Thursday, June 28, 2007

Life Gets In The Way

by Suzanne Welsh

About two months ago a situation occurred in my other career that set in motion a series of events that changed my life this past month. My beta reader, (the person who reads my manuscripts strictly as a reader), took a new job with greater responsibility at a new hospital. She in turn offered me a position with this new staff. Taking a leap of faith in her and my own skills, I switched hospitals.

This new position had me doing what I love, delivering babies, but it also meant a greater commitment of my time. Translation, I went from working twelve-hour nights for nineteen years, to one solid month of eight-hour days. For a confirmed vampire, this has been a shock to my system. And as a writer the whole ordeal limited my available writing time.

This month of working days gave me a new appreciation for those writers who do it on a daily basis and still find time to write. I must confess, that not all of my home time has been wasted with mundane chores or sleeping. I did manage to work on a nursing article I hope to get published in a professional journal, and I taught a continuing education course to the other nurses this month. But sadly I felt like my romance writing, in particular my current work in progress (WIP), took a backseat to everything else.

When working night shift, on my days off I am up by eight and write at least until noon, with at least one hour during that time to blog or answer e-mails or work on my local RWA chapter’s concerns. Then about one in the afternoon it’s nap time. If I work that night, then I’m good to go. If I have the night off, the nap allows me to write again later at night. This day shift gig has my system all out of whack.

The other thing I noticed was how down I felt. The creative process must feed into some mental endorphins I need to keep my mood and mind balanced. Putting aside something I enjoy to focus intently on some other part of my life seems to put everything else off the axis in which I move on a daily basis.

One positive thing that happened was during the extra half-hour it takes me to drive to and from work my mind would work like a sledgehammer on certain points I still need to write in order to finish my WIP. And one particularly disturbing morning a character from a Regency Historical I’ve played with suddenly started talking to me. Literally. The heroine sat in the passenger seat and told me her back-story and how it affected her actions in the beginning of the book. (Yeah, it freaked me out, too!)

Thank goodness I return to nights next week!

Have you ever had a situation in your life where you couldn’t concentrate on writing so you had to just tuck it away for a while? Did you find your mind gravitating towards it at odd times? How did you handle the added stress?


Christine Wells said...

Suzanne, I hope you regain your balance with that change in work hours! Great post.

I was about to take time off from writing (who knows if I could have actually done it?) to have my second child, but mere weeks after I made that decision, I sold. I do find that I get awfully CRANKY when I haven't written for a few days, so I think you must be right about those endorphins!

I love the idea of a Regency heroine sitting primly next to you in the car. You think you were freaked out. Imagine how she must have felt!

Joan said...


Well first of all, good luck with your new job.

Secondly, despite all my talk about my 12 hr (13 hr, 14 hr, 15hr) days with "the crazies" at my hospital my writing...even though I cannot at any particular moment stop to the balm that gets me through.

Of course I want to accomplish success in publishing so that I can quit stress and strain of the hospital (or at least go part time) but thinking about my story, working out plot points in my head, anticipation for the conferece (and the drink from Caren :-)all day long GETS ME THROUGH it.

Writing as a balm. *sigh*

TracyG said...


I know how you feel. For me, the change came in the form of a major move. Nothing like acres of cardboard to stimey the creative process.

Regency heroine in the front seat, huh? I doubt I could have stayed on the road! :D

Jo Davis said...

Great post! Your struggle to balance your writing with your hours on days reminds me of when I taught school full time and wrote while trying to get published. You and Tracy have heard this before, but for the others here-- I'd come home after teaching all day, make dinner, supervise my kids' homework, write until midnight, then get up and repeat the day. Every day. I wrote on weekends.

Those days are long gone, thank God, and I'm blessed to be able to write full-time. I was stretched to the limit, something had to go, and it wasn't going to be my writing.

Lately I had to put aside my writing for three days after I totalled my Expedition (I was so sore I couldn't sit at the computer for long), and I just about went nuts sitting on the sofa with my characters' scenes playing out in my head! :)

Anonymous said...

Suz, it seems so funny to think that going from 12-hour days to 8-hour days would mean less time to write! I hadn't even thought how blissful it would be to have an entire day to dedicate to writing until you described it...

I work full time and have two young kids. When work is slow, I try to squeeze a little writing time in while I'm a work, but when I'm at my max at work (like now), nothing else can enter my brain during the day.

I get up early to write before the kids get up, and I am a crazy multi-tasker. I find my best plotting comes while I'm running or working out, and I do a lot of editing while I'm on the stationary bike.

But I've never thought about getting visitations while I'm in the car...hmmm...something I'll have to try! ;-)

Caren Crane said...

Suz, this is all very thought-provoking. The job I had for 8 months before the one I have now was one I took purely for income (though not much) and medical benefits. I enjoyed the customers I worked with, but the company was horrible.

I did software installs and troubleshooting for a small company.

It translated into 8 hours a day of talking into a headset and logging remotely onto other people's computers to solve their problems. It was incredibly stressful and challenging. The little time I took for lunch, my brain refused to work on writing. And when I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of a computer! Not to mention the three kids and the husband and house, etc.

It was a time when I almost gave up writing, simply from exhaustion and frustration. Then, in the midst of it, I almost sold. Ultimately the Marketing Dept shot down the sale, but I was *this close*. It was the little oomph I needed to keep going.

Now that I have more time, writing is still hard. But I never think of giving up. Hang in there, Suz, the night shift is coming back around!

Anna Sugden said...

Hugs Suzanne - we all go through it!

I certainly do - but for a very different reason than the rest of you superwomen! I don't work (thanks US immigration *grin*) and don't have kids. You'd think I'd have all the time in the world to pump out books. Hah!

Aside from people assuming I have nothing to do all day but sit at home and twiddle my thumbs, so they are always tapping me for stuff, life intrudes for me too. Usually in big chunks, like travel and visitors and the issues you face being an alien in a foreign country (eg two lots of tax forms!)- which is so disruptive.

If I'm not rigid about fitting those disruptions around my writing time, I'd never get anything done. I have to treat writing as my part-time job or it just won't happen. (just think about what happens to you superwomen on a day off - how many interruptions do you get in your otherwise 'free time'?)

Don't get me wrong - I'm very lucky to be able to stay at home. But, it's not as easy as you might think!

Trish Milburn said...

Interesting post, Suz. I think my biggest time of having to put writing in the back seat was when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. My in-laws lived 3 hours from us, so hubby and I would work all week, then hop in the car on Friday afternoons, drive 3 hours, help out with my MIL during the weekend to give my FIL a break, then drive home 3 hours on Sunday night, then get up on Monday and do it all over again. We did this for five months until she passed away. After that, we were both mentally and physically exhausted, but it wasn't long before I felt the writing calling me back. It felt so good to do something normal again and to escape into those imaginary worlds.

DMacMeans said...

Hi Suz -

I have a job like that every Feb/March/April. The rest of the year is manageable, but those months suck the creative energy right out of me. I write like crazy the months before so I only need to edit during busy season. During tax season, writing is a luxary. I try to make time for it on weekends or late nights because my sanity depends on it.

Surprisingly, my challenge is getting back into writing on a daily writing schedule after tax season - I feel so removed from my story.

Good Luck with your new job. I love the heroine in the back seat. Tomorrow, your hero may ride shotgun. And the day after, a secondary character will join the heroine. What a wild commute that could be. Love it!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Joan--I feel your pain from the other side. The subconscious brain always works on my stories while I'm busy doing the nursing thing. Probably explains my passenger the other day. (At least I hope so!)

Tracy--moving is one of those stressors that disrupts everything. Thank goodness your books are both at the editors already. BTW for those that didn't know, Tracy has her debute novel coming out this fall from Kennsington!

Jo Davis--was thinking of you and the 5-day a week thing when I wrote this. Am still amazed you turned out such quality stories while teaching.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Christine--Am thinking the heroine chose to get in the car, therefore she couldn't get too freaked! hehehe And I really don't write paranormals.

Inara--how do you stay on task with your career? Working 3 12-hours a week really does free up time for writing.

Aunty Cindy said...

I LOVED your lil graphic from Dali's "Persistence of Memory", one of my favorite paintings.

Yup, I had one of those soul-sucking jobs too, managing a statewide Medicaid program. UGH! NO WAY I could write! You asked: How did you handle the stress?

DRUGS! :-P Only the Rx variety, mind you. Thank God for anti-depressants!

But after 3 years of management, I made the excellent decision to quit! Best decision I ever made.

Hang in there!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Aunty Cindy,

I love Dali's looks like it's melting away. Sort of like time is running out and I can't catch up!

jo lewis-robertson said...

Thought-provoking post, Suz. I always divide my life into scores (like "four score and . . ."). The first score was childhood and school; the second, marriage and family; the third teaching; and the fourth writing. I wish I could've written while I reared the seven rug rats LOL, or taught all those years, but I must be more single-minded than I thought. I could only do one thing at a time well. And I'm not sure I was really ready to write until I turned fifty. Hey, isn't fifty the new thirty anyway? :-D

Anonymous said...

Hey Suz,

You know, although I love to complain about my job, and sometimes it's less than fulfilling, I actually like working outside the home. I'm a person. (giggle) I like rushing from meeting to meeting, juggling my blackberry and sneaking peaks at my personal email during meetings. I like wearing suits (sometimes!) and having deadlines and writing nasty-lawyer letters (when I'm grumpy). So while I fantasize about giving it up and writing full time someday, I would also miss it!

What about you--isn't there anything you'd miss if you gave it up?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Inara, I don't think I ever will give it up. Patients, their assorted family members, doctors and my co-workers are too much fodder for my characters!

Plus I do love helping women have their babies, a patient's problem before the doc does, teaching new nurses, and the mental stimulation working gives me.

However, I would like to some day make enough money writing that I could work just one day a week or one day every two weeks!


Suzanne Welsh said...

Jo, I'm thinking raising 7 kids would be an extra-curricular activity all on its own. Geesh. How did you even have time to read a book, much less think about writing?

Sandy Blair said...

Loved your post, Suzy. And boy can I relate. I haven't written a word since we put this house on the market and it's driving me insane.

everymoment said...

I've been lurking here for a while, but this is a topic close to my heart and worth putting in my 2c! I have two kids, aged 2 and 4, an age where they need a lot of interaction and supervision (especially now that it's summer!). It's a constant challenge to carve out a little time to write, but I always get such a rush out of it when I do, it's definitely worth the effort! It's all about self-discipline, right? Getting up a little earlier, or making sure I get other tasks done when I should instead of procrastinating and then having them hang over me and take what spare time I do have. Focus, focus, focus, that's my mantra at the moment!

Suzanne Welsh said...

everymoment: Glad you came out of lurk mode to play with us! I can't imagine trying to write anything with small children in the house. I admire you for even carving out a little time each day.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Sandy...Whoohoo, glad you found your way on here! And I know the troubles you've had getting the house sold, so as your critique partner I haven't harrassed you over your writing, YET. But as soon as you're in the new place look out!!