Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to Keep Writing When Life Gets in the Way

This was a topic I was going to tackle in my blog later this year. However, if you’re a follower of the blog, you know I didn’t post anything in July because my mother passed away. I’m no stranger to putting aside my writing while I deal with a family illness. I quit writing when my father was battling pancreatic cancer. After he died, I thought I’d just get straight back to it but I couldn’t. It was almost a decade until I got back on track.
So when my mother was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, my first thought was, does this mean my writing has to go on hiatus again. My mother’s battle lasted a lot longer than my dad’s so it gave me time to prepare, time to think about how I would handle my writing commitments when her journey came to an end.

None of us are immune to life getting in the way of our writing. Whether it’s a family crisis, our own illness, or even happy events like marriages and births. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way and I hope they help you when life gets in the way of your writing.

Write Every Day
One thing I did wrong when my dad was ill was not doing any writing at all. Sticking with a schedule is crucial and it’s even more important when something else is happening in your life. It might not be your usual output, but get something down on paper. Even if it’s just your feelings about what’s happening in your life. Capture it and who knows you might be able to use it some day.

Don’t Get Angry
After my dad died and I sat down to write and nothing happened, I used to turn my frustration inwards. What’s wrong with me? I used to ask myself. Nothing was wrong, I just needed more time. If I’d allowed myself to take some time away instead of rushing back to it, I don’t think my writer’s block would have lasted quite so long.

Use The Time Wisely
Another thing I learned the first time around was when you’re not writing on your usual schedule, it’s the perfect time to think ahead. What manuscripts are you going to work on next month, next year? Jot down ideas for plots, profiles of characters you’re going to create. Write a ‘business plan’ for your writing career. What are your goals, how are you going to achieve them?

Writing Can Be Healing
So what’s different this time around? I did take some time off, but was able to get back on track within a week of mom’s passing. I didn’t rush back because of my fear about what happened last time, but now I’m finding it’s actually healing. These are early days and I know some are going to be better than others, but creating characters and writing about them and their lives gives me something to think about other than myself and my loss.

Susan Palmquist is a freelance writer and author of three published novels and the upcoming paranormal romance, Sleeping With Fairies to be published later this year by Lyrical Press. Visit her Web site at


Jen Childers said...

Thanks so much!
It makes me crazy when I look at the clock and realize there are so many things I would have liked to have gotten done but the time ran out.
great suggestions, we could all use the support.

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