Sometimes life throws a wrench into everything.
That happened to me at the beginning of August with several family emergencies and health problems colliding at the same time. We weathered a multi-day struggle of figuring out which able-bodied adult was taking care of who and trying our best to not simultaneously burnout.
During the worst days, I shifted into Minimal Work Mode, which includes writing 250 words per day, responding only to burning questions, and checking in to confirm deadlines won’t be missed. All other work had to sit! It takes me a solid day to recover from this level of emotional stress, so after the first full day of rest, I was able to start shifting into a slightly more regular workflow, just keeping lighter hours and ensuring flexibility in case something else popped up. (Which, uh, it did.)
While you can’t plan for life’s wrenches, you can make generic plans for how those wrenches can affect your writing life. Are you someone who feels comfortable throwing in the towel on writing and taking a break until life settles down again? Or are you like me and you need to write daily (even if it’s not on your main project)? Knowing which you’re comfortable doing, and then creating a plan around your work can save a lot of pain in making that decision while you’re already in the midst of distress.
Here’s My Minimal Writing Mode in full:
Check To-Do List for Burning Items
Is there a project that has to have attention today? Usually my writing life isn’t deadline oriented, but when it is, I may have to ensure I can get a submission posted. Many times if I send an email to the stakeholders and explain the situation, they can accept the submission late. (I’m talking about people who I already have a relationship with, not the last day to submit a short story to a magazine—that opportunity might just have to be missed.)
250 Words Per Day
This is a number I set after many years of practice and a realization that even when I’m very sick, I can put together 250 words reliably and quickly. (This has been tested through intense colds and food poisoning, so I feel confident about it.)
Plan to Write a Blog Post
Blog posts are easier for me to write quickly when I’m under stress. If I have one in progress that doesn’t require research, I can add 250 words to it. But if I need to start something new, I have a pre-written list of topics I can choose from. The pre-written list means I’m not wasting mental energy thinking up something, I just have to choose.
Keeping up my daily writing practice in the middle of family emergencies and health chaos may seem inconsequential, but for me it’s a chance for self-care. Whether I’m writing a blog post or spending time in a fictional world, it’s a chance for me to take a beat, sit with my thoughts, and organize something. (When the rest of my world feels disorganized, that feeling becomes even more important!) Knowing what my “easy” mode is and being able to set the boundaries for the minimal effort to keep me happy means I’m always prepared when life throws a wrench in all my plans.
That said, some of the health chaos will be continuing through the coming months, so I’m placing this blog along with some other monthly responsibilities on hiatus through the end of 2022. Keep up a healthy work-life balance in my absence and feel free to say hello and check in with me on Twitter!
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