December 4, 2017

How to Write When Life Steps on Your Head

By C. Hope Clark

Through my newsletter at, I’ve motivated writers for almost 19 years. With a goal to remain positive, with a mission to show that anyone with drive, diligence, and a strong degree of hard-headedness can navigate the writing profession, I practiced what I preached through crazy deadlines, relocations, birthdays, weddings, holidays, and more. As I preached, I thought that a dedicated writer wrote through anything.

Until we had two hurricanes and both my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within six months of each other.

Through tears, headaches, and lack of sleep, I kept telling myself to write. After all, I had deadlines. Suddenly my bottomless well found a rock-hard bottom, and not only did I struggle to write, but I wondered if I ever wanted to write again.

Practicing what I preached became more than rhetoric.

In the midst of all the chaos of family, moving, doctors, power going out, and being the strong shoulder for parents frantic they were no longer in charge, I looked back at what I taught my readers. . . to see if I’d been spot on or theoretical in my teachings.

And this is what I learned about dealing with a complicated, stressful life:
  • It’s okay to write anywhere, anytime, and any way. Forget the perfect study with the proper music background and the keyboard with the just-so touch. The goal is to put words to paper. Fix it later. I wrote 2,500 words while my father received his two-hour neurological test that diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s, with me in one chair and the laptop perched on the seat of another in the lobby.
  • Compromise is in order. I had a December deadline for the novel, but had given myself an earlier July goal which I’d been keeping nicely with a 500 word-a-day mission. Then all hell broke loose. Seven-thousand-miles-in-two-months-on-my-car kind of hell. I reprogrammed the deadline to October. Regretful since it changed advertising, Christmas, and appearance marketing plans, but I was determined to keep on keeping on.
  • It’s okay to tell people you have limitations. Normally highly active on social media, I didn’t want to just disappear and lose my fan base. So I let people know in my newsletters that I had my hands full, and why. The outpouring of condolences proved such a balm. I felt the release valve allowing me to be human.
  • On that note, it’s fine to be human. I explained the situation to my publisher. I told family that any day I wasn’t with them, I had to be at the keyboard. I kept one major appearance and cancelled others. Offers for lunch, writers groups, and many appearances were declined. Family and writing only. I boiled life down to those two basic needs.

While I’m not home free, the days I have to write are slowly increasing. I still keep a tight restraint on the commitments I accept, for fear I’ll encroach on the two basic responsibilities I have. However, this too shall pass. Right now, I’m excited to see myself coming out on the other side, and thanks to the forced down time, I’m thrilled and excited about 2018. The opportunity to make new, more extensive goals has me practically giddy.

As writers, we learn from what we experience. And those experiences make us stronger and oh so much wiser. Bring it on. I’m ready to tackle the world now. And maybe it’s time for The Best of FundsforWriters, Vol, 2, because I darn sure have a lot of material that’s been practiced as well as preached. Come on, writers. If I can weather all this, you can, too!
In 2017, C. Hope Clark still managed to publish Edisto Stranger, fourth in the Edisto Island Mysteries, and The Best of FundsforWriters, Vol. 1, a motivational how-to taken from the annals of the widely popular FFW newsletters. Her fourth Carolina Slade Mystery is set for release in Spring 2018. /

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