Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Writing Through Difficult Times

I’m often asked by my coaching clients or when I give writing workshops how we can keep writing through difficult times. It’s come up in my own life—sick kids, death of a parent, friends in need. It came up again this past week. My friend fighting breast cancer had a set back and ended up in the hospital for several days. A few other things pulled at my attention as well. But I have an editor and an agent who asked to see a manuscript that needs a few revisions first.

So it’s fresh in my mind. How do we write in times of stress? (And who doesn’t have stress in their lives?)

These are the questions I ask myself and suggest my clients ask themselves:

1) Why do I write? Why does it matter to me to be a writer?

2) Why does THIS particular project matter to me?

3) What do I love about my writing?

4) What’s the cost to me if I don’t write NOW?

5) How can I honor the concerns in my life AND write?

6) How can I bring laughter into my life, every day, even if something terrible is happening or has happened as well?

I know MY answers. They are what keep me writing even when it’s difficult. My answers won’t necessarily be the same as yours or any other writer. Each of us needs to know what matters to us.

Ironically, as I turned to books by fellow writers and discovered gems by Lois Winston and Irene Peterson and Caridad Pineiro, I was reminded how often readers have written to me to say that my books got them through a difficult time and it was one more reason to go back to my computer with renewed energy and enthusiasm for the project I’m working on. (Which is why books by Eloisa James, Mary Jo Putney, Anne Stuart, Jennifer Cruisie, Terri Brisbin, Elizabeth Keys, and others are still waiting to be read.)

I even realized that the darkness that had crept into the writing before I went to the NJRW conference because I was worried about my friend could be replaced with a lightness that makes me laugh as I rewrite the scenes. (Note: I hadn’t worried about the darkness, even though my initial vision for Black Cat of the Family was lightness because I’d been hearing editors wanted dark paranormal. But guess what? The editor wants to see the lighter version—a reminder that my initial instincts were on target and I should have trusted them.)

So how do you write in stressful times? What are your answers to the questions above? It’s worth asking yourself the questions and brainstorming strategies when things are going well because it’s much harder to do so when you are under stress. And I truly believe that tapping back into the writing can give us an intangible something that helps us cope with those challenges.

I hope that each of you find your own answers to the questions above and the strategies that will allow YOU to write when you most need and want to do so.