Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writing through Life's Crisis's

As a writer I have daily goals. I want to obtain that word count or the edited page count I've set for myself. But when there is a crisis it makes things difficult. I'm not talking a little head cold, or you sprained your ankle. I'm talking the kind that aren't about you but has a direct effect on your writing schedule.

What do you do when you have a death in the family? Or someone is ill with cancer and you need to help with chemo appointments, etc. Your grandchild's health is at stake. Or your husband--the sole bread winner--loses his job, or his job is threatened. And the list goes on.

This is a time when you have to take care of yourself. It's stressful, and you can become sick easily. Keep eating, drink lots of fluids. Rest--if you take nothing else away from this listen to this one. Rest and sleep when you can. You will need your strength to get through whatever crises life has thrown at you.

We've all heard from veteran authors, who've found success that their secret is to write everyday even if it's only a sentence. And that works during every day stress, etc. But I'm talking the type of crises that fills your life with 48 hours of things to do in 24 hours.

There literally may not be a minute to put away for a sentence. However, what do you do if you need to write for you? Or for a deadline, or you're at the end of your manuscript and you need to get it submitted.

Be selfish. Grab an hour away--even if it's one time during the week or in a few days. Take that time for yourself and lose yourself in your writing.

What do you do if you have found that space of time, but your mind won't let you write? It's listing all the things you should be doing, calling the social security office to stop direct deposits or calling the insurance company to cancel. Calling to make an appointment for labs before Chemo.

I do one of two things. If my mind is racing too much I take ten minutes out of my precious time to meditate. I play relaxing music softly. Every minute I may be forcing myself to clear my mind, but by the end of my time I can concentrate on my story. Or if I'm just antsy and I'm thinking too much about my story, how it ends instead of the next scene. I exercise. I have an elliptical machine in my office--which usually just lurks behind my chair--but when I use it for ten minutes I have a scene in mind to write and the words flow.

So when your life is in crises, my advice to you first and foremost is take care of yourself. And second, find time for yourself and if you're a writer that's losing yourself in your story.

If you've ever found yourself in one of these situations, what have you done?


Tiffinie Helmer said...

This is just what I needed. I have time today to write, but my head is clogged with stress and can't get the words out. The idea of exercising puts me in a bad mood even though it would do me some good. But since I'm scheduled to for knee surgery and don't have a pool, exercise isn't going to happen. But the meditation idea sparked something in me. I haven't done a lot of that, but I'd really like to get into it. So I'm going to give it a go. Thanks for posting this. And hang in there yourself.

SG Redling said...

What a moving post. I think that whole "write everyday" thing should have an asterisk next to it. As you said there are some days when life needs you somewhere else. I read a great article about what do to, though, when stress has your brain running on a treadmill of anxiety - try a brain dump. Take a piece of paper and write down every single thing in your head - your to-do list, your worries, your grocery list, your pissed off rants, every thing that passes in your mind, write it down. No order, no neatness, no grammar, just thought dumping. I tried it during a recent crisis and was surprised how effective it is. Afterwards you can pick out the things you want to deal with and put the rest away, knowing they'll be there if you want to come back to them. I never did.

Be good to yourself, Mary.

Mary Martinez said...

You're the one that gave me the idea to write about it. My post it note was on my desk this morning reminding me.

I meditated yesterday and it really helped. I haven't done a lot of it since I quit Qwest, I haven't needed too.

Exercise isn't a good idea with your knee, but meditating will clear your mind and relax your body!

Good luck!

Cassy Pickard said...

Mary: It's so good to put these issues on the table, so to speak. We all have situations that derail us. Some are certainly BIGGER than others. But, nevertheless, writing can take a hit.

I think your ideas of how to approach the dilemma of keeping going are great.

Thanks so much. I have some guided meditation tapes that help. I can go under my fluffy comforter and quietly listen. Sometimes I even fall asleep. Not to worry. A few minutes later I stir and all seems so much more manageable.

Great post, and thanks. Cassy

Mary Martinez said...

Sheila, great idea. I love the dump. I've never heard of that, but I'm going to try that.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Hang in there, Mary. It's so hard sometimes NOT to get derailed. But I believe in you and KNOW you can do it, just keep plugging along no matter what. You'll get there.

Tiffinie Helmer said...


I'm scared to death to try a brain dump. I really don't want to know what's in there. :)


Anita Clenney said...

That is a tough one, Mary, and I'm probably not qualified to comment since I haven't had anything that traumatic happen to me. But I find that even little things can distract me. I like the brain dump idea, just write it on a piece of paper and get it out there.

For me, I just say, "excuse me, God, but I'm just going to gripe to you for a while about everything that's bothering me." It's amazing how much lighter I feel afterwards.

This happened to me a couple of days ago, nothing tragic, I just felt overwhelmed and confused and teary. I ranted to God while I was driving--he has a great, and very tolerant, ear--and it put everything in perspective. Saying it out loud helps. Exercise it good too. Taking a walk, something to get you outside yourself or your problem.

Be gentle with yourself.

Mary Martinez said...

Cassy, Kari, Anita,
That's all we can do is hang in there and do the best we can. Sometimes under overload of stress I actually get more writing done.

It's when I have no stress and all the time in the world that I find my self procrastinating and frittering the time away!

Go figure!

Lindsay said...

Mary, that's a really thought provoking posting. Made me step back and think for a minute.
In once sense I guess I'm luck that it's only me I have to worry about. Oh yes, my collie also.
Stress, unfortunately, is a part of our lives. I agree on the eating and drinking fluids, coffee, tea.
Brain dump-now that also scares me. Last thing I want, like you Tiff, is to find out what's going on in there.
When all else I try to keep on smiling, knowing it will get better.
And I gave up sweating the small stuff.

Liz Lipperman said...

Wow! What a great post with excellent ideas from everyone. I am the queen of procrastination, so I will definitely try "all" these suggestions.

I am at the middle of my story right now (yes, the sagging middle!) and I've used up all the plot I had in my head. It's time for a plotstorm, as I call it to come up with a few more chapters that won't put the readers to sleep before I start on the downhill to the ending (which I already know, thank God!). I usually do what Cassy does - climb under the covers and nap. The few minutes before I doze off are usually my most productive.

Heading for the blankets now!

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, I forgot to say, I am so glad you survived a really stressful week. Hope you have smooth sailing for a while.

Leann said...

if you're trying to write everyday and life gets in the way, you can occasionally give yourself permission not to write. Now this is not the norm.

I'm trying to finish my contracted book and watch the Olympics at the same time. I'm getting my writing done, but I'm going late into the night.

Mary Martinez said...

Lindsay--Keep smiling and forgetting about the small stuff is good!

Liz--Good luck with the sagging middle I hate those.

Leann--My problem is I sometimes give myself permission not to write too much!

PamelaSueJames said...

I will say that I am glad to leave the month of February in the rearview mirror. I love the dumping idea and may have to try this as my writing has slowed down since my father passed away February 9th and add to that one of my daughter's is due to give birth any minute or day. Too much of my mind is also cluttered with the to-do list.
Yep time to dump it all and recharge my writing career.


SG Redling said...

Re: the brain dump - LOL The funniest thing about the brain dump? I too thought there wouldn't be enough paper in the world to catch it all but I realized, like a badly organized sock drawer, once I dumped everything out, there wasn't that much in there! Now THAT'S depressing!

Mary Martinez said...

Pamela Sue,
I had to read that twice. Your father passed on February 9th? So did mine, which is one of the reasons that prompted this post. And then a few days after the service my best friend was hospitalized.

I'll try the dumping thing with you. Good luck with your daughters. I'm sorry to hear about your father.

Grace Tyler said...

Brain dump? What would be left in my little brain afterward?

Since my husband started school, I have found that I can sometimes be satisfied with even fifteen stolen minutes of story writing. It's a challenge, writing on the back of an envelope found in my purse in idea shorthand to conserve time and space. I got up a few minutes early today to try to translate yesterday's notes into something coherent and was pleasantly surprised to discover something pretty good came out of it! Better than those little notes.

Best to you, Mary. I know it's tough right now, but your attitude is an inspiration to me. Don't forget to meditate!