Thursday, June 2, 2016

Writing Through the Stresses of Life

Despite today’s title, I’m not sure how much advice I have to offer on this topic, but this is where I’ve been this year—stressed. But it’s been a sneaky stress. By that, I mean I haven’t necessarily felt stressed in my head, but I’ve seen the effects of stress. Tired. Crazy dreams. Lack of motivation. 
I’ve spent the last year apart from my husband, Brian. No, not a separation. He’s been away at school, and I chose not to move. Moving didn’t make sense. Not when we intended to return to the same place when he graduated. Instead, the kids and I remained in our home of the last eight years and took vacations to visit Brian. But what I didn’t realize was how great of an effect that separation would have. My kids are older. They contribute quite a bit to our household—cooking one night a week each, doing daily chores to help keep up the house, etc. I’m not tethered to them like when they were young. I can take four or more hours to myself, either in the house or away from it, with the expectation that they won’t need me.
In many ways, this past year has actually been good. I’ve enjoyed my somewhat independence. I’ve enjoyed spending extra time with the kids playing games and exploring new TV series. (We recently got into I Love Lucy, which has been fun to watch and to discuss.) But as the year went on, my ability to give attention to writing waned. Something about being the sole parent, whether the kids needed my constant attention or not, drained me. Not having another parent or adult around to reassure me that taking time to myself was okay left me feeling a little guilty when I did. 

So I’m confessing I haven’t written through my stresses this year. I’ve critiqued. I’ve judged contests. I’ve done edits for my publisher. But my creativity has been shot. No new writing. No edits to complete a manuscript for pitching. 
That doesn’t mean my year has been wasted. I’ve been learning. I’ve read a ton—like probably around 100 books since Christmas. I’ve judged contests, which has increased my skills with critiquing. The scoresheets have helped me focus on necessary elements, digging deeper than, “The writing is great! I loved the characters!” Because that’s been an area of struggle for me. I like to enjoy what I’m reading, so I choose not to analyze too deeply. But I’m a better critique partner (and judge) when I do.
So even though this year hasn’t been productive as far as producing content goes, I’m not ending this year-away-from-my-husband without success. I won a major writing contest and I signed my first contract. I’ve critiqued and (hopefully!) judged soon-to-be-published manuscripts. This is how I’ve written through the stresses of life—keeping my mind and my presence in the writing world, even if my creativity has taken an extended vacation.

Do you have any advice for me? Any ways you have fought through stress to write successfully? 

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