Writing When Your World is Out of Control

 

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Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

I had a dream that my writing time was uninterrupted. No family drama or emergency took me away from my words. I stayed on task. All the items on my checklist from blogs, to edits to marketing were completed. Then the alarm went off and I woke to reality. And I’m not alone in the real world of writing during crisis. Several writer friends requested prayer or shared their own struggles with meeting deadlines while family tragedies formed around them.

 

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Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

Some are dealing with aging parents and Alzheimer, illness, or tough things with their adult children. Others, it’s teens in rebellion, little ones with special needs, spouses in the hospital and the list goes on.

We will have trials

We don’t get to quit our day jobs to deal with most of this stuff, and our writing is just as important. But we can adjust. One author writes only hundreds of words daily rather than thousands as she waits by the bedside of her ailing mother.

Taking the laptop to the library to distance oneself from family drama for a few hours a day is one way we writers cope.  Unfortunate circumstances beyond our control amplify the adage, “there is no perfect time to start writing.”

Jesus reminds us that in this world we will have trials. And as a Christian the second half of the verse rings true for me. He says, “I have overcome the world”. Praying and seeking His peace and clarity is so crucial during family drama.

Keep a journal

No, this is not the time to write about the trial.  You’re too close and your emotions too raw. Keep a journal or open a file on your computer and dump all your emotions there. Someday in the distant future all that angst will be fodder for a novel, article, or how-to-endure-family-drama book.

Keep moving forward

For now, you just put one foot in front of the other. Decide what things you need to let go while you deal with the emotional, physical or legal things associated with your trial. I hired a lawyer to deal with all the paperwork for my aging parents. After my father passed, my mother is happy in her assisted living facility. My son’s family lives with us at present and there are times we are responsible for the granddaughters. Drama at work can drain my energy reducing the number of writerly things I get done at the end of the day.  Individually, these are only mild hiccups, but when they all come at you like a flood it can send your writing schedule out to sea. And you find yourself struggling to catch a breath and regroup.

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Once I established a way to deal with the small stuff the large chaotic surprises have a basic pattern to follow.

  • A few hundred words a day is better than none.
  • Go to the library or a café for a few hours to work
  • Turn off your cell phone if possible
  • Don’t accept a large project during a family drama
  • Have someone double check your work before submitting because your focus may be skewed now.
  • Ask for extensions but keep writing as if you don’t have one.
  • Reach out to family and friends for help. Don’t be a super hero. Not only will your writing suffer, but also those you care about most.

Anyone care to add to this list? I’d love to hear how you cope with big and small potholes along your writing journey.

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How to have a New Attitude about an Interrupted Writing Schedule

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I love those perfect writing days. The ones where I can check every item off my writing to-do list and my heart swells with satisfaction at a job well-done. But those are few and far between.

I know my limits

Most weeks I need to decide what I can get done based on the hours available and my fatigue level. I’m a morning person, by 9 pm my brain is often mush. Therefore, I rarely attempt to write after 8 pm. I’ve done it, but I don’t plan it.

Writing around a work schedule and homework

Then I must factor in my work schedule. The days I work eight hours I pencil in smaller projects such as writing blogs or critiquing a piece or two. Editing a chapter of my WIP or if I’m super inspired, I’ll write a rough new chapter. Again, knowing the later it gets, the less productive. Add to that, every week day hubby picks granddaughters up from school, and we help with homework. Frustration abounds for me with the new core curriculum and no phonics. It can be an energy and creativity drainer. Making my brain turn to mush earlier.

Organizing my days off

On my days off I may need to take my mother to a medical appointment. I may have a hair appointment or some other meeting that cuts into my productive time. Let’s not forget the never-ending cleaning of the house. (Which as a writer we pretend is not needed until company is coming. Actually, that is me always. 😊)

Working around a week of interruptions

Then there are weeks when schedules have to be set aside for more important things. This is one of those weeks. A friend’s funeral takes precedence over my schedule. My husband and I volunteered to pick up another friend at the airport yesterday, and the wake is today and the funeral tomorrow. I want very much to be a part of my friend’s send off. So, rather than freak out about what I can’t get done I redo my to-do list.

Knowing the funeral would change what I had planned for later in the week, I made adjustments. Monday and Tuesday, I critiqued other writer’s projects and got a smaller project of mine revised and sent off early. Wednesday, I wrote this blog and did some revisions on my novella before I took my mom to the doctor. Then we picked up my friend at the airport, which included flight delays. They had us playing the waiting game. I took out my notebook and sketched out a speech and research questions for my novel while we waited.

Today my plan was to get up early, post this blog and do what I could before work. I work four hours this afternoon. So, I’ll check my to do-list for what I can accomplish this morning. After work I’ll go to the wake and spend time with many who loved our friend. I have no plans to write tonight. But it could happen.

Friday is normally my write-for-six-hours day. But the funeral and meal after will take up most of my day. I’ll do what I can before it and, if I feel up to it, I’ll do something afterward. But I have no plans for tomorrow. Emotional days are not always ideal for creativity.

Saturday I’ll use to catch up on my writing new chapters and revisions. But if old friends are in town from the funeral and want to get together, I’ll do that and reorganize my to-do list next week.

A New Attitude about interruptions

A writer’s life is always interrupted. Our best-laid plans can get side-tracked. We can get bitter about all the time robbing, or we can get better at using the time we have each day. I am no expert on time-management. My emotions and exhaustion from the day can weigh heavily on what gets done. But I remind myself of a quote from Anne of Green Gables. “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.” Then I wake up on that tomorrow and begin all over again.

Writer Interrupted

Does your writing day sometimes look like this as interruptions invade your journey.

Does your writing day sometimes look like this as interruptions invade your journey.

I wish I could place a do not disturb sign on my forehead. Or a cone of silence around my writing area. Maybe a writer beacon could flash in the sky alerting all who know me that I am in the writing zone.

My writer's cape for superhuman word smithing.

My writer’s cape for superhuman word smithing.

Maybe I need a cape with a big W on it so others would recognize my typing is a super human feat requiring total concentration.

But in the real world we all know there are interruptions.

Others

My elderly mother calls three times a day. Each call is something little she needs or remembered. Some are the same information spaced hours apart. She forgets she told me.

My son hands me his baby to entertain. No matter I was right in the middle of research or tweaking something. (Oh, but I do love playing with the baby.)

Who wouldn't want to spend the evening plaiyng with my sweet grandson.

Who wouldn’t want to spend the evening plaiyng with my sweet grandson.

My daughter calls to remind me to take her dog out because she won’t be home until the end of the week. So out I go, dog on leash, poop bag in hand.

The dogs (yes there are two, both belong to my adult children) stare me down begging for attention. The littlest one crawls up in my lap if I am sitting on the couch or overstuffed chair, squeezing between me and my keyboard.

My granddaughters asked for me to print off coloring pages when they see me at my computer. After all isn’t it what Gramma’s are for?

My hubby reads me the latest interesting thing he finds on Facebook while I am trying to compose the perfect sentence.

My parents need to be taken to the doctor, ban, grocery store. They need to be reminded which medications to take when. And told how to correctly set the thermostat for the hundredth time.

Myself

I can’t stop checking e-mail and answering every important one immediately. Those answers always take a few paragraphs. I spend extra time making sure there are no typos or unclear passages. After all I am a writer.

I have to finish that novel I couldn’t put down the night before. Then it is out of my mind and I can concentrate on my own novel.

My fav show is coming on soon.

I’m exhausted from work and want to veg for a while or hours or days.

Clean the house for another family get-together. Decorate for another birthday party.

Paint the house, clean the house, do the yardwork, grocery shop.

Never-ending

AHHHHHH!!!!! Interruptions abound.

Yet, I still get the blog posts done, sometimes a little later than scheduled.

I get the article or short story emailed on time.

And edits and critiques get done.

Novel ideas take shape

Book reviews get written.

Such is the writer’s life. I’m sure, like me, many of those interruptions in your life have turned into some interesting articles, devotionals, plot twists and blog posts. Kinda like this one. 🙂

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