Finding Balance in Your Fiction Writing Life, by Lori Ann Palma


We’ve all been there at one point or another. Things are going along well with your writing and your life, and then whammo! Everything that can break, whether it be your car, your dishwasher, or your heart, suddenly does, and everyone in your life seems to be having a meltdown at the same time, requiring your attention. Like a vortex of crazy, you can’t help but get sucked inside the spin cycle—which pulls you further away from your sanity, and as a result, your writing.

When life hits the fan, it can be very difficult to find the time and balance necessary to write. Like many of you, when my own world feels like it’s teetering precariously on the edge, my natural inclination is to step into the muck and fix the problem (or the person with the problem), which not only takes time, but also drains me of precious energy to write. In this whirlwind of fixing, I inevitably become a life janitor, and it becomes incredibly difficult for me to create problems for my characters—and without conflict, they have nothing to do but sit around and drink coffee. This, a story does not make.

Most books on craft, as well as published authors themselves, will advise that you must write every day. I’m going to go against the grain and say that sometimes this just isn’t possible. We all have stuff. It happens to us and around us, and unless you’ve solved the mystery of the universe, none of us will ever have control of when that stuff happens. During times when you’re forced to take a day or two away from your writing, it’s important to remember that it’s okay. The world will not fall down. The pages will not get up and walk away. What’s more likely to happen is that you’ll encounter the voice.

So often, that nasty inner voice in our head will begin to chirp its familiar song, lecturing that if you skip one day, it means you aren’t a serious writer. Or, you’re just being lazy and don’t want to write, which means you shouldn’t even try. The voice knows your deepest fears and targets that sensitive spot, sending a dagger right where it hurts most. Whatever the voice says, the result is the same—you end up feeling bad about yourself and your writing.

When you get these negative thoughts, you have to shout back and tell the voice to shut up. Curse at it, let it know that you’re the boss. There is no place for guilt in writing—if you let it take hold, it will root inside you and grow until you doubt your own ability, which is what it wants. And isn’t it convenient how the voice can change its tune whenever it wants? One day, it will tell you that you shouldn’t even try to write because you aren’t any good at it, and then when you have to skip a day, it’s suddenly there, chastising you for not writing. If anything, this should indicate to you that the voice is not to be trusted!

I will always advocate for daily writing as much as you can, but if you have to take a day or a few days to find your balance, then do it without guilt. When you return to the page, it will welcome you back, and hopefully by taking care of the other demands in your life, you’ll be able to push forward with a clear head and renewed joy.

What’s your routine…do you believe in daily writing despite life’s messiness?

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6 Responses to Finding Balance in Your Fiction Writing Life, by Lori Ann Palma

  1. Things written when I “force” it usually end up thrown out anyway. Writing is an unpredictable creative process.

  2. Kristen C.S. says:

    Routine writing–yes! Daily writing? Not hardly with six kids and a full time job. But the upshot is that keeping a reasonable routine that leaves room for flexibility, also leaves room for creativity. Nothing shrinks brains like stress, and fighting the inevitable sidetracking in life creates more stress that wreaks havoc on thought flow. Vicious cycle. Try to avoid it when possible. =)

    • Thanks, Kristen! I think you nailed it when you said “reasonable routine.” What might be reasonable for me might not be reasonable for you, so it’s definitely personal. I think a big part of it is figuring out that part of things.

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