbage keyboard. Get your fine ass down to your local computer store and give them all a whirl. See what you like, see if you could use a split keyboard, and then berate your local teenage dirtbag employee about their return policy.

Me? I picked up this baby from Logitech on a Black Friday sale and have never looked back.

Never Skip Coffee Time

I will go all day. If I let myself, I will write until my fingers bleed and my joints are inflamed beyond repair— something that’s surprisingly common in those who have had chronic pain since childhood. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to know when enough is enough. Your characters a poppin’, your story line is magical, and you’ve finally figured out how to get that Meet Cute to work. There’s not way you’re thinking about stopping, but I’m begging you to reconsider.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in this past year is the importance of breaks and pacing. I’m a religious user of the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of dedicated work, 5 minutes of break, for four cycles) when I write, and it’s made things so much easier. Take breaks when you need them, people! There’s no shame in that. Stretch at every chance you get, give yourself the room to set your own pace, and never forget to move.

You Got This

It can be hard writing with joint pain. Writers with chronic illness seem to have a whole slew of additional challenges when it comes to the grind, but don’t let a road bump stop you altogether. The world needs your work, and as long as you find a method that works for you, that’s all that matters. Whether your novel takes two years or two months, just remember to keep with it.

Believe me: you got this.

Did I Miss Anything?

Chugging along despite chronic pain? Let me know how in a comment below or, better yet, reach out on Facebook and Twitter!

As always, be good to yourself and never stop writing!

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