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Writers@Work: Thriving Despite

August 28, 2018


Note From Rochelle


Dear Readers,


I’m offering a brand new workshop this fall: How a Book Can Boost Your Business (and it won’t cost you a thing!) If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll want to set aside time on September 12 at 5:00 PM to learn ten unique ways a book can support your business. Visit my workshop page to learn more and sign up.


Author BrandToday I’m delighted to bring you an article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch on thriving as a writer despite chronic illness. Her latest nonfiction book is Creating Your Author Brand written as Rusch. Even if you don’t have to cope with physical challenges, Rusch’s words will support you in finding balance for your writing life.






Thriving Despite…

Kristine Kathryn Rusch


I planned to write this guest blog last night, but I got sick at the gym yesterday. Not call-in-an-ambulance sick. An oh-you-must-be-kidding-me sick. I suffer from severe allergies, which is one of the many reasons my husband and I moved to Las Vegas last March. Airflow is better here. The dry air is better for me. The food is better. And there are better doctors than the small town I lived in before.


But I still get nailed from time to time by careless people (whom I do not call “careless people” when I’m talking to anyone who knows my penchant for colorful language). Yesterday, it was a man who was wearing too much baby powder—so much you could smell him throughout half the gym. He actually left a baby powder stain after he sat on one of the carpeted benches on the running track.


I’m allergic to most fragrances and a whole bunch of other airborne chemicals. Apparently, baby powder in large amounts is one of those fragrances I’m allergic to. I went from running on the track to standing in a clear area trying to breathe.


The airflow fixed the problem soon enough, but left me tired and debilitated for the rest of the evening. Ironic, I thought as I stood there, my throat half-closed from the guy’s white powdery stench, I haven’t had an incident for more than a month, and then on the day I’m going to write this post…


The incident was a reminder that while I’ve been feeling light years better these last six months, I’ll never be cured.


I have had these allergies and chronic migraines and other not-easy-to-solve health problems most of my adult life. Things got so bad in the past two years that I could do very few things, and usually early in the day.


So I worked out systems. I was better in the early afternoon since it takes me forever to wake up in the morning. I would write, then I would run, and then I would read. I set quotas. I had a word count to hit every day, a distance to hit on my run, and a set number of pages to read every night.


But those quotas had asterisks. If I had a migraine, I would write until my brain turned to mush. If I had some kind of allergy issue, I would strive for an hour. If I couldn’t run, I could still hit my 10,000 steps—even if I just stumbled from wall to wall in my living room, occasionally sitting down to prevent myself from fainting with dizziness. If I couldn’t read, I would watch (or listen to) stories on television.


Sounds harsh, I know. But I had learned a few things in my life. First, exercise. It makes all of my conditions better. Since I started exercising about ten years ago, the number of sick days went down. So those 10,000 steps have been part of my daily life—with only two misses—since 2012. Writing keeps me sane, so I do as much as I can—nonfiction if I can’t write fiction. Reading is as necessary as breathing for me, but I realized in my twenties that storytelling can substitute for reading if need be. So me and my pillow on the couch, having movie marathons, became a common thing, particularly in my 30s. I had migraines 21 out of 30 days every month—while I was writing six books per year and editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.


Fortunately, I worked at home. I didn’t have to go to an office (since there were days I couldn’t drive) and I could pick the hours I was clearheaded to get something done, rather than adhere to a 9 to 5. In my twenties, I worked as the news director of a radio station, and I split my shift 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., then 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. If I had migraines then (and I did, a lot), I would “indulge” them in the afternoon when I was off. It became pretty clear to me pretty fast that I couldn’t maintain that forever.


But the writing, reading, exercise thing? I did that for decades, literally, as doctors helped me figure out what triggered migraines (and what mitigated them) and as I slowly learned what my allergies were. I am much healthier now than I’ve ever been, which is creating its own problems.


You see, now I don’t know how to rest. I was always forced to rest, so I would save all my rest activities for the days when I couldn’t do anything else. Now, I rarely have to rest because of illness. Now, I have to rest when I exhaust myself because I feel so dang good.


But days like yesterday remind me that I will always have these issues. I know how to cope with bad days. I used to have more of them than good days.


Self-care is what got me to more good days than bad. I have to be diligent about what I eat, and how long I sleep. I need to exercise every single day. I need to flee a room immediately when someone with too much cologne enters. I have long since stopped apologizing for my weird behavior. If I have to leave, I do. If I can’t eat in a particular restaurant, I say so. If I have a migraine, I’m clear about whether or not I can work or drive or socialize.


Some of that comes from being older, and living with this stuff for decades. But much of it comes from the (slow for me) realization that getting mad at the condition doesn’t help. Finding work-arounds does. And sometimes, that quiet day on the couch watching six movies is necessary—even for the healthy version of me.


Rest and doing something else is important.


Because if I do that, and eat right and exercise daily, I can write more. Read more. Enjoy my life more.



And that’s what really counts.



Kristine Kathryn RuschAbout the author. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes and publishes under several names. Under Rusch, she’s a New York Times bestselling writer with a career spanning more than thirty years. That career includes awards in the mystery and sf genres for writing, awards in sf and fantasy for editing, and a raft of nonfiction pieces. She blogs weekly on the publishing industry at She also owns seven different businesses, including four retail businesses and a publishing company. She’s married to writer Dean Wesley Smith, and with him, teaches online writing workshops and in person workshops in Las Vegas, Nevada. Find out more about her writing on her Protectorswebsite, Find out more about the workshops at Her latest fiction book is Protectors, under her Kris Nelscott pen name. Her latest nonfiction is Creating Your Author Brand written as Rusch.


1 Response

  1. Ah, Kris! Thank you so much for sharing! That is truly inspirational. So sorry to hear you moved to Las Vegas though! I had been looking forward to taking your workshops here on the coast. Glad you found something that worked for you though. Take care.

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