Writing Challenge – How I Encounter the Blank Page.
I think the biggest challenge that faces any writer is sitting down to a blank page. Working at home as I do, poses an additional challenge. There is always something else that I could be – should be — doing. You know how it is? There’s the housework, the laundry, the groceries, dinner to prepare, kids to take somewhere. And what happens when you’re in the process of redecorating? There’s all that time spent searching and interviewing contractors. Followed by the search that takes you far and wide for just the right couch to replace the one the kids destroyed by jumping on it.
And what about the times something unexpected happens? There’s an illness in the family and you spend your days running back and forth to the hospital. Or your mother has errands she wants you to run for her. You can’t let her down because…well, she’s your mother. Almost every day something interferes with my plan to write. I start out with good intentions, and some days I actually do have hours to write, but usually not. When this happens I have to adjust my thinking and manage with the time I do have.
“Well,” you might be saying to yourself. “Some of those things you mentioned don’t have to be done right away. You could leave them until the weekend, or do them during the evening.” It’s true, I could do some things at a more convenient time. And I do try to get some things done before 10:00 am and after 4:00 pm, and spread them out during the course of the week. This is something I have had to learn because I am the kind of person who likes to be surrounded by order. It’s hard for me to concentrate on my writing when I know there’s something that needs my attention. It has taken me a long time to learn that my desire to write is just as important as someone else’s needs. For too long I didn’t validate my writing because I wasn’t getting paid. Therefore, I determined my work is not as important as say, a friend who wants me to take the day off and go shopping, or take time out for a walk. The perception is: You’re at home, so you must have time. I now realize it’s up to me to set boundaries around my writing time. Once I did that, others have learned to respect that during certain hours of the day, I’m just not available.
One of the hardest things to deal with when I sit down to write is being in the right head space. Some days I just don’t feel like I have the energy to write. Or I’m simply not in the mood. During these times I have to prepare myself mentally. Sometimes it’s as simple as checking my e-mail. I think: OK, I’m in the right place. I’m sitting in front of the computer. I’m one click away from opening up Word to start writing. At other times it takes a little longer. If I have something on my mind that I need to sort through on paper, I journal. Or maybe I just need to vent life’s injustices. There are any number of techniques I use to spur my writing gene. I might meditate, do Qigong, and go out for a walk. Whatever works, and it’s never the same.
After being cooped up in side all winter I tend to feel a little blue. My energy sags, and it’s a real effort to do anything. Just being outside for a little while on a regular basis is definitely helpful. But even this doesn’t work right away. On such days I just have to say to myself, “I’m not wearing this today.” In other words I’m not allowing this feeling to take charge today. I take off the blue mood like an old sweater and just sit down and write.
The good news is that once I finally get writing, I almost always accomplish something. I’m not a writer who thinks that you have to write a certain amount of pages every day. I tend to parcel out my writing in the form hours spent—or if the day gets away from me—the single hour I did have to write. I believe it’s important to recognize progress when your writing day doesn’t go as planned. Pat yourself on the back. You are one step closer to completing your project.
Right about now you might be thinking, “Why does she write if it’s so hard to get going?” The truth is, if I don’t write I’m miserable. I love creating something out of nothing. I enjoy the research that adds verisimilitude to a story. I become attached to my characters as they take on a life of their own. I get downright giddy when I come up with just the right word to express an idea, a mood, a concept, or a thought. I wouldn’t give up writing for anything. That’s why I’m willing to do whatever it is I have to do in order to find my way back to the blank page.