When you really DON’T have time to write
In one of my recent office hours, someone told me they were struggling to find time to write. Life had gotten chaotic and unpredictable and they were feeling overwhelmed by the thought of abandoning their story in the middle.
This question really hit home for me because recently—over the past two weeks—I’ve had to stop working on my current novel (smack dab in the middle of the second draft!) because there was just NO time.
As someone known for the advice, “Write every day!” taking this time off from my novel was a hard decision to make. Could I have set the alarm an hour earlier each morning and carved out a smidgen of writing time? Sure. Could I have skipped my workout or daily meditation and written instead? I guess. But at what expense to my health and well-being?
Over the past month, my schedule was more chaotic than it’s been in a long time. I was juggling a book release, last minute edits on Save the Cat! Writes a Young Adult Novel, creating bonus beat sheets for an upcoming preorder campaign, building presentations for three different webinars, finishing an eight-week meditation course, studying for a certification class, and prepping for an upcoming trip. It was a LOT. (Fortunately, the meditation course was focused on reducing stress!) At the end of each day, I was exhausted. I knew trying to carve out one more hour would tip me over the edge.
But I got through it and I was finally able to clear the decks (and my headspace). Today was the first day I was able to get back to my novel and I won’t lie. I felt the absence. I felt distanced from the story and the characters. I felt “out of the loop,” like the characters had been living this whole life without me and I’d missed it. It was almost like FOMO for my own story.
Now I begin the long slog of ramping back up, reviewing what I have, sorting through my notes, my storyboard, and any other breadcrumbs I left for myself. I basically have to remerge myself into a world which—a few weeks ago—was like my second home.
But I’m trying to cut myself some slack. It can be easy (particularly for me) to think I can do it all. If I just try hard enough, wake up early enough, work a little faster, I can fit one more thing in. But I’ve learned in the past that this mentality often leads to disappointment and burn out. Our bodies and minds are miraculous, but they need breaks.
If you’re in this boat and are fretting over the decision to take some time away from your writing, allow me to offer you a few tips.
- Go easy on yourself! Sometimes we need the rest now so we can bring our A game later, when we have more space in our schedule.
- Keep a pen and notebook (or a recording app) nearby. Just because you’re not actually sitting down to write, doesn’t mean you can’t daydream or open yourself up to ideas here and there. Jot them down (or record them into your phone) and then move on with your day.
- Take some time to leave yourself breadcrumbs – If you know you’re about to take a longer break from your story, leave yourself some notes. (I often record this into my phone so I can play it back later.) Ask yourself questions like: What scene am I working on now? What are my current struggles? What questions am I trying to answer? Where is the character emotionally at this point in the story? What threads have I been pulling through the previous scenes or chapters? Plus anything else your future self might find helpful. When you get back to your story, you’ll be grateful you took the time to do this.
Life is always changing. We can make plans all day long but in the end, sometimes we have to go with the flow, rather than try to force the flow to go with us. When life gets in the way, just know that your characters are not going anywhere. They’re waiting patiently for you to return. Like the trusty friends that they are. Filed under: Tips for Writers Writing Mastery Tagged with: fiction writing LMAP novel writing Tips for Writers writing mastery writing routines Writing Routines (LMAP) writing tips writing tools