Home/Rod Dreher/Writing While Sick

Writing While Sick

I have mentioned in the past that my chronic mononucleosis went into remission for a year after reading Dante and experiencing a spiritual and physical healing, but that — irony of ironies! — the intense stress of having to write the book late last fall and winter under a radically truncated schedule (from zero to complete in three months, which is all but unheard of) triggered a relapse. I’ve still not been able to get on top of that. It feels like my immune system’s wheels are spinning on ice, and can’t get traction. And I’m not sure why. The certain thing is that I experienced real healing, but I tried to do too much intense writing — I have never before written under that kind of deadline — before my immune system was strong enough. It was like trying to run a marathon on legs that had only recently healed from being broken. No wonder I fell.

On Friday, I took my dad to a regularly scheduled appointment with a doctor, and watched the specialist put him through the paces. Let me tell you, old age is one damn humiliation after another. There was nothing unusual about this visit, but it was hard to see how much pain and suffering my father is enduring as his body breaks down from old age.

I must have taken it hard, because today, I woke up, had my coffee … and went back to bed around noon. I slept until late afternoon, woke up, ate some lunch, and then went back to bed till 7:30 this evening. The whole day, wasted, sleeping, exhausted from mono. Just now I was feeling awfully sorry for myself, for all the writing I couldn’t get done (it’s hard to focus too with this stuff).

And then I read just now this piece by Mindy Belz, talking about the last days of her friend Kara Tippetts. Look:

As Kara talks, she sometimes takes the oxygen tube from her nose then forgets to put it back until her breath comes in short heaves. She drifts off, dozes, mid-conversation. But throughout the day she snatches at good moments to sit up in bed, legs crossed beneath her laptop, and write. This too is the work of her cancer. Once she began to recount with remarkable transparency that battle carried on amid family life, Kara gathered hundreds of thousands of readers to her blog, Mundane Faithfulness. It led to a best-selling book, The Hardest Peace (David C. Cook, 2014). She is working on a second book, a book about making the most of the moments, writing fast in what moments of energy come, wanting to finish. It’s hard to write, she says, as pain medicine gives her double vision, and the cancer may be again at work in her brain.

And yet, she writes. That is what writers do.

Funny how the lives of the saints can make us feel so small, yet so big too.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

leave a comment