Four Ways to Untangle Your Writing Life

Image/ There’s something about chaos in my home office that infuriates me.

As I attempted to help my husband install a new computer, the jumbled mess of wires overwhelmed me. Lying on the floor, flat on my back, reaching under my desk, I needed more than a flashlight and my glasses to see where to plug in the cables. I wanted something to calm my frazzled nerves.

At times, I also find myself overwhelmed with the tangled web of my writing life. I have so many projects going at once that I can’t focus on the most important ones.

So, how do we unravel the emotions and confusion of our writing lives?

Stop and take inventory. As I inspected the knotted wires behind my desk, I saw that each wire needed to be threaded back through a narrow space under my desk and poked through a small round cutout in the desktop, before I could connect my new PC. I took a deep breath and thought about my angry reaction to my husband’s request. We had purchased the new computer for my writing needs, and he needed me to crawl under the desk because of his old college knee injuries.

Since I tend to overreact at times, my routine frustration over my harried writing schedule serves as a warning sign for me to stop and reassess my priorities. I try to remember to seek God first for guidance. Have I made too many commitments again? Do I need to redefine the boundaries of my work and my everyday life? 

Make some space. After we pulled the computer desk away from the wall to allow space to work, I found that the electrical supplies to my paper shredder, stapler, hole-puncher, and phone charger complicated my task. I unplugged all of them and moved the equipment, so I could focus on just the computer wiring.

Sometimes I also need to back away from my writing life to gain perspective, especially before making new commitments. My other activities, projects, and life issues contribute to my inability to manage my time. I’ve considered enrolling in the course, “Managing Multiple Priorities,” but I could never find the time.

Sort through the maze. Before I unplugged our old computer, I decided to tag each cord at its connection to each device. Then, I sorted the cables and bundled the wires with plastic ties. 

Prioritizing my writing projects requires more than plastic cable ties. The process motivates me to evaluate my passions and interests to see if each project meshes with my overall plans. My impulsivity often leads me astray. And someone else’s requests can produce unnecessary and avoidable stress.

Go forward. After installing my new unit, I expressed my appreciation to my husband for his help, and I thanked the Lord for giving me the patience and the helping hands I needed.

The writing life offers temptations and distractions daily. I’d prefer to believe that I have my writing life in order. But with every new task, I experience a learning curve. I’m well aware that I’m still a work in progress.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …
(Heb. 12:1 NIV1984).

17 Replies to “Four Ways to Untangle Your Writing Life”

  1. Great post, Karen! This is the story of my life! I’m learning to keep my priorities first, to say “No” to requests outside the mission God has given me, and to pause to pray, reflect, and untangle often.

    1. Thanks, Melinda. And yes, it’s an ongoing process for me, too. But it keeps me on my knees, seeking God’s guidance every step of the way.

  2. In this month’s Writer’s Digest, they suggest another solution that I am going to abide by: Don’t do laundry. 🙂 In other words, hold off on all household chores until writing time is done for the day. I think I like that one! Thanks for your practical advice.

    1. Great idea, Marcy! Laundry and dishes in the sink are a big distraction for me. I wish I could just close the door to those chores, so they wouldn’t bug me so much. That’s what I did when my daughter was a teenager, and she refused to clean her room.

  3. Karen, when my life is out of control it’s usually because I keeping saying yes instead of practicing the word no. I need to keep the image of tangled computer wires in my head at all times. LOL

    1. You would think that I would have learned to say “no” by now. I need to practice that when my phone rings. Or maybe I could just say (with a foreign accent, of course), “Sorry, wrong number!”

  4. I’ve considered enrolling in the course, “Managing Multiple Priorities,” but I could never find the time. <– I can so-o-o relate to this statement.

  5. Karen, the imagery in your post drives home the practical solutions you offer. I won’t soon forget our shared problem, or the great solutions you offer. Thanks for wise words. It seems something in life is always getting tangled — especially in the writer’s life.

    1. So true, Anita. The tangled wires remind me of the book proposal that we wanted to work on together … SOME DAY … right? [And yes, Barbara … I’m STILL working on that proposal that we discussed several weeks ago! [But first, I have to write about a million blog posts, work on some upcoming speaking engagements, and help my daughter (with FIVE kids) move! I know … just say “NO,” right! AARGH!]

  6. Karen great article. I love your honesty, and the way you paint the picture.I can relate to all of it. Very wise advice. I get to many projects going, then I’m stressed. I have to get my balance and priorities in order.

    1. I agree–too many projects going at once stresses me out. Now to practice what I preach! The balance of priorities is a constant challenge for me, too.

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