How Not to Write Your Novel: Being Ill

Hello, my pretties! In today’s lesson we’re going to discuss how to make the most of minor illnesses in the pursuit of not pursuing your writing career. LISTEN CAREFULLY! It may seem like a straightforward thing but don’t be fooled! Using personal sickness to avoid writing is more complicated than you might think.

First of all: Getting sick. It can be tricky, but below I’ve listed a number of very likely places you can go if you’re looking to contract something uncomfortable.

  1. HOSPITALS – Just think about it. Where are there more sick people than the hospital? Nowhere! Now it’s true that most hospitals have very strict rules about cleanliness, sterility, and minimizing risk of infection, but no human institution is ever 100% . So what does that mean? It means that the germs that survive the microbiotic genocide perpetrated by hospital staff must be the toughest, meanest, most cunning single-celled SOBs you’re going to find, that’s what. Take care you don’t pick up something TOO strong, ‘lest you break the Final Admonition (see below).
  2. CHILDREN – Let’s face it, between boogers, unwashed hands, licking things and a general lack of hygiene, most children are walking sick-magnets. If you want to avoid germs, you’re better off letting them make your sandwich with their feet before eating anything their fingers have touched. If you want a good chance of contracting something both survivable and misery-inducing, go to any of the myriad places frequented by these little walking bug farms: Schools*, Libraries, parks, playgrounds, McDonald’s (especially those that have a PlayPlace on the premises), sweatshops*, etc.
  3. BUS STATIONS – Easy to access, and every surface in the place is practically guaranteed to carry an impressive array of microculture. Just run your hands on any surface within reach to collect all the germs you need.
  4. GAS STATION BATHROOMS – Do I REALLY need to elaborate?
  5. DOCTOR’S OFFICE WAITING ROOMS – All the sick people of the hospital, none of the strict cleanliness protocols! And you’ll often find children close at hand too! In fact, if you can find a waiting room that has a box of toys in the corner for the supposed entertainment of children, you’ve hit the jackpot! Contrive a way to lick just one item from that plague-ridden vessel and you’ll be free and clear of needing to write for weeks. DO NOT LICK THE CHILDREN*. Also – the risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis is far lower than in larger institutions.

Second – BEING sick. This part’s easy.

  1. When in the company of others – Moan. Blow your nose as noisily as possible. Cough. Moan again and let your eyelids droop. In most cases you won’t even hear the words ‘How’s the book coming?’, but if by chance someone does ask, vomit on their shoes if at all possible. This will prevent any further inquiry for the duration of the illness.
  2. When alone – Sleep. Shouldn’t be hard, what with the basic properties of most daytime television shows.

Third – Getting better. Again, this one’s fairly simple. Just remind anyone that asks that you’ve been sick, recovery takes time, and over-exertion is the lead cause of relapse in the recently ill. If questions persist, remind inquirers that sufferers can still be contagious up a month after symptoms disappear. If this doesn’t send them running for the hills, sneeze on them.

And there you have it, my pretties! Everything you need to know about getting sick and making the best of it! Well, all but the Final Admonition, that is.



Avoid contracting terminal illness. While it may seem like a get-out-of-jail-free card, IT IS NOT! In fact, those faced with imminent death are far more likely to finish novels than to rest on their laurels and coast to the finish line! Remember – the goal is to not write for as long as possible, and you can hardly do that when you’re dead.

Be good, my pretties! And whatever you do…


*How Not to Write Your Novel: Prison is an advanced lesson and should not be attempted by the uninitiated. Cat Vacuuming does not recommend conduct likely to result in incarceration until such time as this lesson has been mastered.

**This post is dedicated to Randy Pausch who failed so brilliantly at vacuuming the cat.

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