When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

by Amber Lea Starfire on June 29, 2015

tsunami1

I am the queen of “write every day,” “just do it,” “show up and write,”and “just put your seat in the chair.” I am a fan of daily journaling, no matter how brief the writing session. But even I have to admit that there are times when Life, with a capital L, gets in the way of all good intentions.

I don’t mean life, as in normal life with normal responsibilities. I mean Life, as in extraordinary circumstances. Family members fall ill or have an accident and need someone to care for them; guess who. Your day job requires extra hours and extra effort and energy. You’ve become an insomniac, wringing three to four hours’ sleep from your nights. Whatever can go wrong does. And it all seems to come at once, a trouble tsunami that knocks down all your structures, leaving you sodden and breathless. You think of writing, but you are wrung out emotionally and you can’t seem to find the ground beneath your feet, let alone be creative. The mere idea of recording what happened that day overwhelms you with exhaustion.

I found myself in this state recently. After the sodden and breathless stage, it was as though I had dried up and blown away in a desert wind, like a dandelion — small pieces of me drifting about, searching for a place to put down roots. Except for what I had to produce for work, and for two measly blog posts — each one taking several weeks to complete — I didn’t write for two months. Not a journal entry. Not a poem. Not a word of essay or memoir. And, to make matters worse, I began to withdraw from my writing friends.

I, the queen of “just do it,” stared at the hypocrite in the mirror and wondered if or when the real me would return.

Then I (re-)discovered compassion — for myself. I’ve often encouraged others in similar situations to be gentle with themselves. “You’re a writer,” I said. “Be compassionate with yourself. This time will pass. Think about what you will write, and when you are ready, you will write again.” And it was always true.

So, I said these words to the writer in the mirror. I said these words several times per day. Still, I despaired; if I wasn’t writing, was I still a writer? Could I continue to teach and offer encouragement to others if I couldn’t follow my own advice? Yes, I decided, because I would find my feet again. I had to.

And that’s why I’m writing this post. To begin to find my feet, put my seat back in the chair, and write what I know — which is that Life sometimes gets in the way, and we need to let that be okay. When it happens to you, remember to be gentle with yourself, and know without a shadow of doubt that the difficult time will eventually pass, and you will write again.

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