Writing Through Life’s Surprises

To all my readers: I apologize for not posting these last few weeks. Life has thrown some not-so-great health-related surprises at me lately. As I fight to get back to my writing life, I thought of a few ways to keep on keeping on during these life hiccups.

Writing Tip for Today: What are some ways to preserve your writing life when life has other plans?

Take a Breath

Over the past month or so, I admit that I’ve worried about my writing future. Maybe I’ll never publish again. What if I don’t have the energy to write? What if I don’t have anything left to say?

These kinds of worries aren’t trivial. I don’t want to hear platitudes or be comforted with rainbows and feel-good comments. What I need is the courage to look my writing self square in the face. Wherever I stop writing, that’s all I get. If I give up, I’ll only have the past writing to reflect upon. Once I give up, my writing future is not happening.

I’m nowhere near ready to wave the white flag. So I will accept that right now, in the midst of too many failed medical procedures, ongoing shoulder pain and possible nerve damage in my typing fingers, writing might not look like it did before. I can give myself permission to take a breath, stop fighting reality and do what I can when I can.

The Smallest Things Count

During this period, I am looking for ways to keep my finger in the writing pot. Since I have daily antibiotic infusions for weeks to come, I’m catching up on reading. I highly recommend Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longing.

I’m still teaching when and where I can. Because of the COVID pandemic, I can teach and mentor online instead of in-person. Zoom meetings take less preparation (yoga pants!) and transportation. Online teaching still requires energy I didn’t know I had, but I feel less drained than I would in in-person workshops.

As I rest to recover, I’m also using the time to think. What is my message? How should I write about it? Gertrude Stein famously said, “I write to discover what I think.” It works backwards too.

Word by Word

While I’m not able to write at my normal pace, I can remember Anne Lamott’s famous Bird by Bird advice. Writing 100,000 words is way too daunting when my energy levels are low and I’m in pain. But I can write a word at a time.

I’m writing short little stories about animals for an anthology. Three-hundred-fifty words is much less frightening than finishing a book. I can edit my clients’ work a paragraph at a time. And if the muse strikes, I’ll whip out an essay on my struggle with my loved ones’ addictions.

Today, you may be signing contracts or writing like the wind on your work-in-progress. Embrace it, write at absolute top speed. But none of us can predict when life is going to surprise and interrupt the best-laid writing goals. Whether it’s a move, a family crisis or a health-issue, life is uncertain. Give yourself a way to work through the valley, and be ready to jump right back in. Most of all, don’t give up.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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