82: My Writing Roller Coaster

82: My Writing Roller Coaster

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

My Writing Roller Coaster

Life is like a roller coaster — scream Whee . . . on the way down, and let the momentum carry you back up the next hill.

~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I always knew creative writing was my thing, but I didn’t actively pursue it until I was thirty years old. I started writing slice-of-life essays and I had dreams of one day being published. The Internet wasn’t what it is today, so I relied on writing reference books and a writing group to guide me along.

While juggling two little kids and working full-time outside the home, I wrote sporadically during my lunch hours and when the kids were in bed. After a year of stolen minutes scribbling here and there, one of my stories was accepted for publication in a local parenting magazine. To say I was excited and elated was an understatement. That first published story ignited a fire and deepened my passion to keep writing and to keep submitting to other publications.

Life was busy, but I found time to write. Sometimes those lunch hours were compromised by errands, and sometimes the kids’ bedtimes were not exactly on time. But I kept at it when I could and was fortunate to get another story published.

Over time, frustration crept in. I wasn’t writing as often or as much as I would have liked. When you have kids, plans are often sidetracked and disrupted. My family would always come first, but writing was my escape, and my lack of time to write was bringing me down. My big dreams and the passion fueled by my few published stories were starting to fade. I began to complain about not having time to write.

Then various life challenges intervened. My job situation changed. I battled depression. Due to family demands, I eventually had to leave my writing group. My kids were getting older, which meant my household lifestyle was changing. My inspiration, fire, and passion withered away. The writing life I was once so excited about stalled. Then it stopped.

I just couldn’t get back into it. Many of my reasons for not writing were valid, but I would later figure out some were just excuses. I blamed everything and everyone but myself for my stalled writing career. I stopped writing for almost two years.

As my life got better again, my heart told me it was time to resume writing. I wrote when I found a scrap of time here or a flicker of inspiration there. I felt shaky and uncertain, but I submitted an article to a local magazine and they accepted it. My kids got older and busier, but I kept writing when I could.

Then my kids approached their tweens. I started feeling sorry for myself and moaning, yet again, about having no time to write. It was as though I was on a writing roller coaster. As soon as I would hit a high, a huge low with a sharp turn would follow, threatening to derail me. Again.

I had read that writers — successful “published” writers — have writing routines. They write something every day, at the same time, without fail, no matter what.

I listed my excuses: Those writers probably don’t have kids. They don’t work outside the home. They probably have a housecleaner and can write all day, whenever they want. I slouched and pouted, moaning about my lack of writing time.

By then the Internet was in full swing, nothing like it was when I’d first started writing. Through researching and connecting with other writers online, I soon learned how many of them were, just like me, moms who worked outside the home. And yet they still managed to have a writing career. While tripping over baby bottles and toys on the way to their jobs, they found ways to engage in their passion, including a better attitude and a writing routine. They didn’t make excuses.

Some wrote early in the mornings, seven days a week, while everyone slept. Some were weekend-only writers. Some wrote three nights a week after everyone else had gone to bed.

No matter when or how often they wrote, they set a schedule and stuck with it. They were determined, productive, happy, and proud of what they were doing.

I broke down my day and realized my usual morning routine of watching the news with a cup of tea before work while everyone was still asleep was the perfect time. I’m a morning person and I was willing to sacrifice a bit of sleep to do what I loved — and my household wouldn’t suffer for it.

At 4:30 A.M., the house would be quiet and there would be no distractions. Prepping my writing area (the kitchen table) with my work-in-progress the night before would save time. I would have an hour, sometimes more, to dedicate to my writing. And if I wrote Monday through Friday, like my regular workweek, it might help maintain a working/writing/family balance.

It worked!

Some mornings are harder than others; either I’m tired or I can’t get my writing gears to work. But I show up every day in front of my computer and write something. And then I show up again the next day. And the next.

Five years have gone by, and I have kept to my routine. Sure, the roller coaster picks up speed sometimes, threatening to derail me. But I keep facing forward, holding on tight and knowing that with the right attitude I will always stay on track.

~Lisa McManus Lange

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