day twelve: how to write when your world falls apart

My husband and I rang in 2009 crying on our living room floor.

Seven months after we moved to Austin, a month after I started writing EVERY SHATTERED THING, and a few hours after experiencing what felt like a deeply significant wound. We felt betrayed, hurt, angry and exhausted.

I'd spent every single day that month writing thousands of words in Stephanie's story. Now? I had nothing. No words. 

Just blank space where my inspiration used to rest.

Days turned into months and soon, I was staring at my manuscript collecting dust on my dresser over a year later. I ended up finishing the book, and in a lot of ways the space between that night on our living room floor and the afternoon in the middle of a coffee shop proved fruitful and beneficial. I wouldn't have written what I did had I not experienced those in between moments. I grew as a writer, a person, and a storyteller. 

But life almost got the best of me.

So how do you write then? How do write when you get that phone call or lose that job or experience that loss? How do you find words in the midst of chaos?

1. Find your sweet spot.

I got the email on a Monday afternoon. It spoke lies into the very core of my being. This person took my words, twisted them, and then spit them back in my face. It was someone who should know better — someone who chose defend one who hurt me most.

I got up from my desk, walked to my bedroom, curled under my covers and cried for the rest of the afternoon. 

The next morning I woke up spent. The sting of words echoed in my bones, but even more were the words singing for release: the finalization of my edits for SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY, the email I needed to send Rebel Diaries, the words of encouragement I planned for a group coaching call later that night. I wiped the tears, squared my shoulders, and walked back into the rhythm. 

Sometimes, the story is what pulls us back up from the floor. We'll never know if we refuse to try.

2. Rest 

The exhaustion set in yesterday as I sat in my chair trying to write blog posts scheduled for this weekend. It was the brick wall of this summer coming and hitting me all at once.

"Today I feel emptied. Not in a bad way, just in the acknowledgment of everything that's happened. It's the first moment I feel overwhelmed with this week — this month — this season."

I sent the text to a kindred who often knows when I need a listening ear and closed my eyes and took a deep breath, thinking of everything I needed to finish: the email, the video, the blog posts, the reading.

I shook my head. There was no way I would stay awake.

So I took a nap. Once I woke, I felt refreshed and approached my to-do list with renewed vision. I didn't get everything done, but I did get done what needed my unbiased and focused attention. 

I'm writing this blog post a day in advance. Today hasn't felt any different than that moment in the chair. Russ and I slept until 11am this morning, unheard of for my morning-bird of a husband. Despite my eleven hours of sleep last night, all day long I've been fighting exhaustion. We got a letter in the mail today that punched us in the gut. I feel shaky inside like I'm coming down with something and am running a low-grade fever. 

I'm writing this post now, so tomorrow I can rest. No writing. No reading. No brainstorming. 

Just rest. 

Sometimes, life throws curveballs. I get it. Don't let these sharp lefts silence you. Rest well. Dust yourself off. Give yourself time for the wounds to heal. 

And then get back in the game.

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You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 12, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.