I've talked before of stereotypes of writers and artists. Recently I got very, very ill with a sinus infection and, as usual, I claimed that I was dying. During my illness I reflected on how it is somewhat of a stereotype that writers/thinkers/artists are sickly. I think that being sick often with a cold counts. That's me. Though before I have said that possessing the stereotypes of a writer doesn't make you a writer, I'm starting to think that maybe being sickly does make you a writer.
Here's why: if you are sickly, then you often are incapable of doing many activities well; except thinking. Indeed, being sick often causes your mind to wander into new, strange, wild areas that healthy bodies would never allow because many illnesses give even the most focused minds attention deficit disorder. You simply can't ponder any one thing for very long, so you end up pondering a whole bunch of things. Though you may not be very productive with any one thought, you are extremely productive in terms of the diversity of your thought. When it comes to being a writer, diversity of thought is an excellent treasure to possess, especially if you're a story-teller.
Besides, the fact that being sickly often makes you incapable of doing many activities means that often you are no use as an electrician or an engineer or an accountant or a teacher or whatever the heck. No employer wants to pay some sickly person a salary, half of which will go to buying medications of some sort. You might even come to ask yourself, every time you get sick, "Why do I bother trying to be a carpenter when I just get sick all the time?" And, of course, if being sickly means that your sickness is semi-permanent, then you might not even have the ability to be a carpenter, depending on the illness (epilepsy, for example). At some point, you or the universe of employers might come to the frightful conclusion that you are no good except as someone who paints or writers or thinks in the comfort of your own home.
There's also this: my most recent illness, like all the ones before, convinced me that I need to take better care of myself. Strangely, taking better care of myself in this case means that I need to do more. Yes, the reason why I haven't been taking care of myself is because I've been sitting around doing nothing. That "nothing" could have been, should have been, writing. But I can only write when I'm otherwise feeling productive with my life. I can't write when I feel like I'm ignoring other parts of my life. Therefore, I must start exercising more, I must start paying more attention to my e-mails and other correspondence, I must start trying to be a good citizen of the world. So being sick helps writers and artists and such get out of the inevitable funks that the vast majority of us fall into. My most recent funk was mostly brought on by having to adjust to a new schedule full of work and crap; and fear. Fear will be the subject of my next post.
For now, if you want to be a writer, work on being sickly.