Seasoned writing parents who’ve spent time in the keyboard arena are probably already familiar with the more common illnesses such as cooties, Sick Kidlet Syndrome (SKS) and Work Burnout (WB), but may not know these conditions are aggravated by sleep deprivation. So, whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, please check the following list of symptoms and illnesses:
G'out – Although almost as agonizing, this condition is not to be confused with its physical counterpart called gout in which patients suffer painful swelling and inflammation of the joints from overindulgence in organ meats. G’out especially plagues writing parents of young children and those unfortunate enough to have overly dependent spouses. Symptoms include thinking, saying, or screaming phrases like, “G'out my room/office!” “Please just g’out my space for five minutes while I finish this paragraph!” and “Just g'out my face!”
No known cure for g'out currently exists, but researchers continue to work diligently to formulate a remedy. G'out sufferers find hope in outliving their household so they might once again establish a life of their own. Frequent participation in retreats held outside their zip code, short getaways, and weekend hideouts help diminish the debilitating affects of g’out. When that’s not possible, locking themselves in the bathroom often brings temporary relief.
The Terrible Ts (TTT) - This malady invariably afflicts writers with children in toddler to teen stages. Sadly, experts have not totally defined, explained or identified in its entirety this mysterious ailment. Symptoms vary widely among sufferers, and few medications or homeopathic cures exist to counteract this condition. Funding is currently being sought to conduct double blind scientific studies across the country.
Warning signs for the onset of TTT are the uncanny interruptions brought about when the writing parent inadvertently or on purpose touches one of the following items: telephone, table, technology, tub, toilet, or any other T-word that falls under the heading of standard writing tools or necessary equipment. Doing so somehow alerts others in the vicinity that it is time to drop in unannounced, throw a temper tantrum or otherwise cause chaos. TTT is a known killer of writing effort and is to be avoided like the plague. [Side note: Sufferers of Triple T are also apt to use clichés.]
Like g’out, physically removing oneself by a distance of at least 50 miles from those who surround the writer is the only known preventative measure.
Stealth use of T items may decrease the severity of symptoms, i.e. using a nearby gas station restroom; sneakily writing story ideas on toilet paper or recording them on a tiny, hidden voice activated recorder in your vehicle, on scraps of paper instead of your notebook or, heaven forbid, on your computer; and tackling writing projects late at night with a flashlight under bed covers.
Spouse-itis – Although not directly related to child rearing, since most family arrangements include a spouse, the addition of this ailment is germane to the list. Characterized in several ways, this ailment is easier to diagnose than others.
If you can answer yes to the questions in this short quiz, then you too are a Spouse-itis sufferer.
Does your spouse or S.O.:
- Prefer you be cooking, mowing the lawn or sitting glued to his/her side watching "Law & Order" reruns instead of hunkered down over your computer writing the next best seller?
- Make remarks like, "When you're through doodling on the computer, can you come here for a second?"
- Ask, "What is it that you are doing at that desk at 1 AM anyway?"
- Refer to your writing as a hobby?
Chronic Over-Activity – According to the CDC, COA can be fatal if not treated quickly. Contraction of this disease occurs when a writer over-schedules family member or self-related activities which stretch the limits of budget, time and temper. Such activities include, but are not necessarily limited to, sports, hobbies, school clubs, social events, community or volunteer work, and/or any kidlet demands requiring a parent taxi.
Setting limits (i.e. two extracurriculars per member per school year) can alleviate some of the stress caused by COA, thus affording more writing time.
If you are spending inordinate amounts of time sitting in bleachers or carpool lines due to the number of offspring in your home, counteract low writing time by having pen, paper, laptop, reading material and other writerly essentials with you at all times. Doctor and dentist office visits also afford opportunities to read and research magazines for ideas, provided that you and your family members can act civilly outside of cages.
The Good News: Older writers have learned to cope with these setbacks and temporary bugs, and are actually better for their survival. They’ve gained powers of concentration, learned how to write quicker in small snatches of time, have become more resilient and resourceful in their word crafting efforts, and have developed more efficient writing immune systems. Some even report that deadline pressure, persnickety editors, and other normal writing negatives don’t bother them at all anymore. Surviving to reach the Empty Nest phase has its rewards.
Remember, there is strength in numbers, hope in ignoring minor symptoms, and inspiration in the knowledge that most of these ailments will eventually leave veterans to seek out fresh blood!
Join live and online writing/critique groups/communities for encouragement in your creative pursuits. The support of other writers such as those wonderful beings called bloggers will force you into productivity. Laughter truly is one of the best medicines, and humor goes a long way in diminishing the crippling symptoms of these writerly illnesses. These experts can’t be lying:
“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out.” ~ Erma Bombeck
“Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.” ~ Steve Martin
“If your kids are giving you a headache, follow the directions on the aspirin bottle, especially the part that says ‘keep away from children.’" ~ Susan Savannah