Writing When Life Stinks

I’ve had writers say to me, “I can’t write. My life stinks.”

For some of us it really does. Life events can throw a stink bomb into our cherished writing. A call the HAZMAT team kind of stinker.

That happened to me during my medical crises in April. From the onset through the recovery, I lost almost two months of writing time.

Some advised writing about the experience, the trials, the emotions, and the spiritual aspects. That didn’t work for me. Maybe it was avoidance. For me, it was hard enough going through it. Writing about it didn’t help.

Because it doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for anybody.

I have a couple of writing friends facing terminal illness. Writing about it helps them process the experience, the emotions, the impact on their bodies, their relationships with their families and friends, their relationships with God.

So where am I going with this?

I want to say when life stinks, it’s okay to a take a break from writing. We have to give ourselves permission not to be perfect. We have to be willing to ask, “Does writing have to be my top priority every day?” For me, it wasn’t.

Recognize that we may need to take a break and then return to writing slowly. Writing is like a muscle. When we don’t use it, it atrophies. We need to build it back up again. We can’t expect to leap back to where we were at the snap of our fingers.

For me, there was no way I could jump back into my WIP with both feet. I started with a short story about one of my main characters. It helped flesh out some of his backstory.

I also read the entire manuscript to refresh and renew the story in my mind. Through this reading, I reconnected with my characters, with their desires and goals, with their hurts and frustrations, with their fears.

When I resumed writing, I didn’t set a timer or a daily word count right away. I wrote until I was tired.

One thing I learned is that writing fiction rather than about my stinky life helped me process what was happening to me better. I could lose myself in my fiction. I entered the story world and joined the characters on their adventures. It took my mind off the stink.

My theory is the creative juices I released in my fiction helped my body heal more than if I’d focused on my health issues.

What about you? What do you do when life stinks?

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