I often get asked: "What is your writing routine like?" When I was living the Life That Mostly Sucked, I usually laughed and said, "What routine?"
Back then, I existed in crisis mode. There was always, always, ALWAYS a fire to put out, a decision to be made, a person to take care of. I lived in guilt and in fear and in panic. It's how I wrote, too. It's a wonder I got a paragraph finished, much less entire novels. I have written 200 pages in a week. I have written 60 pages in all-night word fest just to make the extension of an extension.
I was a panic writer because I was also a panic lifer.
In that last summer before my marriage officially ended (at least in my heart and in my head, it took three years to get the paperwork done), I would not accept the death throes of my love for a man who turned out to be an idea. It was a shocking realization that I had created my husband. Doing so made it easier to live with him, I guess. Or maybe not. Those last couple of years were strange and horrifying and several levels of crazy. Even after I asked him to go, and sent him off in our only vehicle, and was stuck in a house I could not afford, I was trapped in the crazy. We weren't together, but I was still taking care of him, I was still dealing with all the crap, and I was still feeling this side of insane.
Then one of my very dear friends told me, "You don't love him anymore, and it's okay." The second she said it, the second I repeated it aloud, a great weight was lifted off of me. I no longer loved my husband, the person he truly was, and the person I had imagined him to be. I didn't love him. I wasn't responsible for him.
And when my focus was finally, irrevocably taken off of him, and I looked around, and I looked at myself, I realized I was standing in the debris of a destroyed life, one I had participated in, and created. I built the bomb and pushed the button.
I tried to get my shit together, but I struggled with an ocean of guilt. I felt like I was swimming toward a shore I would never reach, waves of failure battering at me, pushing me further and further away from the Land of a Better Life. Then another dear friend of mine came along in a boat, yanked me out the water, and said, "Breathe, damn it." She took me to the coast, dumped my ass off, and said, "That's yours. Now go build something better."
Life, and writing, is really about connection. I spent a lot of time feeling disconnected because when I would tune in to the world, I would hurt. And I was so tired of hurting. But I also got tired of not feeling anything, either. Building something new was painful and difficult, but it was also awe-inspiring and exciting. I realized that if I just pushed through, and kept going, I would arrive on the other side. It was empowering. It is empowering.
The funny thing is, the more my life got on track, the more my writing got on track. I have a new answer to that oft-asked question: "What is your writing routine?"
I get up, I turn on my computer, I get the coffee going, and I walk my dogs. When I return, I look through my email, handle what's urgent, and then I open Word. And I write. Sometimes four hours, sometimes six, and some days, I'll write all day in-between walking dogs and feeding my son. It feels right. And good. Like connection. Like life.