7 tips to help writers stay productive, even when they’re sick

You’re nowhere close to 100 percent, but you can still get stuff done, from the mindless task of shredding old papers to letting your slightly fevered brain free-associate about big-picture goals.

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Australia, Hong Kong and other spots in the Southern Hemisphere have already faced one of their worst flu seasons on record. For those of us north of the equator, that’s a harbinger of what’s likely to happen during our own winter. Start washing your hands—now.

If you’re a freelance writer, illness can be devastating. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job with a health plan and a guaranteed income, getting sick is no fun.

Here are some ways writers can cope:

1. Stay away from other people. If you work in an office, don’t become a disease conduit to your co-workers. Every surface you touch—doorknobs, desktops, phones, keyboards, pieces of paper—will become covered with cold or flu virus you’ve shed. When I shared a desk with someone (on alternate days), I’d bring disinfectant and wipe down our entire office whenever my co-worker had been sick. Dragging yourself into work when you’re ill is only likely to make other people sick. Be equally mindful about sharing germs if you usually work from home. Don’t go out to conduct interviews, because it will mean sharing your bug with others. If there’s something so important you can’t miss it, arrange to do the interview by telephone or email.

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