Ironically enough, just six days after I posted the last blog entry, I got the call. No, not THE call, but the call that heralds the beginning of a family emergency. A very involved family emergency. A family emergency that will be part of my life for quite awhile, and which will take up a good deal of….time….
Now fortunately, this emergency doesn’t involve a serious injury, illness, or crime, and I’m grateful for that. I also am (mostly) glad that I can provide what this person needs. But I also find myself frustrated at the loss of the writing time I’d been longing for–and which has been put aside for others many times before. Not that I’m…ok, I do have some bitter moments.
I know I’m not the only one in this situation. In fact, I would guess that most writing women who are not independently wealthy find themselves giving up or postponing their dreams so that they can work, care for children, care for an aging parent, spouse, family member; or other reason. In her book, Silences, author Tillie Olsen discusses the ways in which women’s artistic talents have often been stifled by the nature of their lives. And it is true that, for the moment, while my life has been completely upended by this event, my husband’s goes on virtually unaffected.
It doesn’t help to ruminate about the situation, however. The question is: how can we continue to write, while at the same time handling the emergencies life often sends our way? Here are some ideas; hopefully one will work for you!
First, try to rearrange your time. For example, if you need to care for your aging mother during the day, but have your evenings free, switch your writing hours. This may be a challenge if you typically do your best work in the morning, or if you’re spent by sundown, but it’s worth a try.
Second, focus only on the most important parts of your day. What tasks can you drop? Does your house need to be spotless? Can the beds go unmade? Is ironing really necessary? Can the weeds in the yard grow a little? Do they really need you on that committee? By paring down your life to the bare essentials, you may uncover some (essential) writing time.
You can also ask for help. Yes, really, all-sufficient one, you can ask for help! Can your husband give the kids a bath, help with homework, make the grocery run? Can your kids help pick up around the house? Walk the dog? Put away laundry? Can other family members spell you? Is it financially feasible to hire help with housework, babysitting, or respite care? If your emergency is very stressful, you may find that such services are essential to maintain your sanity–and that writing helps you retain it.
Ask yourself: is this really an emergency? You may find that it’s not. Are you enabling, rather than helping that family member? Would they be better off trying to solve their own problems? Do they really expect you to provide a magic wand for their lives–or do you just expect it of yourself? Can you ask them for a day off?
Before you find yourself overusing the words “never” and “always,” determine, realistically, how long this situation will last. It could only be a short-term adjustment, after which you’ll resume your normal routine. Or it could be long-term, even permanent. If your emergency (like mine) seems to have a built-in time limit, don’t drive yourself and your family crazy with angst; put on those vaunted big-girl panties and do what you need to do (I have to do this every day–and I do whine about it). If this emergency is, in fact, your new life, have faith that in time, you’ll be able to adjust, and that writing will be a part of this adjustment.
Finally, a note to other Christian writers. I’ve noticed that sometimes, we have a tendency to try to “interpret” events in our lives as pointing to God’s ultimate plan for us. For example, I can, if I wish, consider this emergency and all the other obstacles I’ve encountered as “proof” that God does not want me to have a writing career. Or, I can see those obstacles as hoops He wants me to jump through to prove my desire to succeed. See? It can go either way. Job didn’t know the mind of God, and neither do we. If God gave you the talent and the desire to write, then by all means, use that talent. If you serve Him, work hard, and pray for His will, that talent will come to fruition, whether it be through that big New York publishing contract, devotional poetry that brings other closer to Him, or just a way you can cope with the trials and joys (don’t forget the joys) of life. But I think that it is unwise to assume we can discern immediately what His will is in every aspect of our lives.
Finally, take a deep breath. It’s life. Everyone goes through it. It’s never easy. But trials build character, discipline–and plots! Got an emergency? Take notes–it may become your next novel!