Writing. In daily life it feels selfish. We all have jobs, commitments and family. We all have to give ourselves permission to “waste” hours that could have been better-spent cleaning house, studying up for a promotion, or going out with the kids. In my case, having just separated I feel the pressure to be both parents. When the separation first happened, I felt guilty about writing.
Here are a few things that helped:
* Take care of the caregiver. If you are any sort of creative, not creating will make you tense. That tension leads to impatience. Writing helps us process daily life and release the stress. Also, the type of self-examination we all do while writing–no matter what we write– helps us become better people, better parents.
* Accept your goals as valid. This is one I’ve been grappling with for several weeks now. My day job is both demanding and rewarding. It helps others. If I achieve my writing goal … someday … I will have to give up that job, at least doing it full time. Fact is, I feel an irrational guilt about taking my focus from working for the good of others to pursuing my own happiness. But if I am a success … someday … I can volunteer back at my place of work. You’d be surprised how long it took for me to accept that, I mean really accept it.
* Acknowledge your limits. When requests come in or special events loom, it’s so damn easy to want to set aside life to prepare. Stop. I cannot get to work and pay the bills if I am a zombie from editing til 3am. If it takes an extra week, it takes that. For me, this was the hardest pill to swallow but now that I’m past it, I feel so much better.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing my manuscript for PARADOX through a foot surgery, collegian’s visit and the suicide crisis on the part of someone I love. Finding any time for editing has been a challenge, but in the back of my mind, I had the advantage of knowing that somebody was interested in my work, two somebodies, maybe a third. I developed a few strategies to help me through:
* Start the day with a scene. In the morning, I can grab my iPad and finish a quick, 400-word scene before I even get out of bed. I don’t open an existing file – that leads to editing. I always start a fresh file and write just one scene. That’s how I’ve started TRICKS OF LIGHT while still editing PARADOX.
* Mark-up on the go. Again, with my iPad, I can theoretically write anywhere, but mostly I edit in public. In odd places like waiting rooms, the car (while someone else is driving), coffee shops, etc., I can open a scene and edit it in five minutes. Major edits–like storyline and character arc–need time and concentration. But if you think about it, your READERS will take in most scenes surrounded by daily distractions, why not edit that way? Does the scene grip you through the noise?
* Mix it up. After dinner when the family is in the living room together, on devices, I write. Right there with them. Believe me, I have perfect privacy. No clue how teens can stay so busy on a phone, but they do. Any interruptions are short, maybe a comic meme or political opinion breaks my concentration.
* Read great work, including your own. It will inspire you. I’m currently studying Langston Hughes. Before him, I was reading Virginia Woolf. This is a trick I learned from another great writer, Stephen King. If you read the best, it starts seeping out through the cracks in your prose.
Sure, I prefer writing at home on a PC, feet up with “She Sells Sanctuary” blaring on repeat–but hey, I won’t get that luxury for awhile. My writing dream has to adapt.
No matter what your own roadblocks, as my writer-friend Peggy Chambers puts it,
“Give yourself permission to succeed.”