I’ve struggled with writing this past week (as evidenced by my lack of posts on all my blogs). It’s not by design or intention, although as my boss so lovingly put it one day when I screwed up something at work, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I’m happy to admit that she tried to back pedal her words after realizing it probably wasn’t the wisest comment to make, although by that point it was too late.
My struggle isn’t for lack of things to say. Quite the contrary, I’m full of the usual blather and opinions and wise-ass advice. The problem is…I’m tired. Bone-deep tired. And in physical pain. Some days, it’s simply too much to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and spill my thoughts. You probably think I’m speaking metaphorically about struggles as a writer, and while you are partially right, I’m mostly speaking literally.
I wage a daily battle with an invisible illness…a chronic illness of debilitating pain, foggy brain, and weariness so draining that it’s a fight of will to just put one foot in front of the other. This week has been one of those weeks. I have fibromylagia and all the wondrous joys that go along with that diagnosis. No, it’s not an excuse as some might claim as to why I haven’t written or done anything else for that matter this week. It’s the truth. And I hate it with a passion.
So, how do I keep writing? How do I slog through the myriad of life issues that are determined to keep me from writing? How do I power through the stress, foggy brain, and physical pain? Or, more simply, how do you keep writing through a difficult time (whatever it may be)?
Here’s some tips to help you climb the mountains:
Take care of yourself first. You first, writing second. Get the help you need, the time off that you need, and don’t let your desire to write add to your stress. Life comes before writing every single time. Do what you need to do. I’m always reminded that you can’t take care of anything else until you take care of yourself first.
Don’t keep your situation a secret. You may feel like you don’t want to burden your writing/critique partners or your agent and editor with your personal life, but that’s not the right instinct when things are serious. Keep them in the loop and don’t be afraid to ask them for more time if you need it. Chances are they’re going to be awesome and tell you to take care of yourself, which will give you the breathing room you need to focus.
Force yourself to get going. That very normal hump that you have to get over to force yourself to sit down and start writing when you don’t want to can feel like Mount Everest when you’re stressed out. So start climbing. Open up the computer, make yourself get started. Follow the steps for getting back to writing after a break, and once you really get going you’ll be amazed how nice it feels to lose yourself in your writing again.
Don’t be afraid to cut back. Even if you do power through and keep writing during a stressful time, chances are you’re not going to be as productive as you are normally. That’s just the nature of being distracted. Plan ahead for this and don’t put extra pressure on yourself to maintain the same pace.
Channel your emotion into your writing. Emotion and feelings are a powerful motivator when writing. If you don’t feel you can do this for the story your writing, use a journal. Get it all out. Dump your thoughts and let them go. It’s a great way to give your mind a break. Later, you can go back to the journal and possibly find golden nuggets that you can use in your writing.
Let writing be a bright spot. At some point we’re all confronted with difficult stretches in life. But let your writing remind you of how great your future can be. You’re going to keep getting better, you’re going to keep writing books, and no one can take writing away from you. Savor it and enjoy that it’s yours.
Have you tried writing through a difficult time? How did you do it? What was the result?