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Thursday, August 10, 2017


The Best Laid Schemes: When Life Forces a Writing Moratorium

Ten days ago, I was in a car accident. Days later, after trying to ignore a constant headache, sick stomach, and concentration difficulties, a visit to the emergency room produced the diagnosis; I had a concussion.

"The best laid schemes. . . "
-Robert Burns
I hear about concussions all the time. Student athletes at my school frequently suffer from them. I knew these students struggled to keep up with school work but, until ten days ago, I didn’t realize what an impact a concussion could have on a person’s daily life.

The doctor’s instructions were simple: No reading. No writing. No computer. No phone. No television. I was to rest in a darkened room as much as possible until the symptoms subsided.

These instructions would be a tough pill for anyone to swallow, but I’m a writer. I’m a teacher. I’m a blogger. I’m a mom. It’s the last two weeks of summer break! I’m in the middle of manuscript edits requested by an agent!

All my work plans came crashing to a halt. I couldn’t write or read. I felt lost. Worse, I felt woefully behind on my progress and was worried how my writing aspirations would suffer from the loss of this precious time.

As I sat on the sofa, staring at the wall, I had to think of other ways to stick to my goals. I thought about my work in progress – the characters, the plot progression, the ending – and had time to contemplate each one. Small plot holes came to mind. I started to “talk out” the book with my husband and friends – anyone who would listen, really, because sitting on a couch in a darkened room all day is enough to bore anyone to tears - and they helped me find solutions to my problems. I couldn’t write, but I could think and talk. I had my daughter jot down important notes for me as new ideas emerged.

Parts of the book which plagued me began to take shape. I was fixing them – not in writing form, but in my head. I imagined the story, which was just as vivid as writing it down.

As for the no-reading rule – that one was easy to fix. I downloaded a few books on tape and listened to them as I did small tasks, like laundry, or cooking, or resting on the couch with the lights off. This, too, proved beneficial. One book – which will remain nameless – repeated words and phrases so often it was distracting. I made a mental note to watch out for that same mistake in my own writing.

I think everything happens for a reason. In this case, maybe my muse decided I needed to take a writing break and think my story through. As much as I wanted to work on it these last two weeks, taking a break has helped my novel.

I still have the concussion, but I’m doing my best to make the most out of this writing moratorium. As Robert Burns said, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.” No matter how hard we plan, something can always go wrong.

Even if life isn’t forcing you to take a writing break, you might want to consider backing off for a few days. It could be the solution your story needs to take a step forward.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.

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Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Beth--That's the perfect, "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade" story. I'm glad you weren't hurt more seriously, and also glad you made the recuperation period work to your advantage.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

What a way to take a positive spin on things! I'm so sorry to hear you were in a car accident, and I'm glad that you are able to use this time in a positive way. Hope your recovery goes smoothly.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Mary Horner said...

Good advice, and hope you are recuperating nicely!

5:41 PM  

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