I Will Write When Life Settles Down

I Will Write When Life Settles Down

I Will Write When…Life Settles Down

"Things are busy right now. I’ll just wait to write until the things that are happening in my life start to settle down."

Is that you? Do you keep saying I will write when…[insert activity or milestone]?

That used to be me. I used to think that when life settled down, I would have enough time to write. I’ve always wanted to write. I took a writing course when I was sixteen. It took me three years to complete the program while homeschooling and then going to college.

Why did it take me so long?

It’s simple. I wasn’t giving it enough time and effort to get my writing assignments in on time, so I kept asking for extensions.

When I look back on it, life wasn’t that busy. I just wasn’t using the time I had effectively, and I had a ton of time. I was the “queen of waiting until the last minute” and when things got tough with writing, I’d bail.

And then when I got out of college and started my full-time working career, I still had plenty of time to work on my writing. I did work on it, but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t putting enough time into it. It was so much easier to take the easy way out and veg on the couch watching TV.

It wasn’t only that, but I also let others interfere with my writing goals because I felt I needed their praise to validate that I was doing something good or worthwhile.

Boy, have things changed!

Over the years, especially when I was taking care of 500 chickens, I have realized that life doesn’t just settle down, and people don’t just start encouraging you to fulfill your writing dreams.

It’s how we work with the time we have available that changes. 

And it's how we stop saying I will write when… and start taking action.

How are you going to start meeting your writing goals? You know what your writing goals are if you’ve written them down, you know that you want to write. But you keep telling yourself that when things start to settle down, you’ll sit down to write. When the kids go off to college, you’ll start writing. When you move into a bigger house and turn the spare bedroom into your office, you’ll start writing.

The trouble with this idea is that it’s killing you in the meantime. It’s dragging you down because you have to settle for someday. Someday, you’ll pick up that pen. Someday, you’ll finally be able to do what you love.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s time to start living the life you want to live right now. Stop waiting. Life never settles down.

My writing instructor from the Institute of Children’s Literature, Troon Harrison (who patiently saw me through the writing course in my late teens), says: “If life was settled, what would we have to write about?”

And she’s right. There’s one important aspect of an unsettled life: it gives us something to write about.

We can use our struggles and challenges to help others to get past their own struggles. We can allow our readers to identify with our fictional characters by giving our characters real struggles with real emotions and reactions.

If we never had any struggles or challenges, we wouldn’t be able to write about characters that people could identify with. They’d be flat characters because we just wouldn’t have the experiences to create them.

Our experiences in life are what allow us to reach out to our readers and say, “Hey, I know what you’re going through. I know what it’s like. I’ve been there, too.”

Life isn’t all “unicorns and rainbows.” Sometimes it’s “hurricanes and rainbows.” We often have responsibilities that cut into the time we’d love to devote to doing what we’re passionate about. Unexpected things come up that tear us away once we finally sit down to write.

Here’s my challenge to you this week. Get some writing done!

I'm serious about this. I've been doing this exercise on myself this past weekend and I am amazed by how I somehow manage to meet my self-imposed deadlines!

Let's start. Focus on a small writing goal. Maybe it’s 500 words a day. Then schedule it. Write it in pen (read: stone) on your day planner during a time frame that works best for you. I don’t mean “works perfectly with the rest of your schedule.” I mean simply: that works best for you. Get it on there. Don’t wait. Just do it.

When that time comes, physically and mentally force yourself to get those words either down on paper or in your word processor. Let nothing interrupt you. If you get distracted, firmly tell yourself “No” and get back to work.

You have the power to have the self-control you need to get this done, to control yourself from doing bad behavior (i.e., any behavior that doesn’t help you get closer to your writing goal).

I often have to say “No” to my cats when they start to do something bad. And I’ve had to take that same firm tone with myself when taunted by the ding of a new email coming in or the desire to check Facebook or Twitter. Right now as I’m typing this article, I’m forcing myself to get it done because I’ve set a self-imposed deadline and I’m determined to stick to it.

I’m not superwoman. I don’t have special powers that are different from yours. You can do this! Let’s get it done together!

Jody Calkins
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