By Alexa Padgett
My Author Lab post was due yesterday. I didn’t get to it. I should have—I’d given myself plenty of time and even knew the topic I wanted to write about (we’ll get to it next time). Instead, life happened.
Let me back up a moment. I’m the mother of three children. My eldest is a teen, the other two not into those hormone-fueled years yet. My struggles with some large and complex issues, the most pressing of which is anxiety.
For the uninitiated, anxiety is nowhere near as mundane and simple as the word connotes. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say, the past few days have been difficult—mentally and emotionally—for all of us.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the rest of the world from turning, nor does it mitigate my obligations elsewhere. This is my life (with all its stops and starts) and the reality is I have to “just keep swimming” whether I’m capable of doing so or not.
Writing, like creating music or art, takes focus—intensity and clarity—to do well. But, when one’s world is rife with other issues (important ones), how does one continue to work?
The answer is, sometimes you don’t. And this must be okay. Sometimes, it’s important to stop and focus on YOU. I am very bad at this. I want to put all the ducks back in a row and swim off into a dazzling sunset, which is not the way the world works, my friends. At times, stepping back is the only way to clear one’s head and lead to a return of focus. Deadlines be damned!
But…not all deadlines can be blown. It’s in these moments when the stress of life becomes too great. When melancholy threatens to overcome. But these are also the times (depending on the topic), when writing becomes the catharsis: a way to channel one’s feelings and energies into a release. A hopeful path forward. I like these moments because they clear my head and heart.
If, however, one’s topic cannot offer solace, then the next choice is to focus on a tiny task. Once completed (say, correcting grammatical mistakes), then one moves to the next (checking for adverbs), then the next and the next. Goals—checking off one’s list—can be as important mentally as getting that break.
Today I focus on goals. Tomorrow…who knows? Maybe tomorrow I’ll get that mental health break I need. Or maybe, by then, I’ll be writing toward that hopeful path. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.