On Balance: Writing, Work, and Life with Chronic Pain

By all accounts, I should have an easy time striking a balance between writing, work, and life. I work from home, with a flexible schedule. I have a partner who does his fair share of the housework and then some, and provides unwavering emotional support for my writing career. I don’t have children or other caregiving commitments chipping away at my writing time.

But I also have chronic pain. You wouldn’t know it to look at me; I can get around just fine, I look and act totally normal. Ever since I was a teenager, though, I’ve been in pretty much constant pain. Some days it’s just a low-level ache pulsing around the edges of my awareness. Other days the pain is so severe it’s the only thing I can think about.

Being in pain all the time sucks. If I could snap my fingers or strike a deal with a sorceress and wake up tomorrow with zero pain, I’d absolutely do it. But the further I get into my writing career, the more I realize that, as much as it sucks, my pain also has a silver lining: it saves me from myself.

I’m the daughter of a workaholic, and if it weren’t for my chronic pain, I’d be a workaholic too. I still have that Type A, hard-charging, live-and-die-by-my-to-do-list personality. I want to be hardcore, a total boss, President of 5am Writers’ Club. I want to sleep when I’m fucking dead. But my pain forces me to slow down and take care of myself.

Honestly, I’m not great at it. I push myself too hard, I don’t take breaks as often as I should, I eat junk food and stay up too late and have trouble dragging myself out of bed when my alarm goes off in the morning. I struggle every day with the gap between what I want to do, and what my body is capable of doing. Writing comes naturally to me – listening to my body and practicing self-compassion do not.

For years I saw my chronic pain as an obstacle, something holding me back from achieving my ambitions. But now I see it differently: my pain isn’t keeping me from finding balance. It’s the fulcrum I’m balancing on.

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Layne Fargo

Layne Fargo is a thriller author with a background in theater and library science. She’s a Pitch Wars mentor, a member of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the cocreator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters. Layne lives in Chicago with her partner and their pets.

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