Falling Behind in Writing and…Life

A stream of consciousness post…

Some days it feels like it takes all I can do to not fall behind on everything. It’s hard enough to go through the day to day–work, food, pets, bills, exercise, grocery shopping, errand running, sleeping, paying side hustle, non-paying side hustle (is it still a side-hustle, then?), editing, reading–you know, the usual list of a million things, give or take, that we all have rattling around in our brains.

I find when I have one of those days–days where I am working non-stop on x, y, or z and feel uber productive before I turn to look at the clock and see how behind I am. I still have a,b,c,d and the rest of the alphabet to get through. Why is the end of the list taking so dang long?

Days like this make it particularly hard to not to get too far into my own head. I can easily start to feel bad that I am so busy surviving that there is no room for creating. Sometimes I look at writers and creatives I admire and the astonish number of things they have coming up–events, workshops, signings, releases, publications–and think to myself how on earth do they do it all? This goes for both agented full time writers and unagented little writers like me who are trying to publish and stumbling every now and then trying to build their list of writing credits.

Writing is hard. Life is hard. And we all have to deal with at least one of those things, even if you are not a writer. So, there’s that.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of this. Writing is hard. That’s why so many people don’t do it. That’s why so many people give up and move on to something else. Yes, I have my day job which is one of the most un-writerly things I do day to day where I do math and create spreadsheets and update websites and maintain databases of complicated information and deal with state regulations. It’s hard, too, but in a different way. Yet a lot more people have jobs like mine than write, and I’m not giving up on the writing side of my life. At least not any time soon.

When you’re feeling as if you’ve fallen behind, remember that you’re actually ahead. You’re ahead of a lot of people who will never even try writing, and ahead of people who gave it a fair shot and still thought it was too hard. You’re right where you should be, not behind. Not for your journey and your ultimate destination.

So don’t get overwhelmed, take one thing at a time of that mile long to do list. And remember that writing is hard–if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Fighting Distraction While Writing

Sometimes, I find that distraction can be a good thing. At this moment in my life, I am slogging through the last semester of my undergraduate degree and impatiently waiting to hear back about whether or not I have gotten into graduate school. Right about now I can use all the distraction I can get.

Distraction is, more often than not, considered the bane of the writer’s existence. There are all too many things that beckon each and every writer when the only thing they should be focusing on is their writing. Writing at least 500 words a day is how to finish that novel, you say? Well, that can end up slipping to the bottom of the list when there’s website updates, blog posts, and (at least in my case) 15 chapters of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to finish up by tomorrow. In this case, I would undoubtedly agree that distraction is not to my benefit. Sometimes, though, when staring at my e-mail waiting to hear back about a submission or rereading a sentence over for the fiftieth time to decide whether or not it’s working, something to distract me would be beneficial. 

Today, instead of re-checking my submittable page, my grad school application portals, and the MFA Draft page on Facebook, I purchased my own domain name (oh, hey, addeyvaters.com, welcome to the party), watched an episode of Criminal Minds, found a new jewelry box and some 1940s prints at Goodwill (my second time to the thrift store in two days, it has become a worthy distraction), and did actually get around to some of that Tenant of Wildfell Hall reading (a little later than I should have, though, I must admit). Distraction sometimes can be a good thing. It can get us out of our heads and/or out into the real world. It can force me to have a pleasant conversation with the cashier at the thrift store or to clean out my jewelry stash now that I have somewhere new and pretty to put everything.  

With my life teetering on the edge of so much uncertainty lately, distraction has become my saving grace. If you’re a worrier like me struggling with finding ways to keep your mind off of this, that, and the other thing, go thrifting, take a walk, or create yourself a brand spankin’ new website. It will at least temporarily cease the worrier within and might just get some creative juices flowing in that writerly brain of yours. 

Finding Motivation to Write

I’ve been trying to develop a plan of some sort for writing my novel since school got out.  I was feeling so extremely motivated to get this thing truly started, and subsequently finished, after attending the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) but after the spring semester ended I was truly on my own, and my motivation wavered.  Since the middle of May I’ve been in a slump, I guess you could say.  I’ve been writing – here and for Odyssey – but that was all.  I have a short story that I have been working on for almost a year at this point that I vowed to finish this summer, but it’s on a somewhat tricky topic and I may not end up finishing it ever…  But I was using finishing that story as an excuse to put of writing the novel.  That was a stupid idea, as I have come to realize in the past couple of days.

During the school year I am surrounded by people who inspire me to write more.  I am in classes where writing is the main goal and I’m involved in the writing club where virtually all we do is talk about writing.  I think I have taken this for granted, but now I realize the value of having a group of people to go to with any and all writing concerns.

I didn’t realize how significant this was, or how much of a slump I was in, until a couple of days ago.  I was on Facebook  and saw one of the members of said writing club posting an update on their novel’s progress.  They are doing extraordinarily well in getting to their goal of 120,000 words, and their post maid me realize that I am not doing so well.  It reminded me to reach out to everyone in the club about getting together over the summer, and also started some conversations about writing that proved very beneficial to me.  It’s motivating to see others that you know doing well in their writing endeavors, and really makes me want to have some progress to show for myself as well.  Talking to others who reside within the writing community is so incredibly helpful.  It’s inspiring.  It’s motivating.  It gave me the kick in the butt I need to really get going on my novel.

I can say, too, that as of today I seem to be crawling out of the slump.  It may be a bit soon to know for sure, but I’m already gaining more ground in the last couple of days than I have in the last couple of months.  I’m starting to put that “90 Days to a Novel” seminar that I went to at PPWC to use, and so far it’s working.  I have a synopsis for the book almost completely finished and an even better idea of what will happen throughout the novel, which is much more than could have been said for me a couple of weeks ago.  I guess the ultimate point of this post is to say that if you’re stuck, find someone to talk to.  Call up that friend you met at a conference or an old professor who always helped you out and talk about what they are writing.  Hearing what others are doing may just help you, and hopefully one day when they call you up the progress you are making will inspire them.  It’s all about finding motivation – so go out and find it!