Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Breaking Points: Life Management for Writers

By: Jason P. Henry

Life sucks.

There, I said it. Why bother wasting words?

Life is an unfair, argumentative, demeaning, uncooperative, pain in the eraser. I should just give up on all of my dreams, quit living in the clouds, focus on reality, and all the stress will just melt away. I need to stop wasting my time on this ridiculous idea of writing a novel and accept the fact that I am not meant to be more than just another face in the crowd. I can focus on my job more. I can spend more time with friends. My family, maybe I’ll get a little more time with them as well. All of my problems could magically disappear if I…
Just. Stopped. Writing.

I think it is safe to say that we have all been at this point more than once. Some days, it is hard enough to keep up with the demands of our jobs, friends, families, hobbies and health. It is all we can do to keep our heads above water, our bank accounts in the positive, and to make those around us feel loved. Then we decide that we also need time to write? 

Seriously?

If Life was a graphic novel, Creativity’s arch-nemesis would be Stress.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that there will always be stress. If you spend time trying to eliminate it, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. There will be days when the frustrations ebb, but there will always be something else waiting in the shadows to disrupt your peace of mind. So, the goal should not be to eliminate stress, but to learn how to manage it and lessen its impact on your productivity.

One of the phrases (excuses) that irritates me the most is “I don’t have time.” Yeah, you do. Every week you have seven days. Every day you have twenty-four hours. Every hour you have sixty minutes. That is 10,080 minutes every single week. YOU HAVE TIME. It’s the same amount of time that everyone else on this planet gets. Pick a name: George R. R. Martin? Stephen King? Danielle Steel? Brandon Sanderson? J. R. Ward? James Patterson? ALL of them get the same 10,080 minutes per week.

How many of you are saying “Jason Henry is an idiot, those people are successful authors. All they have to do is sit down and write.”

True (well, not the Jason Henry is an idiot part). They are all successful authors, but they haven’t always been. They’ve been where we are, struggling with reality, trying to find time to sit down and get their books written. Even now, published and recognized, they still have lives outside of their novels. They have to make the time to sit down and get their next bestseller finished.

I firmly believe that the key to success and coping with stress is time management.
I meet many people every day and I hear the words “I don’t have time” quite frequently. I’m very much a conversationalist so I usually ask about what they do and how they do it. And, quite often, I talk about myself. About what I do and how I do it. Many are surprised to learn how much I am involved with.

At this very moment, I am the Conference Director for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I also have a full-time job. I have a family. I have three active WIPs in three different genres. I write short stories. I have three blogs that I contribute to. I am partnering with someone to build a short story anthology. I am partnering with other folks to create a group that helps young writers. I am active on social media, I have a website, I have a dog, I like to hike, I’m a rock hound, I love music, and yeah, I only get the same 10,080 minutes in my week as everyone else.  

Trust me, I have reached my share of breaking points. I have smacked into brick walls so hard that I couldn’t move for days. Stress, that silent assassin, lurks in my shadows every day. So, when folks tell me they don’t have time, it is difficult to suppress my irritation. When they start complaining and saying “there’s no way,” I interrupt and I ask one simple question:

“How bad do you want it?”

The question is simple, but the answer is not. In fact, when I ask, most don’t have an answer for me.

Life has this funny way of making us work really hard for the things we want most. We are issued challenges daily and we must decide for ourselves if they hold us back or propel us forward. See, that stress that we keep trying to eliminate isn’t there to prevent us from realizing our dreams. It’s there to motivate us, to teach us, to make us better. When we learn how to manage that stress, well, that is when we truly break through and begin moving forward.

Decide how bad you want to be a writer. Then, sit down with your family and friends and explain to them how important it is. In that same conversation, remind them of how important they are. Then take a look at all the things you need to accomplish in a week. Create a schedule. Take those minutes I mentioned and begin dealing them out appropriately. Make sure to leave some time for the ones you love. Be certain to devote some time to writing. You may find you have an hour a night that you can spare, or maybe only a couple hours a week, but it is still time to write.





Be flexible. You can’t control life’s many demands no matter how detailed your schedule is. Work will demand extra hours. Kids will get sick. The unexpected will pop up. However, having that schedule will help you see where your time is and provide a road map for getting through the roughest of weeks. I think you will find that no matter how busy you are, you have more free time than you realize. Don’t let the stress cloud your vision and stop your momentum. Some weeks will be far more productive than others. A lower word count does not mean you were slacking, it means you were living. If we don’t live, we won’t have a whole hell of a lot to write about. 

Remember, stress is a vital part of life. How you handle that stress determines where it takes you.    


About the Author:  When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim, or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at www.jasonphenry.com.