In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In My Words: When Real Life Trumps Your Writing Life

Last week was anything but a writing week for me.

Oh, sure, I had plenty of writing and editing that needed my time and attention. I just had no time to give to writing last week. And I certainly had no real focused attention either.

Last week was all about my 10-year-old's once-a-year dance recital. It's quite the production, I assure you. Hundreds of dancers of all ages descend upon the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs to prepare for the Friday night extravaganza.

No, I was not a dancer. I was a room mom. Think security. Or border patrol. Or prison warden. Only with a smile. And a duffel bag full of snacks. And water. And a portable DVD player.

Instead of worrying about all the writing I wasn't getting done, I reminded myself of this truth: Sometimes real life trumps writing life.

I confess that there are times I resist this truth. I want to shove my real life into a closet and slam the door. I find myself thinking, "If only these people (my family) would leave me alone I could get so much accomplished!"

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. That is no way to think about my family.

I've been a writer long enough to know that there are going to be seasons when my life--family, friends--shoves writing and editing to the bottom of my To Do list. But there are times when deadlines loom that I can't completely ignore writing while I spend time with people living in the real world. I've learned a few tricks along the way to manage the competing time demands:

  1. Remember: Mulling over a scene or article idea is a legitimate stage of writing. My friend, Roxanne, had a great blog post on this topic. One of the things she wrote that stuck with me was this: Thinking is a huge part of the writing process.
  2. Find some time--even the smallest amount of time--to write. I like to write when I have a decent block of time set aside--at least two hours. I knew that wasn't going to happen last week. So, instead of focusing on major projects, like the line edits for my novel or working on my second novel, I worked on my blog posts. Short pieces like that were easier to write while I was surrounded by tapping, twirling and leaping dancers who were tapping and twirling.
  3. Don't fight reality. I've learned this the hard way: Reality wins every time. I had to concede that last week was not a writing week. It was time to be there for my daughter--and the other girls in her dance class. I'd volunteered to be a room mom, so I chose to be a happy, non-complaining room mom.
  4. Make up for lost time. Real life won't always trump writing life. If you're behind on rewrites or edits thanks to family obligations, then once you're done, get back at it. And stay focused. Turn off your phone. Turn off Twitter. And Facebook. Practice saying, "No, I can't ___________ (fill in the blank) this week because I'm busy with my writing." Some people will understand--thank them. Some people won't understand. Don't waste valuable time trying to explain it all to them. This is your time to write!

In Your Words: Has your real life trumped your writing life? How do you handle it so you can still accomplish your goals?

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At 7:34 AM, Anonymous Catherine Mosier said...

Sometimes my real life trumps my writing life unintentionally and I have to discipline myself to get back to it. But this past year I had to put my project on hold to help care for my mom while she was fighting cancer (and winning). Now I am back to work on it and know it was the right decision to let real life trump writing life for a while.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Melissa Tagg said...

Lately, my real life has absolutely trumped my writing life...which I've found frustrating. Like you said, sometimes you can't fight reality - real life should win in so many cases! Yet, lately, I think it's my lack of self-discipline winning over both writing and real life! :) Which is why I looove your tips...especially the one about using short pieces of time for smaller projects. Thanks for the great tips!

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Catherine, so thankful to hear your mom is winning her fight against cancer!
And, M-Tagg, I get what you're saying. Lack of self-discipline can mess up the writing life. Sometimes when real life repeatedly trumps writing life it's easy to become lethargic. That's when self-discipline has to kick in and it's time for BIC--Butt In Chair writing. (And I hope I didn't offend anyone using the "B" word.)

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Stacy said...

Beth, I can completely relate to this, especially since my daughter is on summer break. It's frustrating when seemingly mundane things trump your writing life, but I try to remind myself they're only young once, and I've got to enjoy every moment I can.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Scoti Springfield Domeij said...

I love your humor. This is hilarious! "No, I was not a dancer. I was a room mom. Think security. Or border patrol. Or prison warden. Only with a smile. And a duffel bag full of snacks. And water. And a portable DVD player."

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Stacy, I know I'm not the only one facing this struggle. Finding the right balance is key.
And, Scoti, I figure a sense of humor is absolutely necessary in life! :O)

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Kathy Harris said...

You nailed it, Beth! Oh, the frustrations of trying to get it ALL done. It's about prioritizing and organizing, and then being content with the day the Lord has planned for us, rather than insisting on our own plans for the day :)

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Some days I nail it, Kathy. Other days I have to stop and adjust my attitude and my expectations. But I'm getting better and better at balancing real life and writing life.

At 11:21 PM, Anonymous tiffany @ tea with tiffany said...

You did the most important thing last week. I wish I would've seen you on Friday night. We were there and Hannah was sick, but she wanted to go so we sat way up in the upper balcony away from the majority. It was hard for her to be in the audience versus performing. Her year off made her realize she misses dance. She may try out for juniors this summer, but I'm not sure we can pay for that. :)

Hope we can connect this summer.

Love and miss you, friend,

At 11:37 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

I'm sorry I missed seeing you too, friend! And I missed seeing Hannah dance! Looking forward to seeing you this summer.


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