When Life Interrupts the Creative Process

The thing about writing is that there’s a delicate, gossamer thread that’s ever so lightly attached between your creative mind and the ear-shattering, turbulent chaos of your everyday life. And sometimes it snaps.

Too dramatic? Maybe. 

I’ve spent the last few weeks being consumed by the demands of my “real” life (aka- my nonwriting world). My job typically requires 50-60 hours per week. I enjoy spending some time with my husband & kids. We’ve had two wonderful weddings in our families this month. I had a four day business trip out of state. Each day I thought I was just about caught up and I earmarked specific days (or even hours) to work on my revisions. And each day the “needs” prevented me from doing the “wants” (aka- the “yearnings” or “desires”). None of these interruptions in my plans were things that could be rescheduled or reallocated. They were great big, mind-blowing things where you stand back, scratching your head and wondering, “how the hell did that happen?” Or, more accurately, “What the hell just happened?”

For example: 27 hours before I was due to board a plane for Albuquerque, I was alerted that there was an accident on the interstate that the rear of my property overlooks. The accident sparked a fire, which was moving up the hill to our neighborhood. We were lucky in that we lost nothing more than a fence, several trees and some sprinklers, but once again, my entire schedule was thrown out to deal with this new issue. When I finally carved out time (two days later) to work on my revisions I found that I’d lost every bit of momentum I’d gained. I stared at the screen and couldn’t make a single word of progress.

So, what do you do when those real life stressors impact your ability to put words to paper–or even move words about on the paper? Sometimes, no matter what you try you just can’t force it. It could be that you need to step back and give yourself permission to deal with the things that are causing you stress–and causing the block in your creative flow. Do things that will help you relax–not those that cause additional stress. Reading, warm baths, going for walks, long drives are all activities that can help you expel some of the tension that’s invaded your body and mind. I actually find it completely relaxing to binge on mindless television viewing when I get severely overwhelmed. After several hours of not having to think, I find I’m completely recharged and my mind has shifted to another–more productive–gear. 

No matter what is happening in your personal life, don’t let your writing become another stressor. It isn’t something you have to do every day. Give yourself a few days–or weeks–to sort out the things that are impeding your creative flow. But you do have to make the vow to get back to your writing at some point. Set a limit for yourself. Revisit your writing every few days, maybe the words won’t come, but by reading it you’ll stay involved with your project. Even if you can’t write, allow yourself to think about your characters and storyline. Listen to the conversations they have with each other while you’re gone, imagine what they’ve been up to. You might just find yourself more deeply aware of the subtleties of your novel even though you’re not writing it.

As a matter of full disclosure: I started this post 2 weeks ago and then…well, life. Again! 

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