Monday, August 08, 2011

When Life Kicks You in the Teeth

We're chugging along writing, reading about writing, thinking about writing . . . on our way to a higher rung on the writing ladder . . . when life kicks us in the teeth. We fall ill, lose a close companion, receive an unfavorable diagnosis, or have an accident. We lose the job, lose the house, lose the spouse. God forbid we lose a child.

You can set down your journal and blogs, but what if you're under contract? Or what if your book is about to be released? Or what if you need that writing income to make ends meet? Maybe today, this week, this month . . . you just can't do it. Write, I mean. It doesn't feel important compared to the crap life has dumped on you.

Someone Tweeted me about this, asking me how is someone with a medical situation is supposed to market her writing when she's physically handicapped from doing so for a while. It made me think about anyone who feels the pain of unexpected tragedy.What do we do when lightning strikes us, taking us off our game for now, for the mid-term, for the long haul?

Short term adjustments

1. Step away and deal with your life. Breathe. Adjust. Cope.

2. Once the tears stop or you've learned to write with your other hand not in the cast, open your Kindle, Nook, iPad or book. Reconnect with words, reading something that you love, that helps you remember how comforting words can be. Just enjoy someone else's writing.

3. Let your online community know. It astounds me how loving and caring online friends can be. Even if you cannot post a comment about your condition, ask a friend or relative to do so. Ask an online friend to let others know why your newsletter stopped, your blog posts ceased, your emails aren't answered. Relish the oh-so-consoling replies from those who care.

4. Inform your editors, agent and publisher. They rely upon you. Again, have someone else do it for you if you cannot.

5. Jot a note each day or two, just to remain in touch with the personal pleasure of writing words.

Longer term adjustments

1. Get your calendar. Faced with a situation that make take several weeks or months to recover from or adapt to, once you've given yourself the proper acclimation period (but not too long), study your obligations.  Maybe even with a friend. What appointments and deadlines will you miss? Which can you reschedule? Which are no longer possible?

2. Prioritize. A book release is paramount compared to your blog posts. Book signings may have to be replaced by online or phone presentations. An article needing interviews and research might be too much to handle. Decide what to keep, postpone or throw away.

3. Readjust. You do not jump back in as if nothing happened. Life shifted on you. Blog once a week instead of five times. Shorten your posts. Have someone else sift through emails for a while. Ask for a reprieve on regular assignments. Try not to stop the machine, and instead, keep it running at a lower speed. If you can no longer travel, learn how to travel smarter online. Find software, a mouse, a chair or desk to accommodate you. Hire a virtual assistant.

People are marvelous creatures. Just look at the stories that abound after hurricanes, tornadoes, eathquakes or fires. They understand deeply . . . to a point.

People are empathetic. They'll hold assignments for you . . . until it hurts them and their obligations. They'll adjust along with you . . . until it costs them too much to do so. Deadlines come and go, even when your life is on hold. While others are aching to understand your plight, you must in turn be understanding of their needs, dates, and responsibilities. You cannot take it personally when they move on.

For instance, you may have to relinquish an article to someone else so that a magazine can go to print on time. You may have to hire someone to snare more press, design a higher profile website, schedule blog and radio  interviews when you cancel a four-state book tour. You learn how to Skype, podcast and hold real-time chats. You embrace social networking harder. You create a phone app. You use the gazillion electronic tools available to you.

And you ask for help.
And you appreciate the help offered to you.
And you understand when that help is no longer available.

And if life still sucks, you stop, deal with the seriousness that's on your plate . . . and jump back in when you can. Just please understand when others cannot take up the gauntlet for you forever. Their careers are not your career. While we're part of a huge international writing community, writing is a business. And as distasteful as the fact may be, sometimes we forget that.

Do whats right for you and those in your close circle, but know that others are doing the same. It is great, however, when those circles overlap.


Cheryl Barker said...

Great post, Hope. Good to give these things some thought before we're actually faced with the situation.

BECKY said...

Wonderful advice, but may we all never have to use it.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

This is a great post and reminder that blogging isn't everything -- but also reminds us that we should keep blogging friends in the loop with what's going on in our lives! (p.s. tried to access via google reader a blog of yours titled "why people don't want to read you everyday," and got the message that the page does not exist... just an fyi. - Julia

Karen Lange said...

This is great advice, Hope. I used some of these when my Mom passed away in March 2010, and again when my sister died unexpectedly in November 2010. In some ways I feel as though I am still regrouping, but making progress thanks in part to these kinds of things and the amazing support from my blogging friends.

quietspirit said...

An excellent post. We never know when we will be in that type of circumstance. Thanks for the guidance.

Carol J. Alexander said...

Excellent, Hope. While I've never had to deal with any more than temporary sickness interfering with my writing, nonetheless, it does. One thing I like to do is stay ahead of my deadlines. If I plan to turn things in a week or two early, then if I or a child gets sick, I've already bought myself a few days off.

Ellie Kuykendall said...

Great blog post, Hope. This is exactly what has happened to me, Hope. So, I've been doing some of your suggestions, and they help. Part of "recovery" was to start a blog. I had hoped to write in it every day, but that hasn't happened. Fortunately, though, I haven't let that get me down. I just keep working on getting well and writing my blog when moved to do so. Part of it has been cathartic (as you said in your comment on one of them) about my illness. The other posts (and they are much higher in number) just talke about life and my observations, suggestions, etc. I'm praying that I can get back to writing for money and full-time as soon as possible!


Anthony J. Langford said...

A great article Hope. Good advice. Nothing like an upset of some kind to bring on writer's block.
never really considered this aspect as I don't have a contract of any kind but we do pressure ourselves to keep our profile's, blogs etc. Must be so much harder with a book due.

Thanks again.