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My advice to struggling writers: call in sick more often

I once had an employee call in disillusioned—seriously. And to be honest, I knew how he felt. Sometimes you just need a little cerebral palate cleansing.

In my family we call them “Mental Health Days". We give our kids two each semester. They can use them to take the school day off and sleep, catch up on homework, go skiing (with Dad!), etc. They can’t use them back-to-back or during finals, and it’s a privilege that goes bye-bye if their grades drop below an A/B average. I think adults need them too. You'd be suprised at what good can come of it.

Here’s a little tale about my last “Mental Health” day.

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Reader Comments (10)

I hope you're blogging from Hawaii or the Caribbean, Jamie. I say no interviews, no speaking engagements, no nothing for at least a few days. Call in sick and enjoy the celebration.
January 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSeth Fleisher
I wholly support Mental Health Days. I'm calling in sick on Friday. *cough*sniffle*
January 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrish
Three things.
A) you've been hanging around #97 all morning on bn.com (w00t!)
B) was the 1200 word vignette you wrote on your sick day the one you used to get into bootcamp (something about a grandfather and a watch as I recall)
C) I thought I remembered getting an e-mail from you about the picolata thing, and as I didn't know you until the OSC workshop I thought that was after bootcamp... but maybe I'm remembering when it published not when it sold (and since picolata is dead apparently...).
January 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharlesP
I always remember the wayback machine after I've clicked "submit"... and then it led me to the blogspot page for picolata which is still up.


So the publication was in June... (which was the month of the workshop I think... MAN I'm old and senile). Ohhh that's right, the version that ran in Picolata was in first person and you changed it to third on the re-write.
January 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharlesP
Nice piece, Jamie. And yeah, those PW reviewers seem to take great pride in being snarky (if I remember right, I got called "unsophisticated." Which is probably true. But still.) I love seeing how writers work and how their work progresses -- and you've got a great and inspiring story -- how fun!

I wish I could be more productive on sick days. Mostly I end up reading (all in the name of "research", you know) and dabbling at the banjo, then -- in a pique of worrying I've been unproductive -- I do the dishes. So there.

Stay warm up there!
January 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Jay Jones
I LOVE the idea of giving kids two Mental Health Days a semester. Do you wait until the children are a certain age before they start? I have an 11-year-old who would use both days in the first week of every semester, LOL.

BTW, I'm halfway through Hotel. I figured I'd race through it, but I find myself reading slowly to make it last as long as possible. Holy bamboo parasol, Mr. Ford, you've really created something exquisite.

Wish I wrote like you. My writing always comes out a little sardonic and very conversational (as opposed to elegant). Kind of like this comment, LOL.
January 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatrina Stonoff
I remember you from Uncle Orson's Workshop in '06. Sadly I didn't get to do the Bootcamp. But I learned so much in just the two days.

Congrats on all your success. I look forward to your book. My own first novel is still seeking a home. But it's really good. It has explosions. Not really --about the explosions. But I do hope it's good.

God bless.
January 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersd smith
Also, I support Mental Health Days. My parents did it too, and look at me...OK, bad example. But I'm sure it works.
January 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersd smith
Will do Brian.

Katrina--I have a child that wanted to use his on the first day of school. We nixed that idea.

sd--Best of luck!
January 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Ford
We didn't have a name for it in my family, but I was allowed to take days off (more than two) and sleep in too. We had the A/B rule in effect too, which was fine by me because I was a nerd anyway.
January 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDB

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