We all know that one of the golden rules of writing is to write daily, or at least often.It’s the best way to keep in the flow of your writing, generate ideas and maintain discipline.

But what happens when life gets in the way and keeping up a daily writing practice becomes impossible?

Usually when I know my schedule is full I still try to squeeze in at least a little writing, following the mantra that even a few lines is better than nothing. And when even that doesn’t happen I end up feeling frustrated, guilty and miserable.

This scenario has been playing out for me for the last couple of weeks. Having met a competition deadline, all the other things I needed to do – sort through the mountain range of ironing that had deposited itself in my loungeroom, actually speak to friends and family who were starting to think I’d fallen into a deep, dark whole beneath my desk, walk the dogs who’d forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other – took priority. The problem of course is that once you start doing the cleaning, the socialising and the exercising (me and the dogs) the writing takes a back seat. And then the guilt and frustration sets in.

This was the state of mind I was in last week when one of my writing buddies called. Here I was feeling miserable and pretty much deciding that maybe I’m not a writer after all, that maybe I’ve been fooling myself all these years, when she was feeling elated after attending the Romance Writer’s Conference and starting a new course. Don’t get me wrong – I was really happy for her – she’s a beautiful writer and will one day very soon have her novel published – but I was still feeling sorry for myself. And then she said something that made me think again: “It’s ok not to write. Take a break, get your head together and then start again.”

It’s ok not to write.

Temporarily that is.

When I thought about the advice my wise friend had given me it made sense. Trying to squeeze writing into my already overloaded agenda was making me cranky, horrible to live with and, worst of all, turning me off writing completely. The destructive voice of my inner editor was screaming, “What makes you think you’re a writer anyway? the reason you’re not writing is because you can’t. You can’t make writing your priority because it’s not important enough to you.” All of which is rubbish.

The problem is that writing requires some head space. How can you be creative when you have so much going on you can hardly remember what you said or did half an hour ago? Sometimes the best thing to do is get everything else out of the way, clear the decks, regroup. Let your writing – and yourself – take a break.

So for the last couple of weeks that’s what I’ve been doing- giving myself permission not to write. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about. It’s still there lurking away in the background and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been feeling anxious or guilty. But when that voice starts nagging I remind myself that I’ll be going back to my writing with renewed energy and enthusiasm, with more time to devote to it and less reason to leave the desk. Of course then I’ll no doubt feel guilty about everything else I’m not doing while I write but that’s the curse of being a writer, isn’t it?

How do you cope when life gets in the way of your writing?
Have you ever given yourself permission not to write?

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