Friday, September 28, 2018

What You Need

Into every life a little rain must fall. If you mean to stay afloat both as a person and as a writer, you need a few things.

  • Know what you need and create it - some of us require the illusion of stability in order to create and that stability can be elusive when life is throwing constant BS at you. Look for places you can force stability - is it enough to declare a time at which you will show up to the page and to make that space of time your anchor?
  • Operate at a remove - get out of your normal place. Extract yourself from the part of your life causing chaos. Find refuge - check out the quiet section of your library. Or find a local coffee or tea shop that will let you camp a table for an hour or two. The key is to find someplace that you can retreat to where you can be the truest, most stripped down version of you - leave all the masks (spouse, child, coworker, responsible adult, etc) behind. It's just you and the page and the story. Set a timer. You'll pick up your masks and your cares once the timer goes off.
  • Turn off the distractors - this isn't just about the Freedom app, though certainly use that if it helps you focus. This is about your phone. And your email. Shut them down. There is no reason on this planet for you to be 100% available to anyone 100% of the time. If you cannot bear to shut down the phone, set the Do Not Disturb for the time you want to work. You can program in exceptions so your child can always ring straight through if need be. This is only for a short time and you don't need the phone chirping, ringing, buzzing or otherwise pulling you out of your story. Immersion is hard won. Don't squander it with a stupid cell phone or an idiotic email trying to tell you who to vote for.
  • Vow to become a warrior. How? Pick up the sword (or in this case, the manuscript.) Every single day. You pick it up. Some days, you'll pick it up, swing it once and put it right back down. But the bulk of the days, you'll work with it longer, trying trickier moves, acknowledging that you're clumsy as hell with it right now. But the more you pick it up and swing with intention, the better you'll get. 
  • Know when to quit. A friend and former crit partner tried desperately to write while she sat in a long series of hospital rooms watching her youngest son die. She finally shut the laptop and quit. For two years. She came back to writing after and is doing very, very well now. But for her, for that time, it was necessary to put that piece of herself away so she could be fully present for her son and for herself. She has no regrets over it. 
  • Get crystal clear on your priorities AND on the priorities of those around you - What do you say are your priorities. What do your actions say are your priorities. No judgements here - it's an observation about where the gap lies and why there's a gap at all, if there is one. What are your loved ones' priorities? Do they conflict with or support yours? You do know it's legit to expect your priorities to be supported only because they are your priorities and matter to you as a human being? You afford support and respect to your loved ones' priorities (within reason) because you love them and want them happy. Require the same courtesy for yourself and allow yourself to demand AND accept it.

Only you know your capacity. Only you can know what makes you tick. If you don't know, find out. It's why the gods invented therapists. No one is bulletproof. Every person on the planet will get tripped up over something. There isn't any problem with falling down. The problem is in not getting up again. 

PS: The kittens are fine. I am covered in bloody, razor-thin scratches from kitten claws. By my scars you shall know me. 

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