It’s turning into a no-excuses sort of year. Not because I haven’t had plenty of excuses, but because, no matter what the world throws at me, if I want to be a writer, I have to write. Even when the universe is hurling trials like hail in an Oklahoma thunderstorm, if you want to be a writer, you have to write.
Trust me. I know of what I speak.
This summer, in the course of three days, two of my children were involved in two accidents which resulted in one broken thumb, one broken sternum, three broken wrists, three broken ribs, three surgeries, and ten days in the hospital. (You can read more about their accidents here.)
I had some excuses. And those excuses were more than you might imagine. Sure, there was the last-minute trip to Salt Lake City—did I mention one of those accidents happened out of state? There was the time in ICU watching our son struggle to breathe. There were the wrist surgeries. There were all the follow-up appointments—including two ER visits—to deal with the lingering medical issues, casts, and more.
But that’s not all. As if the time involved wasn’t enough of an excuse to take a month or two or six off writing, there was also the emotional toll. We almost lost them. Two out of three of our children could have been snatched from our lives in an instant.
Thank God they weren’t. But they could have been.
That thought has plagued me more than once.
So yeah, I’ve had my share of excuses. And I did take some time off writing, obviously. But I started this post telling you it had turned into a no-excuses year. I needed to write.
The question was, how? How was I supposed to set aside time I didn’t have, awaken my writer’s brain from its long sleep, and climb out of the emotional wreckage left in the wake of the accidents? On the far side of that struggle, I have a few tips to share.
- First, you have to know why you’re writing. If you don’t have a strong, compelling why, then writing will be the first thing you cast aside when life gets hard. For me, the reason is simple. Writing is my livelihood. If I choose not to write, then I’m going to have to get a real job, one that requires me to do things like change out of my yoga pants and put on makeup every single day. I shudder at the thought. Your reason for writing might be loftier than mine—to write the story of your heart, to share the lessons of your life with others. Whatever your reason, write it down and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day.
- Second, you have to decide you’re going to do it. Have you ever had to push a broken-down car? Ever noticed how hard it is to get that sucker moving from a dead stop? Jumping back into writing felt about as easy as pushing a Hummer with the emergency brake on. I decided that, no matter what, I would write again. In my case, I went on a short writing retreat. I spent two days working on a new story. The first few words and scenes and chapters were difficult, but I pushed through and got that Hummer moving.
- Third, you have to create a plan to keep the momentum going. When I got back from that trip, I scheduled writing for the following week—and then blew it as many days as I managed it. Doctor’s appointments and editing projects and… excuses, excuses. But I kept scheduling that writing time until I pushed that Hummer to the crest of the hill. And then, the words flowed, and the Hummer barreled down fast. The novella I started writing at that retreat in September, I finished last week. The hardest part was the starting.
If you’re a writer, you have to write. Even when it’s hard. No. Especially when it’s hard. As writers, it’s our job to take all that hard stuff—the emotions, the fears, the worries, the sleepless nights—and use it.
It’s been said that a cow’s superpower is the ability to transform grass into steak. Impressive, I know.
But a writer’s superpower is the ability to transform the breadth of life—heartbreak and happiness, bitterness and beauty, fear and love and everything in between—into words on a page. Words that heal. Words that transform. Words that bring laughter and tears. Words that speak truth. Words that glorify the One who created the entire universe—with His words.
It’s been a no-excuses kind of year, because I’m a writer, and writers write. No excuses.
Aside from her family and her Savior, Robin Patchen has two loves—writing and traveling. If she could combine them, she’d spend a lot of time sitting in front of her laptop at sidewalk cafes and ski lodges and beachside burger joints. She’d visit every place in the entire world—twice, if possible—and craft stories and tell people about her Savior. Alas, time is too short and money is too scarce for Patchen to traipse all over the globe, even if her husband and kids wanted to go with her. So she stays in Oklahoma, shares the Good News when she can, and writes to illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.