Writing Through Thick and Thin

by Constance Emmett
published in Writing

Writing through thick and thin is not easy. Every writer’s life has thin stretches which overwhelm the importance of writing. Illness, death of a loved one, financial disaster, and now in climate change, weather related disasters: all overwhelm. All terrible, all distracting. Life has thick stretches too, joyous events such as marriage, childbirth, raising happy and healthy children—all great, all distracting. But writing must be a consistent habit for a writer to grow, to produce, to succeed. So how can we write through thick and thin?

Write Every Day

Habits, good and bad, are hard to break. Establishing a daily writing habit will help you write through thick and thin. Name as many good habits as you can, the ones you keep. Don’t go for difficult habits like exercise or being grateful (unless you practice both daily), but something easier, more routine. For instance, you may not get 8 hours of sleep every single night, even if you set it as a goal. If you don’t set it as a goal, however, you will never get enough sleep. Think of writing as being in the same habit genre. I may not be able to write for 6 or 4 hours every day, or even 2 hours, but if I don’t sit down and write for however long I can every day, I’ll never link those short spurts with longer ones until hey presto! the novel’s first draft is complete. Writing each day will develop your muscle memory for the activity. The consistency will not only produce completed works but will allow you the time to grow as a writer.

Honor Your Reality

Founder and instigator of DIYMFA.com Gabriel Pereira related to our P2P class that as a writer she learned to “honor her reality,” https://diymfa.com/writing/honor-your-reality/. What does that mean? It means that as a human with obligations, sometimes you must recognize the situation you are in and act accordingly. In fact, you must recognize the situation and give yourself over to it: you just can’t write through thick and thin. Thin times require honoring your reality. Your child/partner/parent or you are sick—all these situations require you to leave your desk and take care of someone, including yourself. But thick times require a reality check too. If your sister is getting married and asks for your participation, you will have to plan the hen party. You will have to honor that reality and plan to write around it.

It Comes Down to Planning

Many things in life can’t be planned, but your writing time should not be one of them. Once the habit of daily writing takes hold, you can afford to lose writing hours to the care of yourself and others. It comes down to planning. The plan should hold for thick or thin, since whether you are leaving the desk for a brisk walk or spending days as a patient due to an illness, you are caring for yourself, and that is absolutely necessary. You need the care or your family does, and there’s no getting around it. You may be juggling family, your job, and writing. Everyone may be fine but there’s a lot to handle. Most situations, thick or thin, can be handled in as relaxed a way as possible with planning. Find a time of the day when routinely there are fewer demands upon you—early in the morning or late at night or when the kids are in school—and set that as your writing time. Try to make that time inviolable. If you are consistent, time can be given to honoring your reality when you need to, and you still will make progress with your writing.

Easy, Huh?

Even with planning and habit making, writing consistently won’t be easy. There are extremes in life that make it impossible to write through thick and thin. Death in the family, divorce and grave illness define thin times. But in routine times, you work, cook meals, go on hikes, play music, garden—things you must do, things you like to do. You must give time to all those activities to have a healthy and happy life. In the humdrum of daily regular life, the days when everyone is blessedly well and things are smooth, even dull, it is easy to plan the time to write, to give your writing the importance it deserves. Don’t forget to include the space where this habit can form. A place that will be available, quiet, and comfortable during those hours you plan to write. A room of one’s own, if possible, but at least a solid surface in a quiet corner.

Your Brain Needs Time in PJs

If you start when life is sort of rolling along, the daily writing habit will quickly become just that. A full life requires doing the things that you like, that fill your soul, but also doing the things that make your life function. Walking the dog in the woods but also grocery shopping, cooking good meals but also doing the dishes…you get it. And in fact, the brain needs some time not writing but sitting around in pajamas to create. I am always surprised by how a thorny plot problem resolution comes to mind while folding the laundry. I’d be happy to tell you that giving your brain some time in pajamas, while essential, counts as writing time, and it does, but only sort-of, sorry. The hard graft of writing is just that: putting words on paper or editing the words you’ve put there already. The more time you consistently give to that act, the more you will accomplish, that much is simple. Good habits are hard to form but take the first steps now: stake your writing space and plan your writing time. Show up and write! Good writing!

Constance Emmett was born in Brooklyn, New York where her mother’s family landed after leaving Belfast, Northern Ireland. Constance’s debut novel, Heroine of Her Own Life (2019) and sequel, Everything Will Be All Right (2022), books 1 and 2 in the Finding Their Way Home series, were published by Next Chapter. A Massachusetts Hilltown dweller, she is writing book 3 in the series and a novel set in 18th c. New York.

You can find her on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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