WHEN LIFE INTERRUPTS…
A few years ago, I underwent a series of eye surgeries, and learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about living and writing in a life bombarded by interruptions. Since all lives are interrupted by one thing or another, we all deal with them. Constructive coping strategies shared can prevent upset, anxiety and help diminish acid churning in the stomach spurring ulcers.
Here is an article I wrote at that time:
Warning: I’m typing blind, so please pardon errors and read in the spirit written, not the form…
No one likes to have their routine or rhythm interrupted. It’s disturbing, throws a person off-stride, irritates and annoys. And then things get really nasty because other obligations don’t go away, good fairies don’t sweep in and take care of everything, and the disabled person watches a clear desktop disappear and “Do me Next” piles appear and multiply and you can’t do one thing about any of it.
The first few days are the roughest because you’re still geared to keep up with everything: production, promotion, email and other correspondence, research and workshops. (Today, add marketing, social media, publicity, and all that entails to your to-do list.)
You try to work anyway but soon discover that you just can’t do it. Then anger and resentment set in, and eventually you mentally work your way through it all to resignation. I wish I could say that this realization is arriving at a graceful acceptance, but the truth is that it is not. It is resignation on-demand and not by choice, and there’s additional resentment at that. “I’m a good person. I work hard, try to help others when I can, do my best to live a life with purpose and all this ‘stuff’ happens to me that I can’t control and I’m sick to death of it. I’m sick to death of being sick.” (Maybe in your case, it’s incapacitated, or having diminished capacities. Insert your adjective—you’re working at less than at your normal.
That is a more accurate depiction of the process. However, when railing against the injustices in life does absolutely nothing to improve the situation—in fact, it grows worse—resentment can’t get any stronger, and so other things—ones you have slowed down now long enough (by force, yes, but still you’ve slowed down) to notice—capture your attention and your concentration.
And then you begin to think. To ponder on things you’ve not stopped to ponder on for a while. You find other ways to communicate, other ways to work, if only in your mind. And you find yourself working on other things—things you have neglected for some time or you’ve never before considered. You even find yourself reconsidering and redefining that which you thought was steadfast and certain, and quite suddenly, it hits you that this interruption has given you an opportunity. A chance to pause, reflect, and reconsider. An opportunity to change something significant to you for the better.
Your resentment falls to your discovery. The interruption provides a new vista. And you’re grateful, if not graceful. Acceptance swells and you finally relax, stop worrying and have faith that everything will work out exactly as it is supposed to work out. Then . . . then you accept that this interruption too has purpose.
At that point of enlightenment, something magical happens. It’s as if your receptors open wide because you’ll be doing something totally unrelated to anything (like sitting in a rocking chair with an empty mind) and unexpectedly a title pops into your head. You whisper it, letting the syllables roll over your tongue. It interests you, intrigues you, fascinates you, and you repeat it aloud. The moment you do, in a glorious flash, the entire story materializes in your mind. The premise, the characters, the events—and the purpose all are crystal clear.
A new dawning comes. This isn’t a story you would have written without the interruption, and yet there is something distinctly right for you in it. Something that nudges at you, niggles at something so deep down inside you that it ignites a knowing: this is your story to tell.
In its raw form, you realize this story is different. So you pitch it to your critique partner, unsure of his/her reaction, which sets your teeth on edge because you know this story matters. S/he loves it; suggests you develop it. You’re reassured but uncertainty remains, so you then pitch the story to a trusted friend with a closed mouth and keen eyes. She gets chills; agrees you must go for it.
Still remnants of uncertainty persist. So you pitch it to a second trusted friend (it’s so different, you need the affirmation before further investing), and that feedback too is overwhelmingly positive. So with the raw form vetted, you pitch the story to your agent, and again you get a green light . . . with a little caveat.
All systems are go, and because this isn’t your usual kind of book, this book is also open to being worked on in unusual-for-you ways. And so you do that, too. You think, you run the movie of the story in your mind. You work, but you also play, and your limitation due to life’s interruption doesn’t seem so limiting anymore. In a sense, it’s become liberating.
You ponder that for a time—the liberation—and realize that you’ve been functioning in a rut. You’ve been less enthused and more intent on just getting this-or-that done.
You also realize that you’ve been writing someone else’s vision more than your own, and because you have, you’ve enjoyed the work far less and witnessed the magic in it being tamped if not snuffed out.
More wake-up calls. Constructive wake-up calls. And more and more of them keep coming, and none of them would have come or had the opportunity to surface had life not interrupted.
I guess the moral of this article is to share that truth. Sometimes you need to not see to see things clearly.
When all is done, I guess we need those life interruptions to encourage us to stop and take stock and revisit what we are doing and why, and to either determine our commitment to what we’re doing or to change things so that we can again be committed.
While I’m still in my little life interruption—predictions are two weeks more—I’m convinced that there are more lessons to be learned during it. For me, the interruption was a little eye surgery complicated by an abrasion. The abrasion requires antibiotic ointment that knocks out vision in my left eye. It’s healing, but not yet healed. The right eye is healing from surgery. (This is what happens when goggles worn to bed to protect your eyes slip during sleep and scratch the good eye.) Anyway, I’ll be back to normal in short order. For that, I am grateful.
But I am also grateful for the interruption. It’s enabled me to take a look at my life and work and reassess. It’s enabled me to recommit to the writing and writing only with purpose. It’s given me the time and incentive to think. And a cool new project, which compared to all else, is a nice perk.
Isn’t it strange? Sometimes you have to temporarily lose to gain that most valuable.
That’s what I wrote then. Now I’m in yet another life interruption—we gutted the kitchen—and it’s happened again! Taking the core of the house down to studs and slab doesn’t make for creative conditions in which to write, but it’s an interruption perfect for welcoming an interruption—and then come the best ideas. This time, it’s a new series I’m calling Down & Dead, Inc., and I totally love it. It’s different, but so far three books have played like movies in my mind.
I’ve learned the constructive benefits of life interruptions, and I hope through this, you’ve discovered them, too.
Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website:Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com