Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Like Pulling Teeth

So, due to a variety of life-circumstances over the past week and a half including, but not limited to: a daughter who had to go to the hospital (she's fine), a son who has just moved to a big boy bed and who now seems to shun sleep time for play time at all hours, a nanny who was also hospitalized (different reasons, she's also fine, but I haven't had childcare all week - she's back today, hurrah!), a closing on a new house (an nearly all-day event, sigh), renovations and constructions plans for said house, furniture deliveries that didn't come at the appointed windows (of course!) and thus sucked up an entire day, various conferences and meetings at my son's new school, misplaced keys that left me locked out for the better half of a day, and looming and mounting magazine deadlines - I haven't been able to focus as much as I'd like to on my manuscript. Gee, go figure.

Last week, I was still relatively productive: I set a word count for myself each day, and somehow, come hell or high water, I got there despite various (see above) obstacles. This week? I'm floundering. Of course, trying to squeeze in my writing during Sesame Street or nap time (which, did I mention, is non-existent for my son right now?) doesn't help. But still...I hate not meeting my daily goal. So I force myself to write, and it's sort of like drawing blood from a stone.

So I'm curious what you guys do when life gets in the way and your brain just can't settle down: do you keep writing because it's a) a nice distraction (which it is) and b) some writing is better than nothing, or do you just toss in the towel and know that your energy is better served attending the obstacles that have been thrown in your path and returning to your work when you're feeling refreshed?

I can see arguments for both sides. If you forge on, you don't lose momentum, and I do think that even a few paragraphs per day is better than none. BUT, you also risk burning yourself out - I'll admit that I'm sort of dreading getting back to writing today because yesterday was so awful. What if I can't bust out of the funk? So you do risk worrying about that...

Hmmm, I dunno. But I bet that you guys do! :) Tell me, what are your writing strategies when life goes haywire and sitting down to your manuscript seems almost impossible?

12 comments:

Kvetch said...

Sometimes I do put it aside. That's not the problem. The problem is getting started again. I like ample time to work, and when I only have an hour or so, I tend to think it's not worth it. I want to change that and grab bits and pieces of time in addition to the big chunks of solid writing time.

Eileen said...

A fellow writer friend calls it taking time to wallow in the fallow. She points out that fields sometimes need to lie empty to replentish. I give myself permission to take some time off and remind myself that I can still be thinking about it and that much happens in the back of the brain when we're not paying attention. Then I set a "due date" to get back to it.

Carleen Brice said...

I usually force myself to sit at my desk every day even if I know I'm not going to get any work done. Not sure how effective it is though. I'm one of those people who can't push through stressful times (kid in the hospital?!), so I dink around online and call it "research." But I agree that picking back up after taking time off is so hard that sometimes it doesn't seem worth it.

Lorra said...

I've lived longer than you - my children are all grown - and I have learned to give myself permission to chill when it is obvious I'm demanding more of me than me can give.

Granted, I rarely have to resort to yelling at myself, but as you say, life happens and holler I do.

With respect to taking a break from writing when life gets in the way, I think it's a little like the approach successful dieters or people tryng to quite smoking take when they fall off the wagon. They roll around in the dirt for a second, dust off and climb back on the wagon (before it gets too far ahead of them), picking up right where they left off, realizing that despite a few bumps and bruises that will quickly heal, they're just fine.

Rhianna Finnegan said...

I usually read an industry blog. I get motivated when I see other people doing well and selling away! OR, I turn my internet off or unplug it, because I can procrastinate for hours this way..hehe. good luck, can't wait for the new book! rhianna

Trish Ryan said...

I know it's not the done thing to admit this in the writing world, but sometimes, I have to stop until there's a reason (or time) to start again. I churn out such awful dreck when I try to force it. And as much as I try to convince myself that gold just might emerge from these ashes, that has hardly ever happened. Writing isn't like studying for the bar exam...there's an element of creativity involved that I don't control. Bummer, but true.

When I have something to write, I write. The other times, as hard and lazy and frustrating as it might be, I'm better off getting the laundry done or cleaning the bathroom....because once I'm back in the zone, it could be awhile before either of those things happen again :)

bookbabie said...

Sometimes you just have to put it aside and take care of life and the people in your orbit. If I'm too burned out the quality isn't there because the feeling isn't there. Restarting is tough sometimes, do what inspires you. For me, it's reading and music.

Manic Mom said...

Finding others doing the same thing as you helps! My BBFF (Best Blogger Friend Forever -- and real-life friend too--we met through online writing!) Swishy suggested the ONE SENTENCE A DAY rule. It totally works!!!

In fact, I just IMed her to say, "Hey Swishy! I just wrote my ONE SENTENCE and it rocks!"

Keep writing. Don't stop. Right?Write. Right!

Allison--sounds like you've had a C R A Z Y WEEK! Glad to hear your darling (and your darling nanny) are both OK!

Deanna Roy said...

When I was teaching creative writing, and this is something I do myself, I would tell the students--it's wonderful if you can write when you need to--but most often when you need to, you can't write.

We did stream of consciousness exercises when writing was due, or just for new inspiration. We would lie in the grass blindfolded and ditacte to someone else what we were hearing, smelling, feeling--no visuals. Doing so would inevitably turn our thoughts to what was on our mind and how to use it in our writing, and we would have a fresh perspective to start with--usually the seed to the next few paragraphs was in the bird song, the damp earth, or our own clanging heads.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

You guys are all so wise! What good advice from each of you. Thanks! And I hope that others have found it helpful too!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I sit down with the manuscript and just read it. Or, I intend to. Invariably, I start making notes and edits and the next thing I know, I'm back at it.

I think that taking the pressure off myself and letting myself savor it is what does the trick.

JenMiller said...

I take a break. I usually run or walk the dog or read a book. If I do try to write, I only get more frustrated, and what comes out, well, it ain't pretty. I did that with the deadline for my book, and the breaks definately helped, even if I had to stay up later a few nights. I felt recharged.