Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tips to Write Through the Chaos

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Life happens to all of us, and with it comes times of chaos and catastrophe. It’s easy to get derailed and let our writing life come to a screeching halt. That’s never a good thing, no matter what crisis we’re dealing with—from the death of a loved one, to an unexpected pandemic. Because as writers, we process life by putting words on paper (or screen). Suddenly finding ourselves with no time or energy to write can be as traumatic as the original event. 

We need that exercise to keep us sane. The things we write may change, depending on the circumstance where we find ourselves, but I propose that we will cope better by setting aside time. Today I want to share some tips to keep moving forward when life happens.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here. We've all had times in life where thing-upon-thing piles up. These tips are how I’ve survived many upheavals in my life.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize: During times like these, a calendar is your best friend. Sit down and look at all you have on your writing plate.
  • Start with the things you’re getting paid for and/or you consider legitimate work. Those need to have top priority.
  • Next look at things you’ve made a commitment to do. These could be anything from blogging on your own site to blogging on other sites or other types of writing. The thing you want to do with this group is look and see what you can reschedule, back out of, postpone, or ask someone else to do.
  • Finally look at the things you wanted to accomplish. This might include things like get a piece ready for a contest or submission or just making forward progress on your current WIP (Work In Progress).
Now, before you set down the calendar, look at the commitments generated by the chaos. These could include doctor visits, time at the hospital, time without electricity, anything out of the ordinary. 

Begin fitting projects into the spaces around your commitments. I know this doesn’t always seem possible, but you can get significant progress in 20 – 30 bites of time. Here are some tips to write in the bits and pieces of time you've got. 

For example, one thing I must do is schedule social media every morning. It’s part of my job. There have been times when I would get to the hospital in the morning. Spend some time visiting with loved ones, then announce I had 30 minutes of work to do. Assuming a doctor didn’t come in, I kept my head down and worked for that space of time. Afterwards, I closed my laptop and again was available to visit, help, etc. I also took several breaks during the day to answer comments on my blog and emails that had to be dealt with.

We all know this isn’t the ideal to write, but you have to use the time you can carve out. 

Additional Tips
  • Contact those places where you have commitments. People will forgive a lot if they know what’s going on. This is the time to be an EXCELLENT communicator.
  • Call in favors, and enlist guest bloggers where you can for your own site.
  • Don’t forget you can recycle old posts to save creative energy for paid writing assignments.
  • Cut back on the number of social media updates you put out daily and/or eliminate them altogether. But don’t be afraid to use social media to ask for prayer support. Your readers and audience will feel more connected to you by sharing this part of your life.
  • Try to carve out time to work on something you want to do. It may be a blog post, a WIP, a devotion or even a poem. But if you feel that creative hunger, feed it. You’ll be calmer and more able to cope if you do.
  • Don’t waste what’s happening, instead incorporate it into your writing. If you have a blog, do what I’m doing and share your process in a post. At the very least, find a place to write out your feelings and journal what’s happening. If you can’t use it immediately, I guarantee it will come back when you need it. Just don’t lose it by not recording it.
  • Try your hand a writing a devotion. If life is in chaos, I guarantee you’re learning some tough lessons. You may not end up with a finished product, but jot down the details of what you’re learning.
  • Write a poem. Yes, you read that right. It doesn’t have to rhyme, but it can. And it doesn’t even have to be good. But searching for the words to describe intense feelings is a good way to process and come to grips with a life that seems out of control. If a full poem seems too intimidating, consider a haiku. Here’s a link to help you Write a Haiku
  • Use this time to accomplish small tasks. Here are just a few to get you started:
    • Write a character sketch.
    • Research a setting or job description
    • Check your timeline.
    • Edit a chapter.
    • Make a list of possible blog posts.
    • Pick an emotion and brainstorm ways to show it rather than name it.
We all have times that could potentially stop all forward momentum in our writing lives. But it doesn’t have to. And when you’ve weathered the storm, you’ll be glad you kept moving.

I’d love to know what you do to stay on track with writing when chaos happens. Be sure to share your thoughts below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Tips to Write through the Chaos - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Connect with her on her website,  through FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


  1. Good advice, Edie. Praying for you as you journey through this time.

    1. Thank you Martin, this is actually a reprinted post and I neglected to edit it thoroughly. *blushing and hiding my head* But the truth is, things fall through the cracks when life gets crazy. Thank you for your prayers! Blessings, E

  2. Timing for this post could not have been more perfect Ms. Edie. Thank you ma'am. I like the way you prioritized things. Even when our writing isn't Christian writing, if it's "paying the bills", then it has to be the priority right now. I've been struggling with that; thinking I'll get my "light writing" in by getting up earlier. I'm starting to realize that this means I may as well never go to bed. We can do better than that. Thanks for lending a little perspective and some sage advice ma'am. God's blessings.

  3. Hi, Edie. I've recently begun following your blog. Thank you for this encouraging and practical post. They're my faves.

    1. Sara Jane, thank you so much for YOUR encouragement! Blessingsm E

  4. Writing brings me comfort and joy. Whether I am writing a story, devotion, article or blog post or a letter to a friend or family, I find joy and comfort in writing.

  5. I begin the day with prayer that God will guide all my words, attitudes, and actions.

  6. I find the first two hours of the morning my most productive. Since I'm writing a nonfiction book based on the Bible, I combine writing/research with devotions. It's been a blessing.

    1. Roberta, I look forward to reading it! Blessings, E

  7. Thank you for this post and the accompanying link to writing in bits and pieces. This is my life, even setting the current crisis aside. With two teens at home (homeschool), driving 2-3 hours daily (pre-pandemic) to their work and activities, and to my own volunteer activities, I have fallen behind in meeting my writing goals for the ministry I've been given. We don't even have that many activities, it's just we live half an hour from anywhere. Also, being available for those sudden and coveted "mom, can we talk" moments, I often find myself distracted. I am grateful for your encouragement and inspiration that I can accomplish my goals in smaller bites and still remain true to my first calling of family.

  8. I found myself nodding my head at the struggle to find time to write and the intrinsic need to process all that's happening in word form on my screen. I'm working to write daily, even though (unlike some) I have way less time with my kids at home full-time. It's been healing to my soul to write my blog posts and to work on my story as I have time.

    Great words, Edie!