Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Keep Writing When Life Gets Tough

This post originally was published on 11/7/2014 on K.M. Weiland's blog, as a guest blog by Liberty Speidel. 

Adversity strikes all of us. It can be as simple as welcoming a new puppy or baby into the family, or it could be as complex as caring for a loved one with a terminal illness. Either way, we will have hard times, and as writers, these are the times that can make it toughest to figure out how to keep writing.

But it's not impossible, and it shouldn't have to feel that way either.

Why I Kept Writing When My Life Was At Its Toughest

Before you say, "Oh, she doesn't know what she's talking about!" let me tell you this: I've been there.

In August of 2012, my husband and I got the news that no parent wants to hear: your child needs a bone marrow transplant. Our youngest suffers from a rare disease, and when diagnosed, we knew this was always an outside possibility.

For the next year, we were enmeshed in travel for treatment (I moved 2,000 miles from home for the length of transplant), doctors appointments, and a huge learning curve as I tried to learn how to deal with this new dynamic.

Throughout it all, I wrote. I wrote about my experience. I wrote about how our son was doing. And, most importantly, I kept working on the projects I was determined to publish.

Nurses, doctors, and fellow writers had no idea how I was able to continue working. But, it was a compulsion. I couldn't not write. It was the one thing that helped keep me sane.

Writing During Adversity is a Sanity Saver

During the five-and-a-half months I was gone, I wrote tens of thousands of words. I rewrote and edited an entire novel, well over 100,000 words, and began work on what would be my first published novella. I didn't neglect my son or his care—he spent an unbelievable amount of time sleeping—but in order to get through everything, I had to do something creative.

It wasn't the ideal situation. But in that time, I learned a lot about not only me, but about how I write.

It takes a lot of time to write a novel. If you have any desire to see your work published, who can really afford to take the time away from a project, just because life is trying to intervene? I knew I couldn't. I'd been working on my goal of publication for too long, and even though I knew I'd be going through one of the hardest patches in my entire life, I promised myself several things. One of those promises was to figure out how to keep writing no matter how tough life got.

3 Ways To Keep Writing Through Adversity

So, if you've found yourself in the midst of a difficult season of time, what do you do if you want to keep moving on your writing career?

  • Think about your priorities. Consider what exactly is going on in your life, and understand the time demands that come from it. Maybe you're getting married and the planning is time consuming...but you've got this novel you just don't want to let go of for a few months. Getting married is quite different than being stuck in a hospital for the better part of five months, and your time restrictions are going to be different. Maybe you can only spare ten minutes a day to write a few paragraphs. Hey, it's a start!
  • Outline your goals. This is where you look at where you want to take your writing career, and realistically try to figure out how you can stay on track to get that novel written, or bombard short story publishers with your latest work. For me, I'd been querying agents, and, ironically, about the time we learned about the need for transplant, had a partial request from an agent. It was probably good it didn't pan out since I was not in a position to fulfill any duties to a publisher at that time. But I was already working on my goals, so figuring out how those worked alongside the needs of medical treatment was just adding a dimension to what I already had going.
  • Always be doing something—even if it's not writing. Shortly after we arrived for treatment, I re-discovered podcasts. I'd been listening to K.M.'s podcasts of her Sunday posts off-and-on since they began, but now I had a lot less demands on my time (in certain ways) and needed something to keep my mind distracted when I couldn't write—if I was out for a walk, taking a drive, or just needed a break at the hospital. Maybe for you, that's an audiobook, or, like me, writing-related podcasts. There are a lot of great ones out there:

    The Creative Penn
    The Self-Publishing Podcast
    Hide & Create
    Grammar Girl
    The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast

    The voices in my earbuds became friends, and a bit of a lifeline when we were in some of our darkest moments. Let me tell you, you get looked at a little funny if you're laughing so hard you're crying from a podcast...and your son is in the middle of the ICU.

When adversity strikes, you don't have to let your writing fall by the wayside. But it will if you let it. However, you can not only continue on with your goals in the face of harrowing times, you can amaze others with your work ethic. Having the tenacity to push through is something almost everyone will admire. It's also a really good feeling as a writer. When I returned home and realized everything I'd managed to accomplish, in addition to having a son who was doing amazingly well, I got a little burst of pride. It made it that much easier to push forward with a stronger vigor than before.

If you can get through adverse times and keep working on your goals, it becomes that much easier to carve out time on those days where you're not in a trial.

Have you ever had to figure out how to keep writing during adversity? What did you do?
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