For most of us writers, working demands a certain amount of predictability and solitude. But life doesn’t always deliver that. Sometimes it gets crazy. Then the question becomes this: Do we continue to write or do we drop the pen and surrender to circumstances?
To begin to answer these questions, let’s look at some of the things that might hinder our writing. I can think of at least two types of interruptions that can mess with a writing routine: planned and unplanned.
Planned interruptions include things like Christmas, summer vacation, weddings, elective surgery, house renovations, and moves. Unplanned interruptions could be car accidents, personal illness, illness or death of a spouse, needy family members, or natural disasters like floods or fires. The way we maintain our writing practice through these two types of interruptions is slightly different, at least that has been my experience.
For planned interruptions I try to:
I try to submit all articles and schedule blog posts before they’re due. When I was preparing to visit my daughter for the arrival of baby number four in the spring of 2014, I got the impression I should finish even the article that wasn’t due till a week after I was to return. Was I ever glad I did because during that planned interruption, I also stumbled into an unplanned one when I fell and broke my hip!
I focus on the writing tasks I can’t do ahead during the small chunks of time I have. I keep pen and paper handy to jot down ideas that occur to me while I’m busy doing other things. Then I use the minutes I can spare to work on my article instead of checking email and Facebook (at least that’s the plan).
Break Up Big Jobs
I break the big jobs of keeping on top of my writing business into small tasks. Then when I have a few minutes, I tackle one of those.
During the event I try to keep my expectations realistic. This includes giving myself permission to enjoy the occasion without guilt.
Instead of writing long narratives, I write abbreviated journal entries using lists, phrases, and sketches so I still capture the essence of what I’m experiencing.
Unplanned interruptions are trickier to handle. When they occur, it helps to:
Take a Break
When I broke my hip in 2014 and needed surgery then weeks of rehabilitation, writing was the furthest thing from my mind. When I’m feeling physically or emotionally too unwell or churned up to write, I take a complete break from it.
When the urge to write hits again I try to mine the experience I’d been having by including the spiritual aspects of what I am learning. These entries may turn out to be the raw material for future articles or devotionals.
Work in Bursts
Even small chunks of time can be morale builders. When I set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes and go at it, I am amazed at what I can accomplish (doing things like tidying my desk, filing, looking up a word, brainstorming a list) and how satisfied and productive such a work burst makes me feel.
In times of upheaval, it’s also important to be flexible about work space and surroundings. Though this hasn’t happened to me, I hope I would be able to tap away on my laptop even if I were surrounded by dozens of other wildfire refugees or alone in a hospital waiting room.
Listen to What God is Saying
Unplanned interruptions may also expand our empathy and influence. We might ask ourselves, could these unplanned detours be God’s way of setting us on a new path? Chuck Colson’s time in prison, for example, resulted in the idea of starting Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prisoners that continues past his lifetime.
When we’re in the midst of life’s planned or unplanned craziness, the promise of Romans 8:28 is a consolation: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). With God, nothing (not even a writing interruption) is wasted!
Violet Nesdoly uses her prize-winning fiction, nonfiction, meditations, and poetry to do what she is passionate about: bringing the Bible to life. Her debut novel Destiny’s Hands, a Bible fiction, was a finalist in the 2013 Word Awards. She blogs daily devotions at Other Food: daily devos.
Thanks for your practical suggestions about getting our writing done despite interruptions. I think the biggest struggle for me is still listening to what God is saying. In my head I know that nothing is wasted, but sometimes my heart takes a while to catch up 🙂
Thanks, Ruth. I’ve experienced the same thing. It’s hard to give up control. I’ve read a quote somewhere (I can’t find it now) to the effect that the life we experience is needed to make our writing richer and more relatable. I comfort myself with that thought when I start to get antsy about not having written lately due to some sort of interruption.