Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

feeling out of balance

So as I've been slowly working my way through Stephen King's On Writing, it's been my goal to write at least a thousand words a day. I've been fairly successful at it. The problem is, when I get past a thousand, I quit. Which is good, in some respects. A thousand words is a decent chunk when you've got a life going on around you. When you don't - aka no job - it's a crutch. I could write a lot more.

But there's Mad Men on Netflix instant view. And the Game of Thrones novels sitting on the end table that my mother-in-law dropped off the other day. And Simply Ming on PBS. And the novels I'm reading and critiquing for a few fine folks. Oh yeah, and my little monkey wanting to play Candyland or Chutes and Ladders or maybe eat some lunch.

It's like once I get to those thousand words, no matter how much I say I just need a break, and will write more later, it usually doesn't happen. I'm sure there's an easy fix. Like make my goal two thousand. Or three. Easy, right?

The thing is though, I think those other things are creeping in so much because I'm feeling out of balance. I don't have a job. I need to figure out health insurance. I need to think about who I'm going to bother next to get a job. I need to think about filing for unemployment. There's a lot going on in my head, and it doesn't leave a lot of room for much else. Once I force myself to sit down and write it's fine. It flows well. It's easy to crank out a thousand words. I tell myself over and over, this is your time to write, to figure out what you want, but it just causes more stress and anxiety.

My last job was full of issues and problems. But I felt a sense of balance there. I liked the work, liked my co-workers, had a good relationship with my boss (or so I thought), and worked great hours. The balance was great. I had a great life at home, and a chance to get away and be my own person, too. I didn't have to worry about so many things, so it was easier to focus on writing when I needed to. Writing was a joy.

Now though, it's a chore, forcing my mind to push through the other issues and barriers and focus on writing. I know it won't be this way forever. And I'm trying to make myself see that in a world of chaos, writing is one of the things that grounds me. It's one of the things that's constant, always there, always waiting for me to come back. And that is comforting.

Oh, if only I could make even a little bit of money with my writing so I could maybe get something part-time and make it work. Wouldn't that be the life?

Does anyone else feel like it's hard for them to write when their life is out of balance?


Ashley Chappell said...

Jen, I feel like it's hard to write sometimes even when my life is IN balance. I love writing and it's so much of who I am, but sometimes I feel like it’s my guilty pleasure just as much as reading is. Even though I have a book contract and now a legal obligation to write, it still doesn’t feel like a job, but something that I’m doing when I should be doing real life things that are begging for attention.

I think part of that comes from the years that most of us wannabe writers spend being convinced that writing is a 'hobby’ and not an occupation. I can feel myself slowly making the transition into prioritizing it over other projects now, but there’s still that nagging feeling (especially when I’m really enjoying a writing session) that keeps saying: “Shouldn’t I be doing something else right now?”

S.P. Bowers said...

Yes! Being out of balance, being stressed or feeling pressures can definitely affect writing. Writing can be a very emotional process and maybe you only have 1000 words of yourself to give each day. Sometimes we need to focus on life.

Jo Michaels said...

I'm thinking my comment from earlier did not go through. :(

I have a couple of links to share with you:

I had my cable turned off. We now watch only rented movies. LOL! No more distractions that way. On the other side, if you don't treat your writing like a job, how can you expect to be successful? I have found I have to do it like this: Put my kids on the bus, put on my coffee, set my timer for one hour and do social networking (reading blogs, writing my blog, twitter, FB, etc...), set an alarm for 3pm and quit writing when it goes off. Now, from 9-3 I am allowed to do ONLY book work. This includes research, outlines (not real outlines more like chapter guidelines), and actual writing. I do get up and get lunch or make coffee around noon but never take more than half an hour because that's what I would get for a six hour shift at a real job. The true problem is holding yourself accountable for your time. I average 3-5k words a day this way (not counting my blog).

I know you have a little monkey and I can relate to that (summer has been difficult to manage) but try to schedule at least 3-4 hours a day where your child has an activity or playdate that you're sure will keep him busy. Make yourself sit and at least sketch out timelines or ideas. After a while, you'll just fall into the flow. It's difficult sometimes but keep at it and always ALWAYS schedule a day or two off every week. You need that time to re-charge and be with your family. Carry a small notepad for jotting down a quick thought here or there just in case.

Just some suggestions from someone else who struggled in the beginning. I used to find a billion excuses. Looking at what they were, I rearranged things so the distractions were fewer.

I hope this helps.

Many hugs. Stick in there. And, most importantly, WRITE ON!

Sarah Allen said...

I've been going through this exact same thing. And yes, it is so much harder to write. I think the best we can do is keep moving on those things that are unblancing our lives, keep writing the most and best we can, and then things will eventually straighten out.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Jen Chatfield said...

I think you're all right. I'm going to be happy with whatever I get done, even if it's only a thousand words a day. Sometimes it's okay when other things come first.

I wish I could dedicate more time to writing, but it's unfortunately not my full time job. I have to have something that pays the bills. Maybe one day...