Writing Through the Chaos

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don’t miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, coming in May WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.

* * *

Tips to Keep Moving Forward When Life Happens

Life happens to
all of us, and with it comes times of chaos and catastrophe. It’s easy to get
derailed and let our writing life come to a screeching halt. That’s never a
good thing, no matter what crisis we’re dealing with—from the death of a loved
one, to an unexpected winter storm. Because as writers, we process life by
putting words on paper (or screen). Suddenly finding ourselves with no time or
energy to write can be as traumatic as the original event.

We need that
exercise to keep us sane. The things we write may change, depending on the
circumstance where we find ourselves, but I propose that we will cope better by
setting aside time. Today I want to share some tips to keep moving forward when
life happens.
In case you
think I’m dealing with concepts instead of reality you should know that I’ve
lived through chaos. Last year, in a short two-week time frame, my father
suffered a stroke while I was out of town teaching at a conference (he’s
continuing to improve), I found myself bedridden with a nasty sinus/ear
infection, and our daughter-in-law lost her father. On top of that, my
Guideposts military blog, While They Serve, launched right smack dab in the
middle of all that.
Trust me, I
know what I’m talking about here. This is how I’ve survived many upheavals in
my life.

prioritize, prioritize:
During times like these, a calendar is your best friend. Sit down and look at
all you have on your writing plate.

  • Start with
    the things you’re getting paid for and/or you consider legitimate work. Those
    need to have top priority.
  • Next look
    at things you’ve made a commitment to do. These could be anything from blogging
    on your own site to blogging on other sites or other types of writing. The
    thing you want to do with this group is look and see what you can reschedule,
    back out of, postpone, or ask someone else to do.
  • Finally look
    at the things you wanted to accomplish. This might include things like get a
    piece ready for a contest or submission or just making forward progress on your
    current WIP (Work In Progress).

Now, before you
set down the calendar, look at the commitments generated by the chaos. These
could include doctor visits, time at the hospital, time without electricity,
anything out of the ordinary.
Begin fitting
projects into the spaces around your commitments. I know this doesn’t always
seem possible, but you can get significant progress in 20 – 30 bites of time.
Here are some tips to write in the bits and pieces of time you’ve
For example,
one thing I must do is schedule social media every morning. It’s part of my job
at My Book Therapy. I would get to the hospital in the morning. Spend some time
visiting with my mom and dad, then announce I had 30 minutes of work to do.
Assuming a doctor didn’t come in, I kept my head down and worked for that space
of time. Afterwards, I closed my laptop and again was available to visit, help,
etc. I also took several breaks during the day to answer comments on my new
Guideposts blog, as well as my own.
We all know
this isn’t the ideal to write, but you have to use the time you can carve out.
  • Contact those
    places where you have commitments. People will forgive a lot if they know
    what’s going on. This is the time to be an EXCELLENT communicator.
  • Call in
    favors, and enlist guest bloggers where you can for your own site.
  • Don’t
    forget you can recycle old posts to save creative energy for paid writing
  • Cut back
    on the number of social media updates you put out daily and/or eliminate them
    altogether. But don’t be afraid to use social media to ask for prayer support.
    Your readers and audience will feel more connected to you by sharing this part
    of your life.
  • Try to
    carve out time to work on something you want to do. It may be a blog post, a
    WIP, a devotion or even a poem. But if you feel that creative hunger, feed it.
    You’ll be calmer and more able to cope if you do.
  • Don’t
    waste what’s happening, instead incorporate it into your writing. If you have a
    blog, do what I’m doing and share your process in a post. At the very least,
    find a place to write out your feelings and journal what’s happening. If you
    can’t use it immediately, I guarantee it will come back when you need it. Just
    don’t lose it by not recording it.
  • Try your
    hand a writing a devotion. If life is in chaos, I guarantee you’re learning
    some tough lessons. You may not end up with a finished product, but jot down
    the details of what you’re learning.
  • Write a
    poem. Yes, you read that right. It doesn’t have to rhyme, but it can. And it
    doesn’t even have to be good. But searching for the words to describe intense
    feelings is a good way to process and come to grips with a life that seems out
    of control. If a full poem seems too intimidating, consider a haiku. Here’s a
    link to help you Write a Haiku

Most of all, use this
time to accomplish small tasks. Here are just a few to get you started:
1   Write a character sketch.
2   Research a setting or job description
3   Check your timeline.
4   Edit a chapter.
5   Make a list of possible blog posts.
6   Pick an emotion and brainstorm ways to
show it rather than name it.
We all have
times that could potentially stop all forward momentum in our writing lives.
But it doesn’t have to. And when you’ve weathered the storm, you’ll be glad you
kept moving.
I’d love to
know what you do to stay on track with writing when chaos happens. Be sure to
share your thoughts below.