Saturday, August 7, 2010

When Life Interrupts Writing

We've all had it happen, right? We're floating along merrily, maintaining the perfect balance between our writing life and the rest of our life. Then it happens. Something floats (or marches) into our sphere and shakes everything up. Sometimes the trigger is expected and other times it sneaks up from behind and startles us with a "boo!".

I recently gave birth to my second child. Talk about shaking up my world. I knew the changes ahead, but they still challenged me. Sleep deprivation, feedings, sleep deprivation, diaper changes, and more sleep deprivation. Oh, and did I mention all this is accompanied by chasing after a two-year-old while recovering from a C-section? Yes, this trigger most definitely interrupted my writing life.

So when these things bounce into our lives, what do we do with our precious writing time? In my experience, we have three options.

#1 - Keep barreling ahead. Maybe this is borne of necessity, such as a looming deadline. Or maybe our writing time is what fuels us to get out of bed each morning. I've found that during extra difficult periods in my life, I need a creative outlet to process my struggles. Sometimes, though, we push too hard until writing adds to the stress. Then it's time to reevaluate and consider one of the next two options.

#2 - Keep writing, but scale back. If we're pushing ourselves beyond our energy stores, it might be time to scale back. Instead of writing 20 hours a week, cut it back to 15 hours or 10, or maybe even 5. If life circumstances have shifted our schedule, we may need to make a new plan of how we'll carve in writing time. With two children in the home now, I've faced this challenge. Instead of writing after my son goes to bed (which was my pre-baby routine), I'm busy taking care of my daughter during that time. So I've started enlisting my husband's help on Saturday mornings so I can get a few good hours of writing time. In a couple months, that plan may change again.

#3 - Step away. Some life events dictate that we step away from writing for a season. I did this for the first month after my daughter's birth. I made the decision that my family and my health were more important. Other writers take longer hiatuses, sometimes several years. If we feel God's prompting to step away and if we follow His prompting, I believe He'll bring us back more refreshed and ready to write with passion and purpose.

So what about you? What do you do when life interrupts your writing? Have you ever stepped away for a time?


  1. Honestly, I don't know how anyone writes with small children at home. Hoo, I admire you guys! Even now with an empty nest I find myself challenged by responsibilities--and therefore interruptions--I can't get freed from. All of June and July this summer were consumed with hosting family, and I wrote nary a word. But I wouldn't change that time for anything. I've also seen my writing improve by leaps and bounds over the last five years, and I suspect that's been God's plan for me all along. The key, I've discovered, is to relax in His sovereignty and enjoy everything He puts on my plate.

  2. Wow, Sarah, I'm amazed you can THINK of writing with a 2yo and a tiny one! I know Rene Gutteridge says she writes with her kids around, but I'm sure they're older (LOL, though I'm not sure that really helps the situation!). Congratulations on finding a few hours that will keep the creative flow going. Plus, it's good for their dad and for the kids to share special time together.

  3. I step away from writing all the time!
    Baby steps, mind you, because of deadlines and commitments.

    The distance lends perspective. Space. Time to breathe....

    GREAT POST, as usual, Sarah!

  4. I believe, and found it to be pretty accurate, that it takes fifteen minutes per child and hour. The fact you can get any writing done at all is marvelous. I agree with Steph - when life interrupts, relax and go with the flow, it's much easier to take advantage of moments as they arise when you aren't distracted by shoulda, woulda, coulda mantras.