Writing When You’re Overwhelmed

This isn’t an article about finding snippets of time to write in an already busy schedule.  That’s a very common, on-going situation for many of us, and I’ll write about it later.  But sometimes life throws you a curve, or two, or three.  Not only is any semblance of a writing schedule gone, but so is the ability to be creative.  The mind is simply overwhelmed by a crisis.

I’m in that situation now.  Re-settling in the US, buying a house, and helping a dear friend re-start a consulting business after her recent widowhood leave me brain-weary sometimes.  I sit down to write, and my mind just has nothing creative to give.

I found a solution yesterday that meets the need of working on my novel daily, but didn’t pressure me and my lack of creativity.  This particular novel began during National Novel Writing Month, and there are a couple of scenes in which I cheated:  I copied some religious discussions from an online manual and pasted them in.  (Hey, it helped me meet my word count for the day, and I went far enough over the 50K by the end that it didn’t matter.)

Anyway, those scenes need massive re-writing.  And for me, editing is always easier than trying to put words on paper in the first place.  So I spent a good bit of time re-doing the scene, I still made progress on my novel, and it didn’t cause my brain to implode.

When stress overwhelms your creative capacity, head for left brain work instead.  Tighten a scene, mark all the weak adjectives and passive verbs in your manuscript, or highlight sections of description, dialogue, and narrative to see where the balance is.  And if you’re not at the editing stage, just doodle around and make idea webs, a free-thinking exercise that doesn’t require the depths of creativity that writing a scene does.

When the crisis eases (and it will), you’ll still be in the habit of regular work.  And you’ll slide right back to that lovely, gut-wrenching obsession we call creating fiction.

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