While I do have a day job, writing is still part of my professional endeavors. A recent battle with a nasty flu had me thinking about whether or not I should be trying to write while sick, which led me to ponder those who are about to write full-time or work from a home office in any other field.
For independent contractors who don’t get a non-hourly salary, working when you’re sick may be a necessity. But I can tell you that in the midst of the worst of my fever dreams, congested head, and muddled brain, I would absolutely not have been able to write a single coherent word. Novelists and those who teach long-form fiction writing will all agree that a first draft is garbage anyway and the real writing comes in revision, but do you really want to have to slog through a medicine-fogged first draft? Why make this even more of an uphill battle if you don’t want to?
Certain kinds of illness can still be fought through, of course, and if writing actually helps you take your mind off the pain, go for it. What I’m advocating here is simply not beating yourself up over not working while sick. I didn’t get to do a lot of the things I love while I had the flu, including totally non-writing-related activities, but I knew I’d be able to resume them once I felt better.
The write-every-day advice (which I think is still vital to a healthy output of work and maintenance of your skills) is only good if you allow for the same kinds of things you would if you worked a 9-to-5 gig, such as sick leave and vacation days. Give yourself a break. The blank page will be there when you feel better.