Writing When You Just Can’t
From your desk comes the sound of a demon being unleashed in your living room. When you look up, heart in your throat, you realize it’s just the dog. Vomiting all over the white carpet! While pouring over the latest edits, the deadline looms over you like an anvil. That’s when you throw out your back—simply by flipping your hair over your shoulder.
Or you’re in a taekwondo class, gleaning real-life experience for that next fight scene, when you step back to do a combo you’ve done a million times—and POP! TWANG! You’ve torn your calf muscle and reduced your life to hobbling and doctor’s appointments.
And sometimes, all of those things happen at once.
Life has an often cruel and unrelenting attitude when it comes to interfering with writing time. I mean, we’ve got the time slotted in our planners and fancy stickers to mark the time and projected word count. Or we’ve logged into a NaNoWriMo-style program to keep us motivated and on track. But then—LIFE!
I’ve homeschooled for the last eighteen years and I’m about to graduate my youngest—twin boys. And I have book contracts with two publishers. But life isn’t slowing down. And it’s certainly not giving me any consideration in what it throws at me. Friends often ask how I do it, and the answer I give is rather oversimplified, but essentially true: I just do. The adage is true that we make time for what’s important to us, but perhaps I can share a few tips I’ve employed the last few years during life’s unusually rough treatment.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!
We will get to physical breaks in a moment, but I mean this mentally. If you’re anything like me, you’re hard on yourself. Maybe even dealing with unrealistic expectations. Part of my weekly chores growing up were cleaning baseboards. I’m not sure when the baseboards here were last cleaned (I really should fire that maid. . . just kidding—I am the maid). Realize that truly, you cannot do everything on your own. Sacrifices will be made, and they might feel bloody and violent. Sing Elsa’s Let It Go, and free yourself!
TAKE A BREAK!
Not even kidding. The best thing we can do for ourselves during high stress is get some physical exercise, which could be as simple as walking the dog (cat? Invisible monkey?) into the backyard and breathing clean air, un-word-ified air. Science has proven that a little exercise helps oxygenate your brain cells, which stirs creativity. For this reason, no matter the deadline I’m under, I go to taekwondo and kick bag has many times and as hard as I can (this is especially helpful when a character is being obstinate).
This can be a two-edged sword because family comes first, but family also needs to understand and support you as you work toward deadlines that, ultimately can help put food on the table and clothes on the children. Chores might need a break as much you need one from doing them. Buy take out or—as I’ve recently started doing—organize easy meals in a planner and buy groceries once a week.
Yes, life is always going to interfere. It’s not looking out for you (though we have a God Who does), so—as my friend Shannon McNear and I were talking about recently—there may be a time where you need to step back from writing to recover pieces (chunks?) of yourself and your sanity. Sometimes, writing does need to take the back seat, though this is the except rather than the rule—because again, LIFE!
What advice would you give to a writer locked in mortal combat against life to defend their writing time? Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of Ronie's book, Conspiracy of Silence,
Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of over fifteen novels. She grew up an Army brat, and now she and her Army-veteran husband have an adventurous life in Northern Virginia with their children and a retired military working dog, VVolt N629. Ronie's degree in Psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters.