A Day in the Life of a (Concussed) Author

Concussed Author

I write every day. Well. Pretty much — six days a week is nearly every day. I haven’t always been able to dedicate this much time to writing, but ever since my little work accident that has left me with ongoing post-concussion syndrome, that’s what I do. I can’t work elsewhere without serious accommodations from an employer, so I work from home, writing, six, sometimes seven, days a week.

I’m kind of living the dream, or, as I say these days, living the dream at about 40%. *shakes fist at brain, then regrets actions and coddles it instead* Just kidding, brain. I know you’re trying your hardest.

Everybody has their own routine when it comes to writing. Some people write best in the morning, others at night. Some people have to do it on their lunch break, while the kids are at school, or after everybody else goes to bed. Some get to do it all day, every day. There’s no one right way to write; the best way to do it is to find what works best for you. Period. Art, creativity, and all the careers you find within that tend to be highly individualized.

I wanted to take some time to share a Day in the Life of this ol’ concussed author here. As some of you may or may not know, I am both a ghostwriter and an author. The ghostwriter side pays the bills (ish) at the moment. I have an awesome client who gives me a lot of freedom to write within the world she creates, and I genuinely love sitting down at my desk… most days. Because, hey, writing is still a job. We don’t always love going to work, no matter how awesome the job may be.

Anyway. I divide my week up into about 60% freelance writing, 40% authorly writing. I spend 3 full days cracking out 7.5K for my client, then I get through the rest of the weekly word count at a slower pace. The other 3 days I spend working on my own writing, and I like to try to get about a chapter a day done, if that’s possible. Otherwise, I tackle it by scene.

Now, because of my physical (cognitive, emotional) limitations, I’ve had to be very precise in the way I get through the day. With a brain injury, once you stress it, you can’t just push through. It’ll only get worse, and worse, and worse until you crash — and then you’re out of commission until it gets better.

WpD3e

So, under the guidance of an occupational therapst, I’ve centered my workdays around the philosophy of a work-rest routine. I work a set amount of time, usually until my symptoms flare or just before, then I rest to recuperate.

With that in mind, I give you — a day in the life of a concussed author.

MORNING

7:30-10:00 AM: Wake-Up & Breakfast Time

I generally let myself sleep longer if I feel I need it, depending on whether or not I wake up already symptomatic. I have a few early morning chores that I do with the pets, and then it’s breakfast with TV as I wake up and mentally prepare for the day. If it’s a good day, I’m working by 9:30AM.

10:00AM – 1:00PM: First Work Stint of the Day

This is my first chunk of worktime, with the work-rest routine in place. I generally average a half hour to forty-five minutes of work, then I take a forty-five minute to an hour long rest break. In that work time, I do about 12 minutes of freelance writing, longer if I’m on a roll, or, if it’s an authorly day, I do about 15-20 minutes of writing. I find personal work takes longer to write than freelance work. In that work time, I get between 750-900 words written.

After I’ve finished my work period, “rest” can be anything from TV to yoga to gardening. After that rest period, it’s back to work, then over and over as many times as I can get done before lunch.

AFTERNOON

1:00-2:30PM: Lunch break.

I usually have a long lunch because I time it around TV shows and cooking. Meal prep, despite my initial thoughts, is NOT a rest activity, so I have to count it as work and rest accordingly.

2:30-5:30PM: Second Work Stint of the Day

I generally always finish my freelance work before 5PM. I aim to get 2.5+K words done on my freelance intensive days. If it’s an authorly day, I go with the flow, aiming more to get scenes/chapters done than meeting an exact word count.

If I’m able to, I might dip down to our building’s teeny tiny gym to go on the bike before dinner. It’s really symptom-dependent.

NIGHT

6:00-8:00PM: Dinner

This time period is a bit of a work-rest combo. Cooking is tiring. Meal prep is tiring. Usually my Man doesn’t get home from school these days until the evening, so I’m the one cooking. Therefore, I mix in TV and cook times so it’s not too overwhelming.

8:00-10:00PM: Third Writing Stint / Admin or Proofreading / Gym Time

I don’t always use this third block of time to work, but during that time of the month when I have a book I’m proofing, one I’m doing editorial on, and a third I’m writing, this is generally when I do that. Being an indie author isn’t just writing. Scheduling posts, blogging, admin work, manuscript tinkering, newsletter prep — it all has to get done by you, unless you’re fortunate enough to hire someone.

Which I did! Unfortunately, my PA just does the nitty-gritty of my newsletter work — the stuff that gives me really bad headaches because it’s a lot of small, repetitive tasks that can get a bit overstimulating.

Keep in mind, I still have to pace all of this with my work-rest routine. Some days I’m bad at sticking to it, and I usually crash for at least an hour or so if I let that happen. If I’m having an authorly day, whatever I didn’t get finished during the day carries over into the night block, but if I’m really wiped, I just move it to another day.

Aaaaaaaaand yup, that’s my day! Six days a week!

Given the limitations of the brain injury, there really aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything I want to do done. It’s very frustrating to be a Type A personality and feel like you’re spending a lot of the day lounging. And it isn’t really lounging, I know. It’s recovery time, but when I spend hours on the couch watching TV, it’s hard for it not to feel like I’m just lounging around.

Oh, and chores. They sometimes happen, if I have the energy, but generally end up going on the back-burner. And if I’m doing a rare social outing that will require a lot of brain energy, the whole day gets reconfigured so I’ll be in good enough shape to do the thing. Fun!

Despite all my frustrations and rigid schedule, I actually feel like I write more now than I did pre-injury. Because it’s such a concentrated amount of time and I basically have to give it my all before the timer dings (and then I have to stop for almost an hour), I write a lot, and I write it fast. I average between 16-18K a week (it’s NaNoWriMo every month in my office!) between 10K of freelance work and the rest of my personal stuff. I’d love to get to 20K every week, but my health needs to improve first.

At some point, I would love to A) be healed completely from this injury, and B) work a 9-5 day from home, getting all the work I need to do between those hours. Until then, for me personally, this is a day in the life of a concussed author.

2 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a (Concussed) Author

  1. I admire your perseverance , I too have ongoing PCS, and its ten years now of blinding headaches.
    I enjoyed your writing and applaud you. Your strength is inspiring, I’m currently working towards my BA of English and have trouble at times with all the writing and reading required but I take many breaks as you described also. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your story! I’m so sorry that you’ve been going through this for (ughh!) ten years! I can’t imagine it. The constant head pain is a nightmare, as is the inability to do as much as I want to do. I’m sure you understand. I’m in awe that you’re actually getting a degree while you’re experiencing PCS! I had plans to go back to school this year, but my shortened attention span and the inconsistency of good days to bad days meant that was out of the question. You’re amazing! Keep fighting the good fight <33

      Like

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