Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cycles of a Busy Writer

I honestly believe that once you accept the ebbs and flows of the writing world, the happier you’ll be. When I first started writing it was all I did. It was an all consuming absorption that pulled me away from other things such as fresh air and laundry. (Not minding the laundry so much.) But then it felt like my well was empty. I was terrified that it was writer’s block, or that the 60K words would never be completed into a complete book.
I went on with my life, feeling guilty for every moment that I wasn’t writing. After about a month, I got the bug again and cracked open the manuscript. Within another two months, it was finished. I immediately dove into another WIP, and about a month after that my mom came to visit for an entire week. Once again, I felt guilty for not touching the book, but knew I’d feel even worse to ignore her to spend time with imaginary people. She left, and once again the well was dry.
A month later, edits. I dove back into original WIP and ripped it apart. Once that was done, I started a third WIP. Two months in, school became so overwhelming that I didn’t have time to write anything but the papers that were required of me, leaving me in another period of ignoring my writing to take care of life.
That’s how it happens. We only have so much time in the day, and we can’t do it all. Well, we can do a little of all of it, a lot of some of it, or be submerged in one thing. When I am submerged in writing, my house looks like it has been ransacked by villains, mail piles up into leaning towers, hanging laundry equals piling it on top of the chest in my room, and dust bunnies learn to hop and help themselves to the carrots in the fridge.
Then something happens—life. I’m normally pretty good at balancing family, school, work, and writing. But sometimes unforeseen circumstances (and heck, sometimes planned events) throw my schedule completely off kilter. This time it was a combination of finals, a car wreck, and the removal of a wisdom tooth. No one was hurt in the car wreck, but it did total my car, leading me to car shopping and negotiating with insurance companies. However, the wisdom tooth was a great deal more pain than I had expected, and the meds were not the best for concentrating on writing. Just sayin. Any of these alone, and I probably would have continued plugging away at the newest WIP and the pile of revisions for Iron Thirst, but combined forget it. I lost.
In the past, I would let the guilt eat at me. But I have been doing this long enough that I have learned to trust that I will come back. I will write again. Stopping in order to catch up on life doesn’t mean that I have flaked, it means that other things require my attention more. Then once all is taken care of (including my own sanity), I can continue.
If you are the type of writer that has a full time job and other responsibilities, give yourself permission to stop and take breaks to make sure the rest of your life is not falling down. Writing can become an obsession, and you have to know when to stop long enough to make sure that you are nourishing your relationships, paying your bills, and cleaning--I don’t know--something. (Preferably before you stop showering, the electricity gets cut off, and your dog packs up and leaves.)
You have to be confident in your writing and the ebbs and flows of a writer’s cycle. They are different for each of us. Trust your instincts, and don’t be so hard on yourself if you need a week or two off. But do come back to it. That is key. The book will forgive you when you come back with an invigorated breath and a fresh vision, but it will not forgive if it’s left to collect dust, because you feel that it’s just too hard.
As for me, I wrapped up the line edits for Iron Thirst, and now I’m going to continue my little hiatus in order to put myself back in a good place. After my house and home life is back in order and I find that fresh vision (normally tucked at the bottom of either a great book or warm cup of coffee), then I will embark on the next writing journey. I think next on my list is to pick up either Craving Copper or The Fate Thieves, which have been in time out for a while. They are ready for some TLC. My most recent WIP, The Hunting Moon, is ready to take a little nap so it can work some things out. Two characters are fighting for the role of co-star. Iron Thirst has been fully revised, and is ready to be queried once I am mentally ready to embrace the no’s.
I pray that one day I can give my life to my writing. But until that day comes, I have to share my time with the many hats that I wear. And I’m ok with that. Because I would rather write a little – than not be able to write at all.
So, how do you juggle all that life throws at you and maintain your writing schedule? Do you allow yourself to take mental breaks? How do you motivate yourself to go back to your writing when the break is done?