Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 16, 2023

Suggestions for When Life Throws a Roadblock Between You and Writing

By Lori Freeland

As writers, we have seasons. Seasons when our muse visits daily. Seasons when the muse packs up and moves to Mexico. Seasons when life comes in swinging and sucker punches us in the gut.   

We have some control over the muse. We can learn to be disciplined, make “butt in seat” a priority, show up even when we aren’t feeling it, and work to find our writing groove. You’ve probably heard all the tips and tricks for writer’s block. There are a lot of great ideas out there.

But what about when life sucker punches you in the gut? Sometimes writer’s block has nothing to do with laziness or lack of organization or bad time management. Sometimes it’s about being physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, where no matter how much you want to write, you just can’t.   

I’m talking about when you’re:

  • dealing with a financial crisis
  • going through marital issues or a divorce
  • relocating across the county and leaving your support system
  • struggling with your mental health
  • struggling with your kids’ mental health
  • suddenly a caretaker to a parent or other family member
  • diagnosed with cancer or a chronic illness
  • someone you love is diagnosed with cancer or a chronic illness
  • dealing with grief and loss

As someone who’s walked through six of the above, I’ll tell you that no amount of discipline can break through the mental and physical exhaustion of being kicked to the curb by life. Not right away, anyway.

5 Things to Try When Life Gets in the Way

If you can relate, I’d like to offer 5 things to try when life throws a roadblock between you and writing. Because even in the toughest seasons, the artistic piece of you is still in there. As a creative, “creativity” is part of who you are. It’s part of your soul. And it longs to be fed. I’d love to say I figured these things out right away. But that would be a lie. Instead, I learned from my mistakes. Here’s what I wish someone would have told me:

1. Tune out the destructive voices.

Just because you’re not writing, it doesn’t make you a quitter. You’re not giving up your dreams. You haven’t lost yourself. This is a season. It may last longer than you want, but things will change. Life doesn’t stay the same. Look back at last year. And the year before. Writing may take a backseat today. But it isn’t going away forever. Hang onto that and learn to be okay with it.

2. Take care of yourself.

Start with the basics. Sleeping. Eating. Exercising. Without them, the hard things can feel impossible. No one functions well when they don’t take care of their bodies. Prioritize you whenever you can. Consistently being good to yourself gives you room to be creative.   

3. Talk to your muse.

Then listen to what it says. Feeding your soul is just as important as feeding your body. Let your creativity come out in other ways. Embrace what helps. Release what doesn’t. Take up doodling, knitting, sculpting, journaling, painting, cooking, whatever outlet gives you peace or brings you joy—even for a second. Just because you’re not writing doesn’t mean you’re not creating.

4. Today is all you have to deal with.

Say it. Believe it. Walk it out. Forget about counting the hours in a day and focus on budgeting your energy instead of your time. What you feel like you can accomplish won’t be the same every day. If you have the energy, jot down a story idea or write 500 words in your WIP. If you’re drained by noon, watch reruns of Gray’s Anatomy and cry on the couch. And don’t feel guilty about it. Guilt sucks energy and serves no purpose.

5. Take a break—for now.

Life will get better. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. I’m a walking testimony to this. And I’ve been through some pretty terrible stuff. Writing is a muscle. Like your stamina for biking or jogging or swimming, it may get out of shape temporarily. But you can get it back with some practice. When you’re ready to embrace “butt in chair” on a regular basis, take it slow. Set small goals that will boost your creativity, not tear it down. Baby steps are still forward progress.

Have you walked through hard times? Felt like you lost that creative part of yourself? What worked for you? Better yet, what didn’t? Realizing we’re not alone can be powerful. Knowing someone else stumbled through the dark tunnel and came out on the other side is the kind of encouragement that can carry us as we limp along. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comments.

About Lori

Lori Freeland wrote her first story at age five. It wasn’t good. But it left her with a firm belief that everyone has a story to tell. An author, editor, and writing coach, she holds a BA in psychology from The University of Wisconsin and lives in the Dallas area. She’s presented multiple workshops at conferences across the country and writes articles, novels, and everything in between. When she’s not curled up with her husband and dogs drinking too much coffee and worrying about her adult kids, she loves to mess with the lives of the imaginary people living in her head. You can visit her at lorifreeland.com or lafreeland.com.  

Some accidents were meant to be. 

Gabe isn’t a werewolf. He just plays one on TV. 

Jess isn’t a guy magnet. She just writes about teen romance. 

TV heartthrob Gabriel Wade has never met a party he couldn’t rock, a problem he couldn’t dodge, or a crowd he couldn’t play. Homeschooled Jessica Thorne has never met a party she couldn’t wallflower, a problem she couldn’t stress over, or a crowd she couldn’t escape. But they both know what it’s like to lose someone—someone who’s still here. 

After a hotel escalator dumps Jess into Gabe’s spotlight and he unknowingly hijacks her first kiss, he decides she’ll be the perfect decoy for the paparazzi—if he can convince her to play his “girlfriend of the week.” Jess wants nothing to do with TV’s Hottest Hairball or his Hollywood ego. And by the time she figures out he isn’t who she thought, it might be too late to admit she needs him as much as he needs her. Even if he wants her for real. 

Buy it on Amazon today

Lori Freeland
 author/editor/writing coach 
 lorifreeland.com (young adult & contemporary romance fiction) 
lafreeland.com (inspirational blog & resources for writers) 
Buy Now | Amazon Author Page 

16 comments on “Suggestions for When Life Throws a Roadblock Between You and Writing”

  1. Thank you, Lori. Very timely.
    There is also the letdown when your WIP is suddenly not the WIP any more but all your hopes and tears and sweat and dreams offered up to publishers, like a toddler abandoned in Yellowstone among roaming bears and wolves.
    Add to that yesterday's guitar lesson made you feel you want to drop your guitar off the Tallahatchie Bridge.(Bobbie Gentry 1967)
    I'll go put your advice into practice, butt in chair.

  2. Lori, I'm sorry you've experienced so many hard times. I've been through six of the hard times you listed above as well. Unfortunately, hard times hit us all. Worse, they are unpredictable even when you think you know what will happen. Like you, I also learned that keeping a little act of creativity going during those times was invaluable. And I'll put in an extra emphasis on "take care of yourself." Most of us don't do a very good job of that when experiencing a hard time. The importance of self-care, especially exercise, can't be stressed enough. But in a crisis, that's difficult. I know it was for me, but as the crisis settled, I've learned to focus on self-care as part of my "recovery phase." Thank you for this article. Your advice is spot on and I'm sure it will help those who are struggling.

    1. Thank you, Lynette for sharing that you've also struggled. Going through hard times can have a lot of positives at the end, but it so hard during.

      1. Indeed it is. Coming alongside those going through hard times can make such a difference for them. In this context, that's one of the benefits of writers' groups.

  3. The important thing is to continue to persevere.

    A writing retreat can be a great booster.

  4. Thanks Lori. You’re a Champion for sharing and the timing is good. 5 is my struggle number: and knowing I’m a Writer who must not desist, though she may not finish.
    My discovery tour is amazingly good and knowing that each day is a gift, helps me to be grateful for what I have and not live in land of regrets. My Autobiography though so challenging is showing me how blessed I am to have had an incredibly full life; and well worth sharing. My desk is a paper chase, but so was Einstein and Eli Wiesel and I’m feeding the good wolf by practicing gratitude when I really want to give up.

  5. I needed this message so much today. Thank you. Trying harder to take care of myself and not have so many expectations.

  6. Yes, I can totally relate. I the past 7 years I’ve experienced the breakdown of my marriage to an abusive husband that left myself and the kids with mental and emotional scars, suicide of my closest brother, breast cancer, sudden death of one of my much loved sisters and last year the death of my beloved mum, for whom I still grieve. Desperately want to get back into writing. This site is a wonderful help.

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