When Life Steals Your Writing Time, Here's How You Fight Back

In spite of your best intentions, there will be weeks when life overwhelms your writing. What's a lionhearted writer to do? Here's a quick, fun way to fight back and reclaim your story. | lucyflint.com

Sometimes, in spite of all your best intentions, your schedule gives a bit of a shiver and then chucks your writing time to one side. 

Maybe you're traveling, maybe you're sick, or maybe you're in the midst of a big lovely celebration. Happy reasons or frustrating reasons, but one way or another, it gets hard to reach your work.

And if you're writing a novel, all those characters stop standing on their tiptoes. Their shoulders sag. They stop talking to you.

What's a lionhearted writer to do?

Here's a little secret of mine, a "technique" I've used from time to time, although it's really too silly to be called a technique.

But because it is silly, and also oh-so-doable, and also because it usually WORKS--usually keeps my brain tied to my book in spite of whatever is going on--you should try it!

Here's what I do. I write letters. To the thing that is standing in the way of my book.

Not to the traveling, and not to the being sick, and not to the family reunion. 

I write my letters to Creep. 

Heather Sellers is the one who introduced me to Creep formally, though I knew it by its ways long before that. Here's her explanation (from the fantastic, yes-you-must-get-your-hands-on-it book, Chapter After Chapter): 

Most people, especially on their first book, struggle with a terrible insidious mental weed called Creep. If you don't surround yourself with your book, you risk it creeping away from you--or you unintentionally creeping away from it. Creep is bad, and it's as common as the common cold. ... The dreaded Creep is always out there, slowly trying to steal your book from you.

Yes? Right?

You've met Creep before too, haven't you?

I started writing letters to Creep when on a long trip to Florida, visiting family. I was having a lovely time, but my characters were shrinking, and I was terrified of losing them. 

Terrified, but also exhausted, and my writerly brain was only playing static. 

I couldn't work. I couldn't do the plotting and the characterizations that I so needed to do.

But I also hated feeling my novel dry up.

So I grabbed some paper. I clicked a pen. And I wrote--in big, angry letters:

Dear Creep, 

I see you, you mangy destroyer. I see you trying to plant your clawfoot in my days. I see your twisted fingers clutching for my story. I can smell your turnip breath. And I see the oily gleam in your eye.

I can tell you think you've won.

And then I told Creep that I was coming for it. That trips don't last forever, and when I got enough brain cells together, I would write my story with everything I could muster.

I told it all the reasons why I still loved my book. I told it why my characters were worth it.

I told it I was going to fight. 

And at that point, my pen was warmed up, and I was furious and also thinking about my story.

Guess what happened naturally? I started telling myself about scenes that I loved the most. The ones that still grabbed my heart, in spite of the days and activities that filled the space between me and my book.

I started scribbling about other things I would write, about the scenes still to come. I wrote about why I loved my protagonist. I wrote why the antagonist scared me. I wrote about the core images from the book: the moments that I could close my eyes and see.

... And oh, look what happened: The novel's heart started beating again.

Even on a tough day. A mental static day. An I-haven't-written-in-too-freaking-long day. 

I loved how Sellers named this force Creep. I loved that it gave me something to fight. 

Instead of living with that withering feeling of, "It's easier and easier to not write, and also I am probably the worst kind of writing fraud." 

Writing letters to Creep brought my focus back to my book. And it helped me be angry at the right things: not at the circumstances, not at the people who legitimately needed me, not at the days for going by, and not at myself.

I got mad at the thing that was sucking the life out of my work. At Creep.

And I got mad by writing. 

I thwarted it by writing.

I brought my story back to mind. By writing. 

So if your October is filling up with non-writing things, and if your characters are shrinking by the second, and if you're starting to feel desperate...

Well, for starters, please give yourself a huge hug from me, because that is such a hard and terrible feeling, and one I know only too well. One I still fight. 

Give yourself a hug. Get yourself some chocolate. 

And then find a scrap of paper. Flip over an envelope, turn over a receipt, get a little sticky note. And a pen.

And I want you to tell Creep exactly what you think of it. (Be ruthless.) And then write why your story matters. (Because it DOES.)

Put that monster in its place. And remind yourself of how much love you have for your story. 

Tell that piece of paper exactly what kind of lionhearted writer you are.

The kind of writer who will save her story.

The kind who keeps writing.