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Jan 17, 2017:

Writing In Crises

This has been a difficult year. Actually, that's probably an understatement. Last year, the recession didn't really touch our household: we were already in the un/under employed category and barely surviving. We had no savings, no investments, heck, we didn't even have a car because of a hydroplaning accident early in the year. I didn't think we would be much hit by the recession, to be honest. We were already near rock bottom, just above living on the streets. But this year did hit hard. We managed to keep a roof over our heads, but just barely. The strain took a toll on pretty much all aspects of our lives.

When there's a lot going on in my life, especially a lot that takes most of my energy and focus just to survive, things other than surviving become footnotes in my day. If I can find whatever I need to do it, then I do it; if not, well, then it doesn't get done. I suspect most of us are this way. We have a finite amount of ourselves to put into anything. When survival takes up most of that, everything that's not important has to be pushed aside. And this is where I was, pretty much, for most of 2011: skating from one crises to the next, keeping a roof over our heads, juggling the bills, doing everything I could to keep my family housed and fed while making sure my husband finished school.

Where I was fortunate was time. I stay home because my son needs me, and with only one car, there was no way to make a job work, assuming I could find one I could do during the limited hours I had open. So I had more time to do other things, even when most my other resources were pretty low. And instead of using that time to sleep or to worry, I wrote. I worked on Charms almost every day. It was probably the one thing that saved me from letting our circumstances drag me down. And I attribute that ability to keep writing, despite the stress life was piling on my shoulders, to the habits and routines I've spent years developing.

I started tracking weekly word counts and goals back in 2004/2005. I originally used a refillable planner, but later decided on separate annual planners. The first year was spotty at best. I didn't list any goals, was lucky to get 500 words in a week, and had entire months where I wrote nothing at all either in the planner or on paper. That started to change in 2007. I'd miss a day or two a week, but most days have writing progress recorded. The lowest week: 232 words. Most weeks averaged 2 or 3000 words. And I did have one week where I made over 9000 words. Just seeing the annual word count rise was enough to encourage me to keep going. By the end of 2008, I was including small, weekly to do lists. Those lists got larger, and I started breaking them down into daily to do lists by 2009. I learned to keep the planner next to me, open so I could see my list for the day. Just that one thing helped me to develop a habit of working on my writing every day.

And that habit and this year's planner have kept me writing through all the stress of this year. My planner is by my bed. I take it, and anything I need to work on, with me when I go places, if I can. Each night, I write the next's day's to do list, which always includes some writing. Each day, I cross things off as I get them done. This year, despite everything, I averaged about 6-9000 words/week, with some weeks as high as 15-20,000 words. My total word count this year is just over 584,000 with another 6-10,000 probably before the end of the year. I admit that the count would probably be significantly lower if I'd been working, but the habits I started developing in 2004 saved me this year. They kept me writing even when it was almost too depressing to keep doing much of anything anymore. And I can't highlight the encouragement and company of fellow writings enough. They believed in me, and that helped keep me going when I could no longer find a reason to believe in myself.

And I learned one other thing: that I can do it. We look at circumstances we've not experienced and say, "oh, there's no way I could do that!" I'm here to say we can. I've learned it a day at a time, a week at a time, a month at a time. You make your goals doable. You write them down. You cross them off as you finish. You track your progress, and that progress will keep you going when you don't see progress happening anywhere else. When you're ready to give up, those habits kick in, and the next thing you know, you're doing whatever it is you needed to do that day. They become our strength when we feel we have none. They help push us onward when no other reward is in sight.

Yea, it was a bad year in so many ways. But sometimes it takes a bad year to see what we're really made of, to see that we have the strength to do the things we need or want to do in spite of it all. And in the end, we come out even stronger and we've learned something about ourselves.

Keep on writing. No matter what.

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