When Life Gets in the Way of Writing 18


I AM THE QUEEN OF “WRITE EVERY DAY,” “just do it,” “show up and write,”and “just put your seat in the chair.” I am a fan of daily journaling, no matter how brief the writing session. But even I have to admit that there are times when Life, with a capital L, gets in the way of all good intentions.

I don’t mean life, as in normal life with normal responsibilities. I mean Life, as in extraordinary circumstances. Family members fall ill or have an accident and need someone to care for them; guess who. Your day job requires extra hours and extra effort and energy. You’ve become an insomniac, wringing three to four hours’ sleep from your nights. Whatever can go wrong does. And it all seems to come at once, a trouble tsunami that knocks down all your structures, leaving you sodden and breathless. You think of writing, but you are wrung out emotionally and you can’t seem to find the ground beneath your feet, let alone be creative. The mere idea of recording what happened that day overwhelms you with exhaustion.

I found myself in this state recently. After the sodden and breathless stage, it was as though I had dried up and blown away in a desert wind, like a dandelion — small pieces of me drifting about, searching for a place to put down roots. Except for what I had to produce for work, and for two measly blog posts — each one taking several weeks to complete — I didn’t write for two months. Not a journal entry. Not a poem. Not a word of essay or memoir. And, to make matters worse, I began to withdraw from my writing friends.

I, the queen of “just do it,” stared at the hypocrite in the mirror and wondered if or when the real me would return.

Then I (re-)discovered compassion — for myself. I’ve often encouraged others in similar situations to be gentle with themselves. “You’re a writer,” I said. “Be compassionate with yourself. This time will pass. Think about what you will write, and when you are ready, you will write again.” And it was always true.

Be gentle with yourself. When you are ready, you will write again. Click To Tweet

So, I said these words to the writer in the mirror. I said these words several times per day. Still, I despaired; if I wasn’t writing, was I still a writer? Could I continue to teach and offer encouragement to others if I couldn’t follow my own advice? Yes, I decided, because I would find my feet again. I had to.

And that’s why I’m writing this post. To begin to find my feet, put my seat back in the chair, and write what I know — which is that Life sometimes gets in the way, and we need to let that be okay. When it happens to you, remember to be gentle with yourself, and know without a shadow of doubt that the difficult time will eventually pass, and you will write again.

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18 thoughts on “When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

  • Barbara Toboni

    Welcome back, Amber! What great advice to just give yourself permission to live life. Love the trouble tsunami analogy. I can totally relate.

  • Barbara Toboni

    Welcome back, Amber! What great advice to just give yourself permission to live life. Love the trouble tsunami analogy. I can totally relate.

  • patsy ann taylor

    You are so right, Amber. Even the joyous events in life can interfere with our writing. I experienced the “no write” zone for several weeks while I prepared for a wedding shower at my home. Feels good to be free to write again.

  • patsy ann taylor

    You are so right, Amber. Even the joyous events in life can interfere with our writing. I experienced the “no write” zone for several weeks while I prepared for a wedding shower at my home. Feels good to be free to write again.

  • Kerry Hodson

    Hi Amber
    Thanks for your post.
    Having decided I really can write that first book, having started and stopped and started again for all the reasons you outline, plus the confidence factor that allowed me to get serious in the first place, I am currently rolling along with my writing most days. And loving it.
    Good luck with your writing Amber. And with what Life has asked of you.
    Regards
    Kerry

  • Stephanie K. Adams

    Oh how I needed to read these words.
    I haven’t written since May due to Life. First born moving, graduation for youngest and sitting bedside with my grandmother for a month until she passed. I am finally ready to begin again, but the guilt keeps me feeling like I’ve missed out on too much and maybe I’m not even a writer anymore.
    I needed your story to let me know it’s ok.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Stephanie K. Adams

    Oh how I needed to read these words.
    I haven’t written since May due to Life. First born moving, graduation for youngest and sitting bedside with my grandmother for a month until she passed. I am finally ready to begin again, but the guilt keeps me feeling like I’ve missed out on too much and maybe I’m not even a writer anymore.
    I needed your story to let me know it’s ok.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • sara

    glad you found your feet and are grounded. I, too, struggled with me as “writer” just this year….unusual circumstances just seemed to drain me everyday of the energy and focus needed for me to write. Just being vulnerable on the page was frightening. For literally years, I always sat down at my designated writing time and wrote–no matter what. So this situation and my feeling felt like a contradiction. I returned to writing in small ways as well and once again feel the gratification that comes from writing. And I am grateful.