When this author hears a knock at the door, it’s usually life, ready to pile more onto her plate. As a busy writer, you can probably relate, so try these sanity-saving tips whenever chaos reigns.
by Cari Lynn Webb
It seems every year, every season, every month, I find myself saying something like, “Next week or month or year, the wonderful chaos that is my life will quiet. And then I’ll find myself in what I envision as the quintessential writing zone.” In my whimsical imaginings, this looks something like hours of uninterrupted writing time. Words that flow beautifully and easily onto each and every page. Many finished books. And a state of blissful happiness as I go about living my best writing life.
Knock. Knock. What’s that? Ah yes. That’s life knocking. Someone open the door and let the chaos in, please. While you’re there, let the dog out. Close the blinds—sunlight isn’t helpful for a migraine. Get the girls packed and moved to college. Visit your parents in another state. Celebrate your husband’s birthday. Say goodbye to a beloved family cat. And don’t forget you are on deadline.
That’s my real world. (Actually that’s a small snippet of my life the past two weeks while on said deadline.) Until the chaos calms (and I’m certain it will eventually because I’m nothing if not hopeful), I’ve landed on three sanity savers that also keep me writing. Because the one thing I do know is those deadlines come no matter what else is happening. And there always seems to be something going—some good, some not so good, and everything in between. I’m also quite certain I’m not the only one running in several directions every hour, and if you have your own sanity savers, I’d love to hear about them.
1. Exercise. Every single day. For me, this is non-negotiable. It’s my time to recharge (and if I’m walking our dog, it’s her time too). Exercise dials my stress down, especially on tight deadlines with uncooperative books. I’ve fixed many a plot hole on a long walk around the neighborhood. And I have figured out more than a few character arcs on my spin bike. If you can’t spare an hour to exercise, break it up into ten-minute spurts throughout the day. There’s nothing like taking time for yourself to clear your mind and find your focus. Rediscover your why.
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2. Break it up. I have this quote on a sticky note that is stuck to my computer monitor: The thought is more overwhelming than the task. (And my apologies to the author of this quote as I don’t know who said it first). But I’ve quoted it to my family quite often. I’ve found that tackling things in small bites makes everything more manageable and much less overwhelming. When life is hectic, this is especially important for my writing. If I think about needing to write seventy thousand words in less than four weeks, well, that stops me (and my muse) cold. However, if I break those seventy thousand words down into scenes and tell myself I need to write one scene a day, then suddenly I’m breathing again. Suddenly finishing my book feels doable. I apply this tactic to most of my life when things feel too much to handle. To-do lists with simple tasks have gotten me through the big things, like cross-country moves, and smaller things, like a super busy week filled with appointments, family obligations, and writing.
Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to sit on the porch, eat a handful of gummy bears, and vow to get it all done tomorrow.
3. Gratitude. I take time every day to be grateful. Grateful for my family and friends and the busy life I’ve been blessed with. There is something about pausing and simply expressing gratitude, even if it’s just me in my office talking to myself about what I’m grateful for, that is so uplifting. It circles me back around to why I love my life and why I love writing. When I take the time to do that, I feel stronger and steadier and absolutely ready to take on whatever life wants to bring my way.
If all else fails, well, there’s always a large bag of gummy bears in our pantry. And sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to sit on the porch, eat a handful of gummy bears, and vow to get it all done tomorrow. And consider that living our best lives.
Cari Lynn Webb is a USA Today–bestselling author who lives in South Carolina with her husband, daughters, and assorted four-legged family members. She’s been blessed to see the power of true love in her grandparents’ seventy-year marriage and her parents’ marriage of over fifty years. She knows love isn’t always sweet and perfect—it can be challenging, complicated, and risky—but still believes happily-ever-afters are worth fighting for.
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