Writing Through the Chaos

Tips to Keep Moving Forward When Life Happens

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

There has been a lot of chaos in our world lately—catastrophic wildfires, Unprecedented flooding with Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Irma—one of the largest ever. Even if you were fortunate enough not to be directly impacted by these large-scale events, chances are you have people close to you who were.

Events like these take an emotional toll on all of us. But deadlines still loom, commitments don’t change, and the call to write remains strong. So what is a writer to do?

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. 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 several years ago I found myself in a place of chaos. My father suffered a stroke while I was out of town teaching at a conference, 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 this.

Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here. This is how I’ve survived many upheavals in my life.

Tips to Survive

Prioritize, 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 inthe bits and pieces of time you’ve got.

For example, one thing I must do is schedule social media every morning. It’s part of my job. 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.

Tips to Thrive

  1. 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.
  2. Call in favors, and enlist guest bloggers where you can for your own site.
  3. Don’t forget you can recycle old posts to save creative energy for paid writing assignments.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Use this time to accomplish small tasks. Here are just a few to get you started:
  • Write a character sketch.
  • Research a setting or job description
  • Check your timeline.
  • Edit a chapter.
  • Make a list of possible blog posts.
  • 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.

Edie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including her most recent fiction – Alone, and nonfiction – While My Child is Away. She’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and has just been named as one of the 2017 Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, as well as the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 thoughts on “Writing Through the Chaos

  1. Edie,

    Thank you for this great reminder. As I can testify, it’s hard to get going again if you allow life’s problems to stymie your writing. Years of part-time caregiving and several family deaths later, I’m finally getting back into the swing of writing on a regular basis. I wish I had read this advice when I entered that phase of life.

    I just got home after evacuating for Hurricane Irma. We have a lot of extra work to do, but I’m still carving out time to write.

    Some of my best ideas come at the most inconvenient times. So I try to keep a notebook handy for quick insights, ideas, and observations. Even jotting down quick notes keeps the creative mind churning.

    • Jeanne, It’s incredibly easy to get so overwhelmed we neglect our writing. I’m glad you’re okay after Irma and that you’ve begun concentrating on your writing again. You’ve so much to share that can inspire others! Blessings, E