How to Keep Writing When Life Throws You Curveballs

Whew! What a roller coaster 2016 has been. From the World Series to the presidential election, I’ve had my share of late nights, nail biting, close calls, celebration, and despair.

During Game 7, in the bottom of the third inning, Carlos Santana crushed a curveball to right for a single, bringing Coco Crisp home and tying the game for the Cubs. And millions of hearts pounded.

On election night, the predictions were thrown out the window as several states flip-flopped between red and blue. And Facebook feeds nearly went up in flames.

So in tumultuous times like these, what happens to your writing life? When current events derail your usual routines and wreak havoc on your peace of mind, here are some activities that, in my opinion, count toward writing time without requiring the same creative stamina.

1. Install a proofreading app.

Grammarly, PolishmywritingGinger, or SpellChecker are all good tools for spotting spelling or grammatical mistakes, and they increase your writing efficiency by suggesting edits. Take a few minutes to investigate and install one and let that be your writing effort for the day.

2. Watch a video about the craft of writing.

There are countless Youtube videos you can watch to be in “writer mode” without actually sitting down to a blank page or screen. A couple of suggestions are: Lee Gutkind, How to Write Creative Nonfiction or writer Stuart Dybek, on short fiction.

3. Eavesdrop on a conversation.

If you’re out at the grocery store or coffee shop, take five minutes to listen to a nearby conversation and write it down. Then challenge yourself to somehow use it in your work. You may find that it spins you in a different, delightful direction or gets you past a block.

4. Read.

Reading is not just a leisurely past time. For writers, it’s an essential part of your job. If you’re feeling too scattered or distracted by life to make progress on your writing, allow yourself extra time to read. It will always serve you in the long run.

5. Write about the distraction.

Like the children’s book says, when you’re going on a bear hunt, don’t try to go around, over, or under your obstacles. You’ve got to go through them. If you can’t write because you’re distracted or in a lousy mood, write about that. You can always rip it up or delete it, but it will keep those mental muscles warm.