Welcome to Coach’s Corner, where I offer some thoughts on the creative process and breaking through moments of self-doubt.
In Part 1 of this series on when life sucks you back in, I talked about freeing ourselves when family and friends pull us away from our writing. There is a greater force that life uses to pull us away from our writing. We often refer to it simply as life getting in the way.
Sometimes it’s a small thing like you finally have a clear weekend for writing, but you end up in bed in the dark with a three-day migraine. Often times it is much bigger. You have fully committed to your writing and advancing your writing career and soon after you or someone you love is diagnosed with a severe illness or there’s a death in the family.
I do not intend to trivialize anything. Chances are that unless you are in a well-established writing career and are on deadline, when illness or tragedy strikes, writing will be the last thing you think about. But there may be a point in time where you think, “I just set up my office, my family is finally respecting my writing time, I’ve sold some short stories, the momentum for a good writing career was building, and now this! I can’t catch a break! When I get back to writing, I’m going to have to start all over.”
Unlike the pull of family and friends, these life events need our full attention and energy. It as if life is against us. Life doesn’t want us to succeed.
I don’t know if that is true, but it sure feels that way, doesn’t it? I know these events would happen anyway, but we are more attune to the idea of a conspiracy against us because we were just getting to a good place in our life.
We cannot treat the pull of these life events the same way as we would the pull from family and friends. We cannot set boundaries and we cannot schedule time for it.
It well may be that when this happens, you need to stop writing all together for a time. Alternatively, you may find that writing helps you get through such difficult times. How do you decide?
Set aside the business end of writing as much as possible. If you find the process of writing and submitting to be a useful distraction to help you cope, then by all means do it. However, should you find that there is an expectation placed on you, either by yourself or others, that you continue to write and submit, and those expectations give you anxiety or feel like they are increasing your burden, it is perfectly OK to walk away. Walk away from submitting, or walk away from writing entirely.
There may be times when you need to escape all that is going on around you. Allow yourself to escape into telling stories, without any expectation of perfection or marketability. If you want it to be something that is more than just for yourself, you can always edit later, when you have the emotional energy. If an escape into story is not what you need, writing in either a journal or otherwise can help you process your thoughts and emotions of what you are going through. But again, if ever it feels like a burden or increases your anxiety, walk away.
When you come out the other side of the illness, tragedy, or grief; when you feel that you are starting to feel more like yourself and are able to focus on other things, including your writing career, then you can pursue it the way you had before. Until then, be gentle with yourself. Walk away from writing if you need to. It is never too late to come back to it when you have the emotional, physical, and mental energy and health to do so.
How has life pulled you away from your writing? How have you coped?