Writing doesn’t always happen. Sometimes life happens instead.
That’s not always a bad thing, of course. Take this past week, for example. Since we last chatted, I attended the phenomenal MS Book Festival, rejoiced at the baptisms of both of my children, celebrated my husband’s birthday and enjoyed a good deal of family time. Those are all precious gems in the treasure chest of life.
Along with these gems came life’s many gold coins and silver goblets. They take up a great deal of space and have value, but they can’t quite match the brilliance of those precious stones. I added a couple jobs to my typical weekly workload, watched an article evolve from a max four-day commitment to a week and a half excursion, prepped for the initial meeting of and tried to keep up with all the start-of-year paperwork for the local girl’s scouting troop I lead, tried to finish planning for our school year and spent 12+ hours of my blog-writing day (which happens to be last-minute Wednesday this week) with six children instead of two.
Writing Despite Life
Life happens. And, it’s good. And it’s stressful. And it’s rarely, if ever, predictable. Somewhere in the midst of all this good and crazy, I’m also supposed to write—writing despite life.
How is that even possible?
Seriously! The #1 piece of advice every writer receives is WRITE. Daily. How in the name of cheesecakes and whole chickens that didn’t thaw completely and sick kids and unexpected phone calls and requests for exceptions and answers to already-answered questions and hospitalized parents hours away am I supposed to WRITE. Daily. ?
Writing despite life—and its sneaky attempts at distracting us—can happen. Here are five lessons I’ve learned over the past month and a half when my life’s been more topsy-turvy than usual. Each of these has given me the ability to seize nuggets of writing or writing training, despite life.
Blame the fact that I’ve been gravely outnumbered by little people today or the fact that “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” has been playing on repeat for the past four hours, but these five points are coming your way in A-B-C-D-E fashion.
Each month this year I have set goals—personal, professional and family. And, each month, I always feel the family goals get pushed to the back burner. This month I simplified them. I wrote only two goals: 1. say “yes” more often and 2. prioritize family time.
I have managed to do both, and you know what I’ve learned? Saying “yes” to my kids instead of working or choosing a family activity over returning a phone call doesn’t keep me from fulfilling my work or volunteer responsibilities. Instead, when I “accept these distractions”—yes, there’s a mighty argument where I can prove that kids aren’t the distraction…everything else is; but that’s a whole other post—I find myself happier and more fulfilled and focused while my family is healthier. So, accept away!
Blow up roadblocks.
You’re probably saying, “I thought this was supposed to be about writing.” You’re right! Once you find a way to view priorities a bit differently, you’re ready to continue writing despite life.
If you’ve written more than a sentence or two, you’ve encountered roadblocks in your writing.
Perhaps you’re stuck on a scene or you can’t figure out why your protagonist’s scared or you’re not sure which work-in-progress to tackle first. You have good news for these days when your to do list looms larger than Everest.
While you cook AGAIN—seriously, am I raising kids or hobbits?—or pick up empty wrappers AGAIN or fold clothes AGAIN or scoop a litter box AGAIN, seize the opportunity to blast through a roadblock or two. Brainstorm solutions to your writing dilemmas while your hands are busy with mindless tasks.
Charge your creative spirit.
I’m a realist. Some may call me a pessimist; I can’t recall ever being labeled an optimist. So, here’s my dose of realism for you: unless you have found a way to do nothing but creatively write for a set number of hours every day, you’re not going to WRITE. Daily.
However, you CAN—with some discipline and maybe a phone reminder—find a way to charge your creative spirit each day. The simplest way I can think of is to set aside five minutes to follow a journal prompt where it leads.
Last week two prompts led me along a mystical meadow path and deeper into faerie frolics. Though I didn’t set out either time to write a bit on my little faerie story, that’s what came out. So, although I have decided to slide this tale to the side for a bit while I focus on completing my non-fiction book and a business project, I can revisit this land of my imagination from time to time, even with a meager five minutes.
Dive into learning anywhere.
In the past month I’ve found myself behind the wheel and by myself far more often than I have in recent years. This has given me the opportunity to explore a new favorite of mine—podcasts.
I have long loathed talk radio, but podcasts—or, more accurately, the subjects of the podcasts I listen to—feed my parched learner’s soul. Most of the ones I listen to are the prefect length for the trips I’ve been taking. So, as I drive—or fold clothes or clean a closet (something I really need to get around to doing)—I learn about various aspects of writing. I’ve learned more about voice and characterization and planning a book or series than I ever could have in college. I’ve also received several crash courses in marketing.
These days, learning happens anywhere, anytime. I attain learning about writing despite life, thanks to podcasts and similar resources at my fingertips.
Echo lessons learned and goals set.
Setting goals becomes one positive side benefit to finding ways around writing roadblocks and learning lessons.
Instead of just planning to work toward a particular goal or learning great facts and tips, we should reflect on these plans and lessons—and reflect on them often.
Your five-minute writing burst some days may be jotting down what you learned in a podcast or your six-month plan to achieve a particular writing goal.
Whether you’re a writer with kids at home or a full-time job outside of the home, I hope these A through E practices I’ve discovered help you as much as they’ve helped me with writing despite life.
What ways have you found to maintain your writing momentum when traditional daily writing just isn’t in the cards for you?