What Moving Taught Me About Writing

Cat sleeping on boxLast month we moved from one state to another. Writing got shoved to the bottom of my do list. Packing, cleaning, unpacking, finding my way around a new city, on top of Christmas shopping, travelling to visit relatives and a trip to Florida for a funeral had to take priority.

As I was lamenting my lack of time to write, I learned some things from moving that can help me become a better writer.

Let Go of Junk, and then Let Go of Some More

We thought we did this. When I was unpacking, I found lots of stuff I really didn’t want that the movers had lovingly swaddled in paper. I also uncovered stuff I didn’t know we had. It all got in the way of figuring out just where to put things.

There are plenty of distractions in the writing life. They need to be as ruthlessly purged as the decorative glass plate I think I might need some day, or the ugly serving platter given as a gift by someone I didn’t want to offend. Whatever they are, whether instant messenger or the solitaire game on the computer, I need to get rid of things that allow me to waste time.

Social media can be a trap as well. One writer I know sets a timer, and does what she needs to do on Facebook or Twitter. When the timer goes off, back to work she goes.

Break it up into Small Pieces

I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of boxes the movers brought into my new house. Wistfully I thought of the days when everything I owned fit in my car. Where to start? And where does it all go?

I picked one room (master bedroom) and got that one done. Then I moved on to the kitchen. I worked on one room at a time, and pretended I didn’t see the boxes in the others. Six weeks later I’m still not done, but I can count the unpacked boxes on my fingers. And I’m ignoring all the books stacked up on the floor because we ran out of shelves. In the dejunking process, we gave away too many bookshelves. Oops.

My writing to do list is often overly ambitious, and I’m discouraged by all the projects I have going that don’t ever seem to get done. I’ve found that setting daily goals makes it all more manageable. One at a time, I work my list, and I don’t worry about what I’m not going to get to today.

Look at Things Differently

I saw a pile of boxes: my cat saw a great place for a nap.

Sometimes looking at my writing from a different perspective helps. An article that’s not working can be reworked into a short story. A scene can have a greater impact if it’s moved to a different setting, or just a different place in the book. Changing point of view in many scenes in Beyond the Rapids helped me turn otherwise dull moments into scenes with life. A fresh view can make all the difference.

Get Some Help

Since we are new in town, we didn’t know anyone to call for help. Most days my husband was at work, and I was alone (I can’t really say the cat did more than provide some entertainment). The days Tony was able to do some unpacking, the job moved along so much quicker. Just having another opinion on where to put things made a huge difference.

Outside opinions have often helped me, especially when I felt stuck. They don’t always provide the answer, but sometimes what they said triggered a revival of inspiration.

Don’t Give Up

I worked on my kitchen for two days, and still had a mountain of boxes. But I kept at it, box by box, and it finally got done. Keep taking it box by box, piece by piece amazing how fast it will get done.

The same is true for writing. Even a goal of one page a day will result in a full length novel in less than a year.

Does anyone else have some insights into writing moving or other life changes have taught? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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