How do you keep writing through life’s big changes? New houses, new jobs, new babies, even new puppies can throw a wrench into your writing life. It’s so easy to get distracted, run out of time, and lose your writing motivation.
Change is inevitable. It messes with our lives, turns our world upside down. Even through these changes, writers have to write. It’s easy to say you’re distracted, that you can’t write right now. You’ll pick it back up when things have settled down.
But the longer you go without writing, the less likely you are to pick it back up. And if you do manage to put pen to paper again, it’ll be hard to get the words out.
You’ll get frustrated, think you’re a failure, and possibly give up. If you don’t give up, you’ll spend quite a while getting your writing back up to the caliber it was before. Your writing motivation will shrink, then disappear entirely.
So what to do?
A major life change
I recently bought a new house. Outside of the several weeks of packing, moving, and unpacking, there were several more weeks of paperwork, inspections, appointments . . . the list goes on. Finding the time, energy, and motivation to write has been a struggle.
But I did write.
Even through the upheaval, I make sure to spend at least a few minutes each day writing. That writing took several forms, but it was writing nonetheless.
Why? Why not just relax and focus on the immediate problem at hand? Why not put my writing on the back burner?
Because there will always be an immediate problem at hand. Always. If I had that mentality, I would never write.
Here are three major categories of life change that might keep you from writing and how to maintain your writing motivation and write anyway:
When the change is a lack of time
This is the excuse for not writing I see the most. Notice I did say “excuse” because that’s what it is. You do have time. It might not be as much time as you had before, but you have it.
If something is suddenly taking up more of your time, perhaps it’s time to evaluate everything that’s taking up your time. What’s not necessary? What can you cut back on or do away with altogether?
I’m not saying get rid of your TV and friends. I’m saying maybe don’t watch a mindless show you don’t really like. I’m saying maybe tell your friends you’ll need to leave dinner a few minutes early. I’m definitely saying get off social media.
A few minutes is all you need to write. You can find a few minutes a day.
Tricks to find a few minutes:
- There are apps or settings on your phone to monitor how much time you spend on social. Take a look sometime. The amount of time I spent on social shocked me so I turned a setting on that kicks me off after a set period of time.
- Carry a notebook with you or become best friends with note-taking apps on your phone or your phone’s voice recorder. You won’t remember that brilliant line or dialogue or that amazing storyline. Trust me.
- Are you feeling guilty for doing something instead of writing? Evaluate whether that something actually needs your attention or if you can cut it out.
- Imagine your story/characters/scenes all day long. While driving, while waiting in the checkout line, while washing your hair. ALL. DAY. LONG. When you go to spend those few precious minutes writing, you’ll already know what to write.
When the change is something new and distracting
I have a friend who is about to have her first baby. She told me during a recent visit that she’s going to fight hard to keep her “me time” and not make her life completely revolve around her child. (I can hear the parents out there laughing.)
While that’s an amazing sentiment, it’s probably not feasible. When something new happens in your life (baby, job, house, puppy, relationship), your first reaction is to revel in the newness. It’s only for a little bit, right? You’ll get back to writing soon.
And then you don’t. Then it gets harder to get back into the groove and you have this totally new, exciting, beautiful thing in your life that is so much more interesting than staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page. Who needs writing motivation when you can celebrate this new thing?
And then you’ve suddenly gone months without writing.
If you have something new and exciting in your life, congratulations! I’m so happy for you.
But write. Don’t let yourself go months without doing it. Find a few minutes a day where you can put some words down.
Tips for writing through and around something new:
- Find a few minutes to write. Those minutes are there. (See the previous point for finding time.)
- Remember that writing excites you as well. If you lose track of that, take a moment to write down why you wanted to be a writer in the first place.
- Don’t feel guilty for enjoying whatever is new in your life, but also don’t abandon your writing completely. It will be so much harder to start back up if you quit. Write something. Anything. The great writers use all life experiences as fodder.
When the change is grief
No matter how much we try to avoid it, we all grieve something or someone at some point. And there’s basically nothing that kills the urge to write more than grief.
You’re distracted. You’re busy with preparations or taking care of another loved one. You can’t concentrate. You feel guilty for even thinking about trying to find time to write.
Grieve. It’s important to do so and to work through that process. This is the big life change where I fully believe in taking some time away from your work in progress. You need to heal.
But exercising your writing muscle is a necessity when you’re a writer.
My one tip for continuing to write through grief:
- Journal. Journal your feelings. Journal the mundane things that happened that day. Journal about what or who you lost. Not only will this keep your writing muscle flexing, but journaling during times of grief is extremely cathartic. Not to mention the writing value that can come later on from recording your feelings and evaluating them in-depth.
Just keep writing
As usual, the main message of my post is to just keep writing.
I know that’s trite. I know you tired of hearing it.
But if you really want something, you do it. You don’t let anything stand in your way. You don’t make excuses. You just do.
It’s hard continuing to write through life’s big changes. No one will tell you it’s easy. But nothing about writing is.
How do you cope with life changes and maintain your writing motivation? Let me know in the comments!
Change is a major part of story. If nothing changes in your story, you have no story.
Today I want you to write a scene for your work in progress (or something new if you’re in between projects). Spend fifteen minutes writing. Then go back and look for the change. What’s changed from the beginning of the scene to the end?
Share your writing here in the comments and make sure to make a note at the top about what changes. Don’t forget to read and comment on your fellow writers’ work!