One word at a time

A beach, the waves and a orange and pink setting sun in Hawaii

I took this in Hawaii two years ago. I keep it handy because it reminds me to breathe deep.

I don’t like to whine, but I do like to keep it real.

I am having a creative crisis.

I think I’ve mostly worked through it, but there are still days …

As I’ve mentioned before, like most of us, I do not write full time. I am a caregiver, and I work in marketing and communications for a boutique technology firm, that specializes in digital signage for airports. And, I write personal essays and fiction.

I finished the first draft of my novel a little over a year ago. YAY! I knew when I finished it that there were more holes than a fishing net, but I was okay with that. I gave myself another year to finish the second and third drafts. I had goals, a schedule and deadlines.

Then 2016 happened and the universe laughed as my deadlines whizzed by unmet. Come the turn of the new year when I sat down to map out my goals for 2017, I had the same goals I’d had for 2016. I felt defeated and overwhelmed.

Why am I bothering?

Yes, I want to write, but CLEARLY I am not making it a priority.

The self doubt crept in and I’m a planner, so of course I forecast disaster.

I mean publishing is soooo hard to break into. Plus I keep reading all of these writer enrichment materials that talk about building your platform even before your published and I talk to friends who ARE published (even NYT best sellers) and it’s always something. Do I really want to expose myself to that level of stress?

Add to that the current state of U.S. and world affairs and I just wanted to pack up my toys and go home. As a matter of fact, I did. For about 24 hours, I threw in the towel and said “I’m done, this book just isn’t going to get written.”

As it happened the day after my meltdown I was already scheduled for an overnight away. Originally it was to write, but then I was just going to snooze and catch up with some friends because, you know, I was going to set my writing aside for a while.

When I got to the hotel, the pen and the paper mocked me.

I took a nap.

It was still there staring me down.

I did some yoga.

Still there.

I meditated (can’t sit still longer than 10 minutes, but I’m getting better. More on that in another blog post).

Finally, in a calmer relaxed state, I gave in, I picked up the pen and I opened the journal.

I emptied my head on the page. It was drivel, but it felt so good to get it out. I did not solve the world’s problems. I didn’t erase my deadlines, I didn’t even solve any plot problems.

I did remember that I truly love to write and I gave myself another chance. I looked back on all the work I HAD done to strengthen my story and I forgave myself for missing my deadlines.

My truth is this:
Life is complicated.
I’m a good writer.
I have a story to tell.
It’s just going to take me longer than I expected to tell it. I’ll worry about the problems that come with working in publishing when the book is on track to be published.

I’ve added a little more to the book since I got back, but I’m in the midst of my busy season at work and we have a family vacation scheduled at the end of the month. Oh, and there’s that little issue of our world going to hell in a hand basket. All those negative aside, I registered for the Romance Writer’s of America National conference today. That is my carrot. My reminder that yes, I am a writer and I do have a story to tell and dammit I’d better make some time to tell it.

Have you ever quit writing? What got you back into it?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

17 thoughts on “One word at a time

  1. I think that i can relate to this, I’ve been dealing with this same problem for a while now.
    School kicks in, tests, LIFE. And i forget to write. I keep pushing it aside and it makes me feel guilty.
    But at some point, writing is what keeps me going ☺️ i always find myself writing ..
    so i guess i just have to deal with it and organise my life in order to keep everything under control☺️

  2. Real life’s day job is interfering with writing. That’s why I’m constantly trying to have it transferred to a different department. Seriously though, I had a roughly 10 year stint after a “promising start” in college where I stopped writing (minus a LiveJournal) to focus on music, which I thought was my passion. Turns out I just liked the idea of being in a band, and when that collapsed, writing was waiting there for me like an estranged lover. I have a new appreciation for it now, because now that I’m older and wiser I appreciate that it’s the one creative outlet I have where I don’t need to rely on anyone else. I’m solely accountable, even when I get bouts of writer’s block.

  3. Honestly I think the first thing is to give yourself a break. It sounds like you are doing so much already. If you are really passionate about writing, time off won’t matter – you will get the urge to come back to it and when you do, you’ll be ready. I had this same experience last year and again this year (in fact going through it right now) but I got over it last year, and I know I will get over it this year, because I need to write. I will leave you with a quote that always helps me. It may cheer you up or depress you, but I hope it helps. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett.

  4. I have QUIT twice before. Once in high school when I just got run down by people who told me I would never make it. Once in my mid twenties when I got so excited to have sold a film script, only to see it never made.
    This time I am on vacation from writing. I fully intend to go back home and pick up my vocation but right now I am enjoying the sun, if that makes sense, recharging myself and my voice.

  5. I have quit certain genres, like poetry. Did not write one real poem for a decade–a dab here and there but no real work on poems that mattered in the end.
    I am getting back to poetry bit by bit now.

    I have a novel that languishes in my doc files. I wrote it over the span on nearly 10-12 years, including 7 revisions after it was first full draft was completed in a year or so. An editor I respect, nationally known but living in my city, read the first 200 pp. and found so much not quite strong enough or plain wrong it took the excitement and motivation right out of my process. She did say I’m a “hardworking, very good, authentic writer”– BUT, BUT, BUT! I realized the value of her critique though I didn’t agree with it all then. I re-write it in my head for now, and work on it in short story form for now, then post as is on my blog. But basically that is on the shelf. She is a great editor;if I had more cash I would give her the whole thing to rip apart and hand back to me.

    When I had five children close in age to raise and my husband was travelling for work (and I worked 32 hours/wk.), I wrote in very short spurts, and sometimes not for weeks or not with consistent discipline or the long hours I wanted. That’s life and we do what we can. I write daily now and I still have much to learn and much to get done–but that’s good! If I cannot get better writing to sync with my life, I have to let it be. Or make adjustments that have to be made. Laziness is hard to beat down when I have free time to do other things…

    I love that you’re attending a conference as further confirmation of your joy in and commitment to writing. That usually helps me in surprising ways!

    Sorry so long here! The very best to you and your writing.

  6. Hi Lee, Have you shown what you have written to anyone else or do you feel it is too soon? I hate going over stuff I have written but when someone else points out what is needed it all becomes easy. Good luck, anyway. I have given up on novels and am trying scriptwriting and poetry.The first book you write is often the best because there is so much of yourself in it.

  7. My advice may not be helpful but I do know this as my truth. During all the frantic years of childrearing and other ‘stuff’ writing was as illusive as a pipe dream. I wrote because I am (its in the bones) a writer. Constant diaries, notebooks of stuff etc etc. I finished my first novel and it lay it bits, in drawers, in folders etc etc. Then someone was lent it and it disappeared for three years. meanwhile life goes on. Simply to encourage you….Throw out the goals on paper but keep your ongoing journey alive in little bits here and there. Is any book ever ready for publication? Why must the huge places like The Times etc etc be the goal for our writing. How about finding your voice(is it really romance, or murder, or ????????? ) and aiming for ‘lesser’ (Marketing wise I mean….never ‘lesser in what you write. BUT write because of love. When I let my eyes stop looking to the ‘successful’ and the ones who earned ‘lots of money’ – by this time I was much older. All I was left with was the deepest desire to write to bring pleasure to ‘others’….to tell a story. My husband paid for professional advice about my first novel. It was self-published. (even Rowlings (Harry Potter) self published three books. The satisfaction of having folks connecting with me to say ‘I love your story. It has touched my heart and my life’ means more to me than any financial or success gain. Now this why I write….now this is why I live to write…..Maybe, maybe I will receive a grant to publish my third novel…from my local council…..why? because my stories in libraries and hand to hand have become liked. Beyond the Ashes was part of my life I think for 40 years. (all because I wanted to find the right market!’ Relax, breathe…..let your life determine your creative outworkings.

  8. All too real – can relate to this 100%. Am finding it so hard to get back into my novel at the moment, there’s so much going on in my life but I also know that it’s an excuse, that people have been able to write under much tougher circumstances. I do write other things (poetry, blogs posts, reviews, flash fiction), but I seem to be avoiding the novel like anything.

  9. Thank you for the reminder that this is, and has always been, a shared struggle for writers of all levels and genres.

    Kudos to you for continuing to step back into what you love.

  10. I have had phases where I didn’t touch my writing for months, poetry has years of prolific output and then nothing. Sometimes we write and wait for the reception of others to make or break our motivation. Everything that you do is practice and preperation. You can only get better. Not giving up is the thing. Being a good writier is a gift and a priviledge that many of us forget. Any writing that you do is beneficial. Ride out the uninspired periods, keep observing the world, take notes. The motivation, the desire, the inspiration will always come back if you’re open to it. Don’t fight the uninspired times. Use it to get refreshment and perspective. We create arbitrary deadlines. Make smaller goals. Yearly goals are a set up to feel like a failure. None of us even know what tomorrow will bring. Live day by day and set daily, weekly goals. Reward yourself for the progress that you make. You have a unique voice that the world has not heard. Don’t give up on your story.

  11. Pingback: One word at a time | Live to Write – Write to Live | Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning"

  12. Sounds like me. Sometimes in and out of writing. But still to do serious writing as a book. I did write an article on writer’s block and there were many helpful advice/quotes that I found. Some said there are no such things as writer’s block, but there has to be a time and a particular topic that has to come out. Some said to keep on writing and writing and writing. Well somehow I did get back to writing again. Best of Luck to your writing 🙂 ❤

  13. Pingback: Writing Links Round Up 4/24-4/29 – B. Shaun Smith

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