I think every writer has had times (or seasons…hopefully, not years) when the day-to-day business of living overwhelms any schedule, any attempt to find a moment to sit down and write. Despite all the writing advice we hear about making it happen—about getting up early, staying up late, writing in snatches, etc.—there are moments when life happens, and all we can do is hold on tight and get through it, whether “it” is the best, busiest, happiest time of our life or a dreadful tragedy.
But what are we, as writers, supposed to do with these times? If we aren’t writing, are we writers anymore? Will we lose momentum? Will we ever find the time to write again, and if we do, will we find our craft has slipped down into mediocrity?
I think there are three things to keep in mind when life invades our writing time:
- Writing can wait. Despite how much we clamor about writing, telling each other to keep at it, to never let a day pass without writing something, we’re human beings, first and foremost, and sometimes, other people need us more than our blank pages do. The beauty about a writing career is that it isn’t dependent on our age or our physical condition. We don’t have to do it right now, especially since many writers have produced their best works last in life years. But some things—the friends we have, our marriages, our kids—can’t wait a few days or months for us to find a moment for them.
- Life is where writing comes from. No matter how good we are, sitting at our computer, we sometimes need a break. We need to be reminded how real life people act: how they scream and argue, how they stand and smile, how they flip their hair and whether we can even make out their eye color. If we live in our fictional worlds too long, they start to feel fake. A spice of real life details can help.
So if your life has imposed a writing break on you, take it. Plunge in and engage in all the moments that are keeping you from your desk. Note the smell, the tastes, the feelings. Look at the people around you…and really see them. When you get back to the page, your writing will benefit from all the information you absorb about reality.
- Nothing is gained by fretting. Wanting to write when you can’t, and complaining about it and stressing about it, won’t help anything. A divided focus is an ineffective one. If you can’t write, then do whatever it is you must do, with all your might and main, and bottle up your writing vigor for when things change and you get some time. Then, take it…and stay away from Facebook or Twitter or anything else that would pull you from your writing without a good cause. Live. Really live, whether you are writing or reading or playing with your kids. Be there, in that moment, and let the future take care of itself.
Copyright 2015 Andrea Lundgren Photo Courtesy of Gratisography