Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Writing Through Emotional Baggage

You just had a fight with your kids. . .
You don't spend enough time with your family. . .
You had a fight with your spouse. . .
You  got a disconnect notice in your mail box. . .
You're going through a divorce. . .
Someone close to you is ill. . .
Your ex-wife is a fruit loop. . .
Your husband cheated on you. . .

There is so much emotional baggage in your life that when you sit down to write, your energy is zapped.
Not only does that suck the life out of you, but you also have to worry about social networking, building a brand, finding our voice, find time for writing, blog, marketing, promoting, etc. . .

Sound familiar?

This was a hard thing for me to do when I first began my journey to publication. I was having a hard time getting the emotional baggage out of my head to even start my computer, never mind all the new stuff (like how to create a character, scene, setting, and everything else that is new to a newbie)  I had to worry about learning.

Emotional baggage is in our head, just like our novels. Writing is probably the hardest emotional job out there. We need to figure out how to work through it.

We all do things differently and that is what makes being a writer amazing, but we can all give each other tips that has helped get us over the emotional baggage speed bump to get our career on track.

1) Writing is a career. Just like any other career, writing is a CAREER. It's not you. You have to treat your writing as you would a job that is outside your house. Many of us have a day job. I am one of them. But I still have to get up, get dressed, go to work, come home, make dinner, get my teenage boys to their sporting events, take the dogs for a walk, do laundry. I can do all of these activities without even thinking about it and still deal with all the emotional baggage in my life.

You have to treat your writing career in this same manner. You have to filter your thought process in order to dig down deep to get your story out of your head and on the page.

2) Discipline. Again, just like you would go to a day job, you have to treat your writing career the same. Once you establish a routine with discipline of sitting down and training your brain to write, you will find your emotional baggage will disappear for the time that you will be focused on your writing for that day. The more disciplined you are, the more writing you will get finished.

3) Keep a writer's to-do list. I make a to-do list at the beginning of each week. I keep it handy next to my computer and check it off as I go along. I stay focused on what I need/have to accomplish and it motivates me to put aside the emotional baggage to get it completed. This will not only help you see what you get done, but you will be able to see some progress to what you are getting complete. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to work through that list. It also makes you feel better, which helps your emotional state.

4) Set some boundaries. This is very difficult for writers with families. My office didn't have doors on either side of the room and my boys would come in and hang out or ask me a million questions when their dad is right in the next room. It's very difficult for me to say, "go ask dad" or "I'm writing. Give me a couple of minutes." I'm a mom! I want to be there for every waking minute of my boys lives. Especially during the summer months are a big emotional baggage for me.

Setting boundaries are so hard for me when it comes to my boys, but I knew I had to do it to do my JOB! Recently I had my husband redo my office and put doors in! Not only has it drowned out the noise in my house that three teenage boys plus their friends can make, but they have given me the peace that I need to get my JOB done. Instead of working all day and night to get my words on the page, I'm getting all my writing done before I have to cook dinner and the rest of the night is dedicated to my family.

5) Location/Tools. I've talked about this before and I really do believe it helps. Like I stated earlier, I have three teenage boys who do a lot of sports, which means a lot of practices. Luckily we are in several car pools, but on my days I'm able to relax in my family van, lay back the seats, and with NO internet I can crank out 2k words in two hours. (I didn't say they were great words, but they are on the page to edit!)
Just Monday, I was at my son's lacrosse practice. . .

Changing your location can bring you out of the emotional baggage situation by changing your view. You would be surprised how great this works.

What about the tools you use to write? I switch back and forth from my lap top to long-hand in a journal. I buy a journal for each book. It's not just any old journal. It's a journal that speaks to me (and you know what I mean) when I'm at the store. I also use a certain type of mechanical pencil. All of these help my state of mind. It helps me focus on what I need to get done with my job. . .leaving the emotional baggage in the back ground for me to worry about later.

And. . .

if none of this helps or you don't have a solution to help, you really might need some deeper psychological help from a true professional.
Remember. . .you are a writer. . .let the words flow!

How do you check your emotional baggage at your writer door?
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14 comments:

  1. Great advice, Tonya, and very timely. I find that writing away from home helps a lot. If nobody can find me, nobody can interrupt me, and a change of scenery means a change in thought process. I also like meeting with another writer friend for a work session. We're each allowed a few minutes to vent on current life issue, then computers on and the only sound allowed is the tapping of keys.

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    1. Hi, Anna! I agree that changing your environment can help out so much. I too love to meet with my writer friends. I get together with them every other week and it's so good and refreshing. After I leave, I feel like I can set the world on fire!

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  2. All good points, Tonya. I find discipline - I picked up the term 'butt glue' at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival - is most useful to me.

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    1. Hahhaa!! Carol I LOVE butt glue!! I can just see the packaging now!! Dedicated to writers of course:))

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  3. Some very good advice here, Tonya! Thanks.

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  4. Just what I needed today. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks so much, Karen! Sometimes we have to read what we already know to get us going:)

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  5. I can't begin to tell you what the last 2 years have been like. Separation/divorce sucks, but I'd thought my writing would help me through it. It was a struggle just to think at times, much less try to write a ROMANCE!

    I did manage to complete a novella, that has a great revenge :-) scene (if I may say so, myself) but it should have been done long ago.

    I'm starting to feel my writing passion return. Actually editing for self-published authors has helped immensely, so I'm thinking I'm veering back on track.

    Thanks, Tonya! You've given me so much to focus on.

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    1. Revenge is the best, Gabriella!! I have a few of those in my current WIP...I'm hoping they don't recognize themself in it:)) Well. . .maybe;)
      Hugs to you on your journey over the past couple years!

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  6. Hi, Tonya! I agree -- it's all about setting up realistic boundaries if we want to get some serious writing done. Thanks for the hands-on advice!

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    1. Sandra, it is about boundaries and getting the job done no matter what is hanging over your head. In real life the boss doesn't care if your dog is sick or your kid is sick. At the end of the day, it's all about getting your job completed. We are writers. And that is our job!
      Thanks for hanging out today!

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  7. Hi Tonya,

    It's a balancing act and a delicate one at that. Thanks for the inspiring post.

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  8. And sometimes writing can put time-off and distance between us and the person/thing that irked us. Writing doesn't only offer hope, it gives me the chance to calm down and to nourish my spirit back. Great post here, Tonya!

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