Can illness inspire us?


A few weeks ago as some of you may recall me mentioning on my blog, I had a nasty stomach bug which put me out of action for a week. I did not feel good to say the least!

Today I’m suffering from something else – not a stomach bug thankfully, but some kind of virus which is making me constantly feel like I’ve just woken up, as well as achy and zapping my energy. Not great. I stayed home from my exercise class today which is physically demanding. I might have managed it – just – but I wasn’t prepared to take the risk of making myself feel even worse.

It gets me thinking though of how illness can inspire us. I don’t mean common colds or even nasty bugs. But many people who have been ill have written books about their experiences. Often they’re books about breakdowns or the authors’ experience of some kind of illness which has affected them a great deal. The books may not be autobiographies but they’re often semi-autobiographical and are reactions to the authors’ experiences.

Well known authors who’ve experienced some form of mental illness include J. K. Rowling, Jeannette Winterson, Marian Keyes, Patricia Cornwell, Stephen Fry, Paulo Coelho and there are many more. Many of these writers  have spoken about their experiences publicly and the affect it’s had on their work.

I myself have experienced 3 severe breakdowns since the age of 15. I’ve written about my experiences in an earlier blog post which you can read here. When you’ve experienced something like that you’re never the same again. But it can have a positive effect on your writing. I’ve got an unfinished story tucked away on my laptop which is about a young girl who has a breakdown. I intend to finish it one day.

Have you had some sort of illness, physical or mental, which you feel has influenced your writing?

6 thoughts on “Can illness inspire us?

  1. Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well again. It’s that time of year when all those nasty bugs start going around.

    The open heart surgery I had when I was seven for a hole in my heart directly influenced my writing as it was the reason why I started writing in the first place and it was all down to the home tuition I had following the surgery when I was off school for months.

    Hope you feel better soon. x


    1. Sounds like having hole in your heart kind of did you a favour in the long run. It’s amazing how some negative experiences in our lives can have such a positive effect. I’m getting there health-wise, just taking it easy so not doing too badly. x


  2. Hope you feel better soon Elaine 😦

    I think that there are many things that inspire us as writers but undoubtedly one of the most inspiring things has to be our life experiences, good or bad. The writers that you mention who have suffered with mental health issues are all excellent authors and it just goes to show how using a negative experience can be turned into a positive by writing it down and expressing it. It can also act as a kind of catharsis – and therefore I think that illness is the perfect inspiration. 🙂


    1. Yes, I’ve definitely found writing about my experiences cathartic. And I’ve had a unique experience, so hopefully when I come to write that fictionalised account of my illness it’ll give my story a bit of an edge.


  3. I try to keep my issues out of my writing if I can except to use them to add realism to mourning, etc. At some point I may write some non-fiction. Some of my story should probably be shared to help others, but it’s so rough in patches that i just don’t want to go there most days.


    1. Hi Regi. I guess every author’s different in the way that they write, where they get their inspiration from. For me I’m quite happy to write from my life experience but I can understand if you’ve had experiences in your life you’d rather not remember, that you just don’t want to go there.


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