Anyone living with an autoimmune disease knows how difficult it can be to maintain a career. You never know how you’re going to feel from one day to the next and planning ahead is almost impossible. As an author, I used to have goals for how many books I wanted to publish each year, but I’ve never been able to accomplish those goals.

Shadow Stalker

Shadow Stalker

For a while, it was very disheartening, and many times I thought it might be better to just give up on it. I was hard on myself. I would go to bed every night vowing to spend time writing the next day, then when the morning came, I’d crawl out of bed feeling as tired as I was when I went to sleep the night before. Most of the time I’d try and write something. If I was lucky, I’d get a paragraph written before I gave up (after a few hours of trying). Other times, I just didn’t bother.

Then one day I realized my problem. I was trying to compare myself to other authors who didn’t have the physical and medical issues I have. I was trying to keep up with them, and it’s just not something I’m capable of. Not only was it adding to my depression and anxiety, but it was a big reason I was having trouble writing to begin with. I don’t perform well under pressure.

So, to combat this problem, I made some rules for myself:

Don’t Stress. Stress is the worst thing for me. It causes an autoimmune response, which makes me feel unwell and fatigued. I needed to get rid of my stress, and to do that, I had to take the pressure off. So, I stopped making such strict writing schedules for myself. Now I have a daily writing goal. If I meet the goal, great. If I’m not up to writing, I find other work that doesn’t require a lot of focus, so I’m still accomplishing something. Since I began doing this, my stress levels have dropped dramatically.

Take Care of Me. As I mentioned before, I had a bad habit of trying to force myself to write, even when my brain fog was so severe that I had a hard time focusing on the simplest things. I realized that if I wanted to reduce my symptoms and write more, I had to take care of myself. I’ve since changed my diet (avoiding foods that set off an autoimmune response), and I’ve started taking supplements that will help reduce symptoms. I have also stopped pushing myself to do things when I’m not feeling up to it. I listen to my body and give it what it needs.

Balance My Life. When I did have times where I was feeling well, I’d have a tendency to become a workaholic. It was my way of trying to make up for lost time. I’d spend 12 to 16 hours a day writing. I stopped spending time with my daughter, and I wasn’t cooking meals as I should have. My eating habits went down the drain too. I was so fixated on writing as much as I could. But within a few days, I’d burn myself out, and I wouldn’t be able to write for weeks afterward. It was too much. So, now, whether my I’m feeling well or not, I have set limits for everything. I don’t let myself write more than 2500 words a day, I balance my time between writing work and marketing work each day. I don’t clean for more than an hour or two a day (if I can help it). And I make sure I spend time with my daughter every single day.

Following these rules has really changed my life. I don’t get stressed over my writing anymore, since I’m not comparing myself with other authors. I’m very open with my readers about my illness and how it affects me, and they’ve been very supportive and understanding. I’ve been taking better care of myself, and I’ve been feeling better as a result. I still have issues with fatigue and brain fog, but it doesn’t affect me as badly as it used to. Most importantly, I’m not neglecting my family in my attempt to keep up with other authors. Now that I’ve stopped trying so hard, I’m able to write more than I did before, and I know next year will be an amazing year for me as a result.

Renee Scattergood, author of the dark fantasy serial, Shadow Stalker, lives in Australia with her husband and daughter. She loves reading, watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her daughter. Visit her site for a free copy of Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6):

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