Keeping the writer’s head above water

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At almost 1400 km. long, the Fraser River is the longest river in British Columbia. It’s often called “The Muddy Fraser”, a reference to the water’s silty colour. The Fraser’s largest tributary is the Thompson River whose north arm originates at the foot of the Thompson Glacier in the Cariboo Mountains. When it joins the Fraser River in Lytton, BC it retains its distinctly different colour for a short distance, but eventually dissipates and disappears into the murky waters of the Fraser.

Fraser & Thompson join

The confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers at Lytton, BC

Last week I read a post on the Magical Words blog that reminded me of how our writing lives resemble these two rivers. Melding our writing with everything else that goes on in our lives rarely results in a satisfying balance. Something always seems to take precedent.

The danger for writers is that it can become a do or don’t do pursuit. An obsession with writing can end up excluding other equally important things in our lives, OR guilt can push writing into the background, and leave us hoping for an illusive ‘someday’ when there will be more opportunity. Writing full time – having no other claims on our time so we can write when and for however long we wish – is a dream that isn’t as ideal as it might seem. It has its share of pitfalls.

The Magical Words blog post asks how we stay sane while writing in the face of everything else that threatens to swallow our time. How do we find a way to make progress with so many distractions? And if we’re writing full time, how do we partition our time when there is no office clock to punch at the start and end of a work day?

I like the suggestion given – setting goals. Not big ones – those can be self-defeating — but minimum ones, and in combination with an achievable destination. Determining the minimum number of words or pages per week required to finish a project by a specific date means we can portion out a daily workload and step away from the desk when we reach that point. We may choose to do more, but if there are other commitments awaiting our attention we’re not faced with guilt if we decide to close the laptop for the day.

Writing can take over our lives and make us a little crazy. Or we can become resentful of everything else that absorbs our time and keeps us from the writing we’d rather be doing.  Which is it for you? Or have you found the balance that allows both streams to coexist in your daily journey?

The Fraser River near Hope, BC

The Fraser River near Hope, BC

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8 thoughts on “Keeping the writer’s head above water

  1. Judith Robl says:

    At this point, the writing has taken a back seat to all the other claims on my life. I hope to get back to it regularly just after the first of the year when many of the pending issues will have been resolved. Meantime, I love hearing about your progress.

  2. Erica Vetsch says:

    I’ve just recently returned to goal-setting to help keep me ‘between the banks’ of this writing life. I love the idea of the merging rivers.

  3. My schedule is super tight between a full-time job, family, church, and writing. Somewhere in there, I have to schedule time to rest. It all seems to flow better when I’m consistent in my devotional time. Procrastination has been banished because I’m on perpetual deadline.

  4. Carol says:

    Judith, sometimes other demands on our time are too pressing to ignore, but I’m glad you are working towards a specific time when you can resume your writing. Without setting a target, it’s too easy to let the days slip by and our writing muscles begin to atrophy.

    Hi, Erica. I hope your renewed goal-setting proves beneficial. I expect your publishing schedule requires keeping everything carefully on track.

    Susan, making our spiritual and physical health a priority is always important. I no longer work full time, but still seem to run short of time and energy unless I put the right things first.

  5. joylene says:

    I’m not balancing much these days, but that’s okay. I’ve learned that it comes and goes. Hey, were your ears ringing this past weekend? I was bragging about you at the retreat. They were all Fed members and said they’d look you up. Hope they do, because otherwise they have no idea what they’re missing.

    • Carol says:

      I’m not sure what you would have been bragging about, but I’d love to meet your retreat friends. Hope you had a fabulous time there. I’m gearing up for the SiWC conference later this month. I always get such a huge boost from it.

      • You would have enjoyed yourself, Carol because you would have connected with all of them. I was proud to brag about your online presence. You’re making a difference, and that’s what all of us hope for.

  6. Sue Harrison says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and apt post, Carol. You and I have been friends long enough that you know for me it’s a daily struggle to set aside writing time because of a huge commitment to parent care and maintenance and cleaning of parents’ homes. Anger and self-pity seem to be the emotions I have to deal with, but about 2 hours ago my father-in-law went through an low blood sugar episode. I was the one he called, and my husband and I are so so grateful that we could be there for him. And the whole time I’m praying for help and wisdom, and praising God for this somewhat ornery man who is so close to our hearts. Sometimes it takes a bit of a wake-up call to realize how much you love someone!

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