When Life Interrupts Writing

2 12 2009

In the middle of the NaNoWriMo fever, I found that I rather enjoyed sitting down to write and having writing as a part of my daily life.  And so I did what I tend to do in those situations: I made a resolution of sorts.  I told myself that when NaNo was over, I would continue my daily writing so that I could continue my progress toward a finished (and eventually polished) novel.  Four days after meeting my NaNo goal, I can say that I’ve managed to write about 500 more words.  That’s it.  Five hundred words in four days.  Not only have I been slacking there, I’ve also been slacking on my blogging and Twittering and all those other socializing things I had set up for myself.  Why?  Because life got in the way.  When reality hit once the writing adrenaline bug died down, I realized that I have a lot of other things that need my attention right now.

As a professor, the end of the semester is a hectic time–no matter how well I prepare myself for the end of a semester, the work piles up and gets dumped onto my desk all at the same time.  My office is a nightmare, with piles of papers covering pretty much every surface but the floor (thankfully, I’ve managed to keep that clutter-free. . . for now), and that nightmare is a direct reflection of what my brain is feeling about now.  Every time I sit down to relax, I’ve got a mental list running through my head that won’t turn off and let me just be.  I’ve tried the trick of writing down what is running through my head to get it out, but that only seems to make it worse.  Once I’ve committed a to-do list to paper, I feel pressure to pay attention to it.  At least if it is just in my head, I can be in denial that I have less than a week to finish all that grading, write final exams, hold extra office hours for student appointments, and write that paper I’m presenting next weekend at a conference I’m totally unprepared for.  That’s not even mentioning family obligations.  In short, I’m busy and feel I’ve got every excuse I could want to slack off on writing for the moment.

And yet . . . And yet I have found that I miss writing.  I miss sitting down at my computer and letting my mind open up to fill the blank page in front of me.  Just writing this post is putting me at ease–watching the white box fill with words makes me happy.  What makes me shake my head at myself is that I know writing is fulfilling for me, yet I walk away from it during times of stress to do far less fulfilling things: watch TV, stare at a wall with a blank expression in my eyes, mindlessly eat chocolate and cheesy poofs–you know, the normal stress relievers.  My original resolution didn’t exactly work out for me, but I’m optimistic that if I keep trying, I’ll eventually stick to my goal.  My new goal, which I’m sharing publicly to add that little extra push to succeed, is to write for at least 30 minutes every day.  I don’t even care what I write–just as long as I write.  For my sanity, I need to continue trying to fill white spaces with words.

If you, too, know that you need to write to keep what little grasp you have on your sanity but find that life often gets in the way, I’d be interested in reading about what works for you to keep on track.  When you barely have enough energy to stare blankly at a wall, how do you force yourself to do something–anything–productive?  I honestly don’t know how I crawl out of my energy-less funks; it just seems that one day, I realize I have something to do, and I do it.  I’ve been trying to figure out what tip(s) I could offer my readers from my own life, and the only one that comes to mind isn’t exactly a secret: If you want/need to get something done, get off your butt and do it.  I find once I start being productive–even in little spurts–I’m more likely to get other work done, too.  It’s like Lucille Ball once said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”  She made the point that people who aren’t busy most likely aren’t busy because they aren’t getting things done.  She’s right; the more I take on, the more I get done (even if what I’m getting done isn’t directly related to what I’ve taken on).

Now that I’ve written and allowed my brain to settle for the night, I think I can go lie down and drift into a peaceful sleep.  Writing: it’s free therapy.