Since last Thursday, three people I know have died. Thankfully, none are my immediate family, but still I ache for the losses. The closest to me is my cousin, Sue. We weren’t close, but we weren’t distant either. We were just busy moms who always picked up right where we left off when we connected at family gatherings. Despite the degrees of separation, I find myself impacted by these deaths. I’m distracted and it’s hard to concentrate
As the saying goes, no one gets out of this live alive. Things happen (sometimes even good things) that will through off your writing schedule. Kristine Kathryn Rusch calls them “Life Rolls”. The term came from a role playing game she used to play as part of a workshop she co-taught.
When we taught the Master Class, we (along with Loren Coleman) invented a role-playing game that mimicked the way a long-time professional writer’s career works. … [W]e had disruptive events coincide with every writer’s role-played career. Those events were called “life rolls.” Sometimes they were positive—for example, you got married (of course, you’d lose money for the cost of the wedding plus weeks (maybe months) of work, but you might not have to pay all the bills on your own any more). More often than not, the rolls were disruptive. We took one bestseller (in the game) out for five years with a succession of life rolls that prevented her from working.
We all experience Life Rolls, the question is, how do you handle them? There are the events that directly impact you (marriage, birth of a child, death of a loved one), but I find there are also events the indirectly affect me that can also through my writing off. Here are three tips to help you get through them.
Give yourself a break
Some events are so severe they demand it (death of someone close), other events are so fleeting (a sick child) they are easier to accommodate. Either way, ask yourself, if a friend were in the same position, would you be encouraging them to cut themselves some slack? Apply the same thinking to yourself. Just be careful not to take too long of a break. You don’t need a visit from the witch of self doubt. She makes getting started again an even bigger challenge.
Write through the hard times
When one of my Dads died, I set up a blog and wrote letters to him. I kept it anonymous. On it, I talked about my feelings, what was happening as we made plans for his memorial service and when I felt him close as life went on. The writing helped me process his death. I added to it for a while after he died. I’ve never stopped thinking of him, but these days I can usually wait to voice my thoughts in my journal. At the time, I needed the immediate release. If you are facing something insurmountable, Write. Say things that are not socially acceptable, just get it out. I like having the blog to go back to. It’s nice having a secret place for just he and I, but you may find it more helpful to get your feelings out and then shred them.
Change it up
Sometimes the words won’t come. You can bang your head on the keyboard like a muppet and still, *crickets*. When that happens, work on more mundane, less creative tasks. My list might include filing, laundry, bread making and walking. These are all tasks that need to be completed, but they wouldn’t be my highest priority if I could get my muse into gear. Sometimes changing things up gives my muse the space she needs to get back on track. Again, be aware and don’t let the muse disappear for too long.
What do you do when you hit a major or minor life roll and the words won’t come?
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.