Then I spent New Year’s Eve weekend with a houseful of people who came down with the flu and decided Ovid might be right 99% of the time but not this December in a small town in southeast Michigan. I was sick, my husband was sick and eventually the kids got sick, too.
All my lofty, while the husband was on vacation, writing goals were forgotten in a trail of trying to find our way back to some semblance of healthy. I met a few set-in-stone deadlines and Lysol-ed my laptop and let my less solid deadlines slide. I used my writing notebook for a juice glass coaster and watched Disney Fairy movies.
And I read. Paperbacks splayed over couch arms, saving my place while I switched to my 57th reading of a picture book. My tired fingers slid pages across my Kindle. I read out loud and fell back in love with Laura Ingles Wilder’s words. I reluctantly turned off Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects because part of me knows Ovid has something going with the mind over matter idea, and reading until the world around me fell into middle-of-the-night silence wasn’t helping me feel any better by the morning.
Though I read all the time, inhaling all those books at once let me remember the way other authors’ words can spark creativity and ideas in unanticipated ways. I was in and out of stories quickly, picking up different books depending on where I was in the house and what the kids were doing at the time. I noticed what grabbed me right away (characters, language) and what made it difficult for my tired head to power through (plots that slowed to a crawl around the half-way point of the book, implausible story lines.)
Sunday afternoon we aired out the house for the last time and powered up laptops in anticipation of getting back to work Sunday night. For the first time in over a week, my pen was scribbling away notes on possible fiction projects. I felt almost like I’d taken a crash course in story-telling, and many of my margin notes deal more with plot than character development, which is unusual for me at the beginning of a project.
I can tentatively say we’re all feeling better, though I’m back to running on caffeine more than anything else. Maybe Ovid knew his stuff after all.
Do you read or write more when you don’t feel well?