I’ve been sick recently. Not the sniffles, but a low-down, deep-aching, feverish mess. It was sudden and strong, and it made me feel powerless. I was a body beneath a truck, a woman battered by waves on rock — I had a cold. I do not normally run fever, so the sensation of dry, blistering skin is not something I am used to.
I had the flu once when I was a kid. I remember how disconnected I felt from myself, and how very far away the voices of my parents sounded through the cloud of that fever. This was the first fever I have had that took me back to that time. My eyes ached against the repulsive sunlight and blue sky from outside my bedroom window. That is, when they weren’t falling closed without my permission, sending me into a fitful sleep.
I dreamed off-and-on in this state, and all I can say, is delirium does odd things to one’s creative flow. There were scenes in my head from my manuscript. Scenes laced with pain and passion that I don’t think I fully achieved in the actual work. There was a moment where I was floating, as if separated from the girl in bed, and I thought, You will use this. It will make that moment so much better.
Sickness can be an incredible fuel to imagination. It can also give you drug induced dreams about Robert Pattinson’s teeth and out-of-control roller coasters. (These two were related somehow.) I recalled the idea that my fever actually helped me with my prose to my husband earlier this evening. He laughed at me and said, “Now you know why so many people turn to LSD.” Is it the same? God knows I’ll never find out. But there is some truth to his statement. Sometimes, being forced into a state of submission can actually bring out the deeper work hiding under your bravado.
Do I recommend catching the flu as a cure to writers block? Not unless you also enjoy writhing in pain and losing a couple days of your life. But, should you find yourself laid out in a state of forced rest, take the time to let your hidden instinct rise to the surface. That part of you that is pressed down by your stronger sense of craft or the pressure you put on your art to produce, and produce quickly. Sometimes a sick day can be just what you need.
And now, some cartoons for you to enjoy, to humorously illustrate my point: