When Life Impedes Your Writing

I am way behind on my self-imposed blogging schedule. A  few weeks ago I took a tumble down the stairs here at home. No broken bones, but plenty of sore muscles and bruises. For a couple of days, even my hair hurt.  After many phone discussions with our dog boarders, my dogs had to be taken to the vet for unnecessary flu shots (another whole story don’t  get me started). The car was due for a 7500 mile service which required half a day of babysitting at the dealership. Our CPA sent the dreaded Yearly Tax Organizer which is still hanging fire,  on the agenda to get done this weekend.  Meantime I could hear the tick-tick-tick of my internal writer’s clock counting down toward my next deadline.

You know those needle-thin actresses who show up for awards shows in  dresses that cost more than the average family sedan,  and dripping in diamonds? I do not envy them. I envy writers who can go away somewhere, unplug from life’s impediments and just write the book.  Since this luxury has eluded me for the entire 20 years I’ve been writing and  publishing I’ve had to figure out a coping strategy. Maybe it will help you, too, when life impedes your writing. Here goes:

Set a more realistic writing schedule. When I plan a new book, I write my daily word count on my calendar. Some days I don’t quite make it, some days I exceed it, and some days I never make it to my office at all.  When life intervenes…recalculate.  Sometimes this means I may need to write for an extra hour early in the morning, or in the evenings, or steal a few hours on the weekends. Sometimes it means extending my self-imposed deadline farther out than I had originally hoped.

Do less initial editing and simply put words on the page. My usual habit is to begin each day by editing the previous day’s work. When I’m trying to catch up and get back on schedule, I skip the initial editing and plow on to the next chapter.

Don’t  stop to look up a research question. As an author of historical fiction, I find that the research can consume enormous amounts of time. I try to do most of my basic research before I being the first draft, but occasionally a question arises. I’ve learned to flag it in the ms and keep going.

Delegate whatever you can. I can imagine this is where children might be useful. Since I have none, I must ask my husband to stop on the way home for a gallon of milk, to help with the vacuuming, to take charge of the dogs while I work. I ask my web designer to take care of updating my website pages and handle hosting fee renewal and such.

Whatever can’t be delegated must be postponed. This explains why I have five year old spices in my pantry. I’ve long since given up on having a Martha Stewart-worthy house. So long as those spices don’t turn poisonous, who cares, really?

Do you have a favorite coping strategy that sees you though life’s impediments?

8 thoughts on “When Life Impedes Your Writing

  1. Maggie Brendan

    Great advice here, Dorothy. Some of the same tatics I use. I’m one of those people that likes to have clutter cleared so my mind is clear. Lol. My biggest issue is keeping up & paying bills. My blog is sorely behind, but like you because of things at home, that had to take a back seat. Most of the time I highlight in yellow things that must be researched later because I will get hung up reading history. 🙂

    1. dorothy Post author

      thanks, Maggie. I think the research is a big temptation for all of us who live and breathe history. I usually type CHECK in all caps in the ms itself, and then do a search for it when the draft is done, make a list of everything I still need to find out. This has helped me speed up the process when life puts me behind. D

  2. Rebecca DeMarino

    Thanks for sharing those tips! They are very timely for me as I’m still in the early stages of my second historical and I love reading how other writers cope with life around them while they try to reach their goals. One thing I try to do (and yes, it so often gets waylaid!) is write a list the night before of what I want to accomplish the next day. Sometimes I’m just adding in what didn’t get accomplished today, but when I mark it off it feels so good!

  3. Cathy Richmond

    EEK! Too much to deal with! Aren’t there supposed to be elves cleaning the house while we sleep? Would Danielle Steele’s CPA hassle her about taxes? And I’m trying to be positive about the Subaru being in the shop, that I can get so much more done when I’m not driving.
    Dorothy, I’m so glad you survived the fall without any broken bones. Maybe your next writer’s break should be a massage!

  4. Susan Karsten

    so funny and so true. Your blog posts are some of the few I take the time to click on. So intriguing. I just started, to the tune of 1200 wds, my 2nd HR. That was Feb. 1. Haven’t gone to it since bc of running an estate sale, running my home, running me and my girls to the Y, running, hey this is a type of run-on sentence! Thanks!

    1. dorothy Post author

      Hey Susan,

      Thanks for checking in! I so know the feeling. I am off to run half a day’s worth of errands before I can get back to my new book. You’d think with all this running I’d be thin a a stick. but no….sadly…Good luck with your new book. Dorothy

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