Thursday, February 28, 2013

Overcoming (Writing) Adversity

I attended the LTUE (Life, the Universe, and Everything) Symposium for the first time this year. This is a three-day workshop focused around speculative fiction (fantasy, sci fi, horror, paranormal, etc.), but still has a lot of really good general writing information. I don't traditionally write spec fiction, but this conference inspired me to dabble in it a bit.

Whenever you go to writing conferences, you get a lot of great advice, instruction, and information. LTUE was no exception. I'll share more of that info with you as the weeks progress. But perhaps the most helpful panel for me was the very first one I attended called Overcoming Adversity.

As you all know, my life is busy, and finding or making time to write is very difficult. I am a part-time teacher (which, since it's teaching, that means nearly full-time), mom of a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, Stampin' Up Demonstrator, wife, and homemaker. My kids are young enough they need fairly constant availability, so I can only write when they are not around. Evenings are the only time I get to spend with my hubby (once the kids go to bed), and I am so NOT a morning person. So I went looking for some direction.

I got some good answers, but mostly I got reassurance and encouragement. Exactly what I needed.

The panel consisted of four or five authors whom I would consider successful. They have each traditionally published at least one book; many of them have published several. Most of them were women with relatively young children as well, so I related to that, but they also had other family and health concerns, which added adversity into their writing lives.

The best question asked at the panel was, "Do you always write through adversity? And if so, how?" Every panel member said, "No." I perked right up. Suddenly, I wasn't alone. People who were successful didn't write "at least 15 minutes every day," like every other presentation at every other conference tells me I should be doing. That meant there was hope yet for me.

The panel members said they give themselves permission not to write some days, especially when other priorities take precedence (like family). One member said that she gives herself permission not to write, but she knows she also feels better about her life and herself if she will only write for 15 minutes. One member said that due to health issues, some days she physically cannot write. One member is well into his advanced years and just published his first book because he had to provide a living for his family.

Ah, reassurance, indeed. I can do it, even with my crazy schedule. I just can't give up and must keep working at the pace I am able.  Even if I can't write every single day for an hour or two, I can still write and eventually achieve success.

But, I am sure you also want to know what other answers or suggestions I got out of this panel:

  • Try a "weekly" writing schedule rather than a daily one.  This is what I am trying based upon one panel member making an off-hand comment that the only time she has to write is when she goes to the library twice a week while her youngest is in preschool.
  • Balance your life and make sure your family is first in your priorities.
  • The people we help and serve give us stories to write, so don't neglect them.  
  • When you can't write consistently, keep a consistent writing journal, so you have your ideas gathered to work with when you can return to writing. This is what one panel member did while caring for an ailing parent.
  • Writer shorter pieces to see success while still working on the longer ones.  This is more of an impression that came through various panels and discussions throughout the whole symposium, and something I'm going to experiment with myself.
  • Measure success by the things you can control, not the things you can't.  (Easier said than done.)
  • Writing can help -- or hinder -- our ability to solve our problems.
  • When you get really stuck, walk away and try something else for a while.
  • Follow Pablo Picasso's advice: "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
  • Don't give up.
That last one is my favorite: "Don't give up." The process may be slow and long, like mine, but you'll get there eventually. Just give yourself permission to get there at your pace and in your own way.