As writers we know the tricks to time management. We know we have to treat our writing as a job, not a hobby. We know we have to set boundaries between our work life and personal life. We know we’re supposed to sit our fluffy behinds every day in front of the computer and put down words.
So, pop quiz …
- Who uses tracking software to see where they are with word count? *raises hand*
- Who has a lovely writing office without the clutter of life? *raises hand*
- Who’s blocked off time on the calendar just for writing? *raises hand*
- Who sets monthly goals to meet their deadline? *raises hand*
And yet, we’re at the end of February and I’ve written a total of 1,000 new words on my work in progress. My target for the month was 25k. Way to rock those writing goals, eh?
It’s not because I don’t have the tools or the knowledge or the time. It’s because, to be perfectly honest, I’ve allowed guilt to paralyze me.
See, life hasn’t been, how shall I put it -- creatively inspiring lately. There have been a few too many personal hits and each one has taken a toll on my physical and emotional energy. But I’ve always believed that personal shouldn’t interfere with professional. That works up to a point. It worked with running WFWA because I could lose myself in the details and by helping others, so I felt like I was doing something productive. I didn’t have to think about me. It worked on organizing a writing retreat because the logistics dictated the timing.
But it doesn’t work with writing. Why? Because writing requires the emotional energy. We write from a place deep inside and when that place is littered with confusion and hurt and disappointment, the words have a hard time finding their way to the surface.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I got a triple dose of guilt in the character traits serving line. With guilt comes shame. I feel guilty that I have this time to write and I’m not making the most of it. I’m ashamed to admit that instead of sitting on my life problems until they succumb, I’m allowing them to push me around.
I spent most of the last few weeks decluttering my basement. We’re having new flooring put in so that meant taking everything out. Amazing how much crap you manage to accumulate. As I was sorting through things and putting them in the stay or to-donate pile, I started having twinges of guilt over some of the items in the to-donate pile. (Of course I did!) It took a bit of effort and a particularly hokey article that surprisingly helped, but was finally able to say thank you for serving a purpose to each item that was giving me a guilty hiccup before putting it in a bag.
What does this have to do with writing? Remember the extra dose of guilt and accompanying shame? Time spent cleaning is not time spent writing. And that, of course, sent me into another downward spiral.
When the charity folks picked up all those bags, I felt the guilt go with it. Granted, letting go of toys and books isn’t the same as emotional baggage, but it’s a step. And it got me thinking … if I was able to put the guilt aside by confronting the item (sounds so ridiculously stupid now but hey, it worked, don’t judge!), could it work in other areas?
As much as I’d like to stuff some of the personal problems into a large garbage bag and have it schlepped away, I can’t (I think there are laws against that 😉 ). But there are a couple of things I can do …
1) Admit defeat. What? You were expecting me to give you a rah-rah-overcome speech? Nope. Life happens. No way around it. And by admitting that it happens and that you can’t always control how it affects you, you give yourself permission to stop feeling guilty.
2) Manipulate. I see those eyebrows poking up and that’s not what I’m talking about so chill. I can’t change some of what’s happening around me but if I stop beating myself up, I can actually use those feelings to fuel story ideas.
I may not be close to my 25k goal for the month and I may still be teetering on the balance scale but once I let go of the guilt over not writing, I was able to start writing again.
So there it is folks, the secret to balancing your writing and personal life is …
Letting go of the guilt.
Let it go.
Let it go ..
*apologies for anyone who now has that blasted Frozen song stuck in their head*
What strategies have worked for you when life gets in the way of your writing?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.
Orly’s debut novel, The Memory of Hoofbeats, will be released by Forge in 2017.