When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

In the fourth season of Bewitched, in an episode called “No Zip in My Zap”, Samantha is in a bit of a conundrum as her magical powers are clogged given Darren’s insistence that she live a mortal life.

In that episode, when “the dam breaks”, the accumulation of spells that didn’t conjure up anything all bear fruit at the same time, creating chaos in the Stephens’ household. “Doctor Bombay, Calling Doctor Bombay…”

As a writer, has that ever happened to you?

I am delighted that at this time in my life I am able to keep sharpening my writing skills in the corporate environment, while in my free time, producing a steady stream of blog posts, while working (slowly) on a few creative writing projects.

I am very happy with that combination and am not pressuring myself to do more. This works for me, right now.

By regularly tapping into my creative spirit in different ways, I feel that I am answering my calling and preparing for the next chapter in my writing life. But that has not always been possible.

Have you ever had those times when the ideas are flowing and you are yearning to write, but life just keeps throwing you curve balls preventing you from doing what you love most?

It was in my 40’s when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that writing was my calling, that I started missing it when other priorities got in the way. It’s what I like to call “life” and included many fine activities and experiences, including a career I enjoyed (that I still enjoy today). Just the same, I felt a dam building in my creative subconscious with ideas floating around with no outlet.

I admit that it made me restless, it made me grouchy, and the yearning to write only got stronger. In itself, that’s not exactly a bad thing, it just brings greater clarity when figuring out what one’s passion is.

From my experience with running, it is a similar feeling to when an athlete is sidelined due to an injury. The mind and desire are intact, but the body or circumstances (or both) aren’t cooperating which can be most frustrating.

It was in that literary abstinence that my conviction to find time to write became even stronger with the promise to never take that time for granted.

We all hear about “1000 words per day” or “an hour per day” as potential goals, and they are indeed fantastic goals for maintaining discipline. But sometimes those goals don’t fit when responsibilities and commitments rank higher on the priority list.

It surprises me how it only takes a commitment to a few minutes per day to write something… anything… even if it’s just committing ideas to one index card, can help keep the creative juices flowing and prevent the dam from building.

With smaller achievable goals, you can still respond to the calling, you can still see progress, and the pressure to write doesn’t keep building.

For example, there have been days when I have been intensely writing or proofreading at my day job, that the desire to play with words when I got home was just not there. It took time to reconcile my feelings about that, but I’m OK with that now. I realize now that it is all contributing to the improvement of my writing skills and writing reflexes.

In times when I don’t feel like writing, there are other things I can do to keep nurturing my creative spirit whether that means picking up a good book, watching a really good movie, a good documentary or any form of storytelling that keeps inspiration thriving. But if I can still scribble on an index card a few passing thoughts that hit me through the day, I can consider it a productive writing day.

Some might argue that the aspiring writer needs to “make time” for it, and to a certain point I agree, but when there is no wind in your sails left at the end of the day for yourself, it’s very hard.

I find that it’s about striking a balance between harnessing the desire and the discipline to keep writing, even when life is at its busiest, but only for the time we can wholeheartedly allocate for it. Then we need to feel good about our accomplishment, not guilty about it for making the time, and not guilty for not doing more.

Once the stream of ideas is flowing steadily, even at a slow trickle, I find that the creative spirit adapts to the time allocation, to the point of looking forward to that time and really making the most of it for riding the wave of creativity.

When life makes it hard to find the time, the writer needs to work within one’s means to keep the creative juices flowing, or risk clogging up their creativity and their “powers”. When the writer does successfully commit words to paper, magic can happen.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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The Hunt for the Perfect Reading Light

During a recent power outage, as much as I was counting on getting a few things accomplished that night, I had to put my plans on the shelf because they all depended on electricity.

An attempt at cleaning the house in the dark became a time consuming exercise with the added step of redirecting the flashlight at different angles to keep checking to see if I hit the right spots. True enough, I had all the time in the world, but the brewing frustration wasn’t worth it.

I instantly saw the bright side, so to speak, in deciding that this would be a perfect opportunity to catch up on my reading. With stacks of books that awaited, I relished the thought of an evening in quiet serenity, enjoying a good read.

I went to the basement and pulled out my lantern-style LED flashlight. I poured myself a glass of wine and along the way, I picked up the book I was reading at the time.

When I found my comfy spot in the living room for Ivy the Wonder Cat and me to chill out, I put my glass down next to me, I set up the lantern and opened my book.

One minute later, I moved my lantern to a different spot because I couldn’t see half of the page, as my shoulder was causing a shadow. One minute after that, I moved the lantern again, this time a little closer, to give the light more intensity because the light was too weak to comfortably illuminate my page. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, books, Humour

A Calm Mind

There are no words to describe the feeling of waking up in the morning with no worries. At first, it started to worry me… how can my mind be without worry… I must be forgetting something. But I caught myself falling into the old habit, and actively decided to just let it go, and enjoy the moment.

Waking up to a calm mind that is not racing, ruminating or over-processing things is new to me. What a wonderful feeling it is!

It’s not because I won the lottery. It’s not because stress has magically disappeared from my life. It’s not because certain people have suddenly found the exit door from my life.

Do I have things to worry about? Yes I do, but I don’t let them linger like they used to.

I remember being taken to the doctor’s office when I was 12 because I frequently suffered from stomach aches. After an abdominal exam and not finding anything, the doctor’s advice was to stop worrying so much otherwise I’d develop an ulcer.

But there was so much to worry about: Getting good grades, pleasing my parents, getting my homework done on time, fitting in at my new school, being the “husky” kid, being the shortest boy in my class.

And as the years went on, my worries changed, but worry was a constant: maintaining a good average in high school to get into university, choosing a major in university, completing university to get a good job, the first work assignment, the first apartment, money management, the first car, paying my dues at work, health, relationships, the second apartment, noisy neighbours, the third apartment, car repairs, illness in the family, the first house purchase, home renovations, dog poo in my yard (and I don’t own a dog)… you get the picture.

At any point, I had a stack of worries circulating through my mind, but that seemed normal to me.

Along the way, I had read several self-help books and taken stress management courses to develop a tool kit to help keep my cool and to keep me grounded. Things seemed to be in check, but worry still followed me around even in the quietest, most relaxed moments. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

Winter: Not Enough Moisturizer in the World

On a snowy, blustery day, to me there is no greater feeling than to look out the window, to stick out my tongue at Old Man Winter, and then to curl up with a good book to enjoy a good story, to catch up on some of my binge watching, or to grab my laptop and work on some stories of my own. When my cat joins in and purrs contentedly by my side, everything seems right with the universe.

But nothing turns this Norman Rockwell moment upside down faster than to glance down and to notice blood trickling from my knuckles. Welcome to my nightmare of wintertime dry skin.

The combination of bone dry air outside with heated houses, heated cars and heated offices lends itself to there being very little moisture in the air. Without proper protection and hydration, these factors can quickly conspire and take their toll on skin.

When I was much younger and my skin could bounce back like an elastic, I didn’t have to worry too much about it. But once I passed 50, there have been days I thought that there was not enough moisturizer in the world to stay on top of it.

We are told that one way to hydrate properly is from the inside out. That has never been a problem, as I always seem to have a cup of water or green tea on the go, refilled frequently throughout the day. When my tummy makes that sloshing sound when I walk, I believe I’ve done my part. But my skin still gets dry.

So the next tactic is to work from the outside in. In my 20’s it started out easily enough, with a special face soap that didn’t dry out my skin, a little daily dab of moisturizer on the face and an application of hand cream on the driest days and I was good to go. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Humour

Cat Food: When Her Favourite Is No Longer Her Favourite

When it comes to Ivy the Wonder Cat, mealtime is usually pretty straightforward. She has four or five types of good quality wet food on rotation, she has a bowl of her favourite dry food, she has three kinds of treats in the cupboard, she has an exercise/feeder ball in the play room and she has plenty of fresh water to wash it all down and to stay hydrated.

Most times, she has a pretty healthy appetite and her bowls of wet food are gone in three or four visits. Sometimes, my social eater might gobble them down in two visits.

And based on the way Ivy operates, mealtime seems to confirm what I have heard and read about cats liking structure and aren’t fans of change.

She likes her meals served at the same time each day, and you can set your clock by Ivy. My extroverted kitty has no problem waking me up from a deep sleep that encroaches on her meal time.

Similarly, she doesn’t like me to diverge too often from a small rotation current favourites as it seems to disrupt the routine, resulting in uneaten portions. That being the case, when I am at the pet store, there is really no guesswork involved. I know what her favourites are and I just have to keep buying them, which certainly makes life easy for me.

That is, until the dreaded day one of her favourites is no longer her favourite. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Humour

Where Is My Chap Stick?

It doesn’t seem to matter how much water we drink, having dry lips is a fact of life in winter with our heated cars, heated offices and heated homes, when the humidity outside is non-existent.

Nothing screams winter like a bad case of chapped lips. In Ottawa, where we are typically in sub-zero bone-dry cold air for weeks at a time, keeping an assortment of lip balms within reach is an essential. It only takes one missed application to get lips so dry, you can grate Parmesan on them.

When I don’t take the necessary precautions, there have been times I have looked in the mirror and thought my winter lips bore a striking resemblance to my cat’s scratching post, with unruly pieces sticking out of vertically shredded bits. I don’t feel too bad though because I know I’m not alone.

Over the years I have tried a number of lip balms including some pretty expensive ones, and to my surprise, the one that seems to work best for me is the basic, classic, unflavoured Chap Stick. The challenge is keeping track of those little guys.

I don’t know why, but I can’t have just one Chap Stick and move it to wherever I am. Even if it travels in the same circles as my keys, my wallet and my iPhone, for some reason it keeps escaping. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour

My New Year’s Resolution for 2019: Expecting More

New Year's festivitiesWhen I attended university 35 years ago, majoring in business administration, the book “In Search of Excellence” written by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. was often referenced as a case study in best practices.

As a student in the 1980s, the book resonated with me. I was particularly in awe of the innovative concept of seeking input from clients and front line employees for simple yet effective ideas for enhancing the quality of products and services. The concept’s success was further demonstrated in the documentary movie that was making the rounds at that time.

“In Search of Excellence” was probably the book that inspired me most to pursue a career in business. Even as a young man, I was moved when a business (a store, a restaurant or a service) valued quality and worked a little harder to achieve it. This was (and still is) an important value for me and it appealed to me to think that a business career could revolve around the theme of quality.

But when the business world constantly hungers for a competitive edge, management principles are ever-evolving and replaced by new theories and best practices. And as a consumer, I am saddened that quality has been caught in the crossfire.

Some products don’t seem to last as long as they used to, despite the call to be more mindful of our use of landfills. Some stores are ghost towns, where it is impossible to find assistance when I need to ask questions or to get a product from a high shelf. And when I am able to find assistance, on some occasions I am given wrong directions or wrong answers.

I have also noticed some products I buy often getting cheapened by cutting corners on workmanship or incorporating cheaper materials. It is very disappointing. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Inspiring