Last week I shared this video of writing and editing a blog post, from an idea saved in my ideas bank. The ideas bank started after a really stupid amount of morphine muddled my brain, helping me become a better blogger.

The morphine was doctor-prescribed—no street drugs here. It was a hail Mary attempt to control the chronic pain I’d had since 2013, when a minor medical procedure went bad.

In 2014 the doc insisted on sick leave. I wallowed in pain and self-pity for six months before a friend asked for help with her blog.

And there it was. BAM. A rainbow broke through the hurricane.

Freelance writing.

It was creative. Fulfilling. Kind to my body. And I was good at it.

The office dress code (pyjamas and sweat pants) and cute colleagues sealed the deal.

 My cutie office colleagues, Scotch and Stogie.

My cutie office colleagues, Scotch and Stogie.

But I still had pain. My doc worked his way through the pharmacy before putting me on morphine—the only thing that touched the pain.

If you’re a junkie/fellow sufferer, you’ll know morphine creates tolerance. You have to keep upping the game. Before long, my daily dose was enough to sedate a small hippo.

My brain became slowly zombie-fied. The doc called it “highly impaired cognitive function.”

I was a dummy.

A dummy who forgot everything.

Ev-eeeeer-y-thing.

A few scattered and depressed months passed before a revelation found its way through the fog…

I needed to write. Not just blog posts for others or creative stories or ruminations on my shitty experiences.

No, I needed to write reminders. Reminders of:

  • where I put the chicken to defrost for dinner
  • how to get to physio (even though I did the journey three times a week)
  • what I planned to do in the next ten minutes
  • where my phone charger lives
  • what I was getting up to fetch
  • the recipes for weeknight meals I supposedly knew by heart
  • anything my husband said.

I used Evernote (the most awesome note taking app ever) to write down everything. It was a new way of writing. Survival writing.

And it revolutionized my blogging.

“But Liz, this blog only just started.”

I know. Of course I know—I’m the one writing it! ;)

But I’ve been writing for others for about a decade, in various forms. I started in journalism (HATED it—I was literally sent chasing an ambulance once), then moved into marketing and PR (better, despite the mean boss).

I enjoyed a stint as a conference manager and wedding planner before I discovered--through my friend and her blog—a whole universe of talented entrepreneurs living life on their own terms.

I liked that. I respected that.

These were women who’d said, NO MORE.

No more sitting in a cubicle taking shit from jumped up bosses with authority complexes.

No more two hour meetings that could’ve taken ten minutes.

No more douchebags stealing your yoghurt from the office fridge.

No more selling your soul to some corporation who makes millions, while you have to beg for a pay rise that won’t even cover inflation.

No more wishing you’d break your leg so you wouldn’t have to go in to work.

I liked these women.

And I liked that they understood the importance of writing. Because when you’re “meeting” your clients or customers online, your body language doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s all in how you write.

I started to help, where I could, who I could. I wrote websites. I helped women become better bloggers. (I didn’t start my own blog—I worried I’d end up creatively drained. Silly.)

So when morphine-induced zombie brain kicked in, I was writing for others. And I was scared. My body had already failed me. Now my brain was failing too.

But all was not lost.

Survival writing saved me.

It made me a better blogger

I was writing down everything, including all the random thoughts that came to me as I was reading, or conditioning my hair for the second time because I couldn’t remember if I’d done it already, or drifting off to sleep, or walking Stogie (he’s the dog—the cat won’t come for walks with us).

This resulted in two things:

1. Practice

As my mum used to say: Talent isn’t enough, you must practice the piano. (As it happens, I had neither practice nor talent at the piano). But every time I reached for my iPhone and opened Evernote, it was practice.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: Writing is a muscle. Use it or lose it.

My husband is training for his first marathon. I bought him a running book with a crazy three-month training program. You know what it doesn’t say?

Run a long time. Repeat.

It does have long runs, of course. But it also has hill starts, speed sessions, strength training and something called fartleks, which I find endlessly amusing.

All these different running exercises will (fingers crossed) get him through those 42.195km to successfully cross the finish line.

Now, we know that writing a reminder to put my knickers in the tumble dryer is not the basis for a ground breaking blog post. But it’s all these different types of writing that act as exercises to build our strength and get us through the marathon of writing required for a successful small business.

So find ways—any ways—to practice your writing.

2. Ideas

Ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas. They come, they go. If you haven’t snagged that idea down on paper, it’ll just wave at you as it vanishes into the ether.

Survival writing forced me to stop life and write, as the thoughts came. If you have a blog that’s constantly screaming for content, this habit is a god-send.

  • Always have some writing device (phone, pen and paper, chisel and stone) in arm’s reach.
  • Always STOP to write down ideas, no matter how off-beat. Write them all.

Over the last year I’ve changed doctors and reduced my morphine dosage to something less ridiculous. The pain went up, but I found other ways to (mostly) manage it. My cognitive function went from “highly impaired” to finally functioning. My memory recovered.

I feel human again.

But I’ve maintained the habits that morphine forced: I practice. I write down ideas.

I recommend it. (The practice and ideas-writing that is, not the chronic pain and opiates.)

And that’s how morphine made me a better blogger.

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