Friday, May 28, 2021

Coming Out of a Dry Spell

by Pam Hillman

I’ve been reflecting on how 2020 shut everyone down in so many ways. No graduations for students. No parties. No Thanksgiving or Christmas for others. Businesses shuttered. Many going bankrupt.

For writers, in some ways, maybe it might not have been too bad to social distance and be shut-in. Authors are solitary people and writing is a (mostly) solitary undertaking. But the ramifications of the pandemic reached its tentacles into many an author’s life. Some were called on to provide childcare and/or virtual learning when their children or grandchildren’s daycare and schools closed their doors.

And for those who didn’t become caregivers or teachers, just the stress of the pandemic worked on their psyche, making writing difficult. But if 2020 seems like a blur and you look back and can’t think of one thing you did to further your writing career, don’t despair.

One year doesn’t a writing career make — or break.

Did you know there were 22 years between Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Resurrection? Or that James Joyce remained silent for 17 years between Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake? Supposedly, Joyce was so exhausted after finishing Ulysses that he didn’t write a thing for a year. And when he did start writing again, his production slowed to a crawl due to more trauma in his life. His father died, and he had to deal with the health of his daughter, Lucia, as well as his own health issues. (Sound familiar, anyone?)

Do you need more? Pynchon had a 17 year time-out. US writer Harold Brodkey, 33 years. And 60 years … SIXTY YEARS … between works for Henry Roth. I am not familiar with these last authors’ works, but just making a point that 2020 is ONE YEAR in your writing career. ONE YEAR.

Take a breath.

Take a break.

Take a page from some writers who took a lot longer than a year to get back in the game.

Take care of family and take care of yourself.

Then, when the time is right, pick up your pen, or open your laptop, and begin again.


CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com

19 comments:

  1. There is so much wisdom here... down home wisdom, the kind that comes from someone who knows that the roller coaster is supposed to have ups and downs, twists and turns... that's why we hand over our ticket for the ride, isn't it?

    Pam, you're so right.

    I've used the "time" thing to get through lots of things in life..

    "I can do anything for a few hours." (being nice to people who aren't your cup of tea for a holiday instead of being a jerk and staying home)

    "I can do anything for a week," (dealing with the boss being gone and the pseudo boss taking over)

    "I can do anything for a month." (Dealing with a season of rain, rain and more rain)

    "I can do anything for a year." (Walking the path to heaven with someone you love.)

    "I can do anything..." You get the gist. If we see the end of the tunnel either visually or via timeline, it helps us focus.

    We're not blindly saying I can do anything! That's foolish talk most times... but if you gauge it out into a time frame, it's truly amazing what we can do... and what we should do.

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    1. Ruthy, I do this too. A variation is "by tomorrow it will be all over." Good for biopsies, mammograms, colonoscopies and the like.
      KB

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    2. I can do anything for a _____ (fill in the blank). Good stuff, Ruthy!

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  2. Thank you Pam for this encouraging post! 1 year or a few months or weeks is just a blip on the calendar.

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    1. Yes. I spent several months of last year immersed in elder care and at the time it seemed like I slogged through quicksand. But now, I realize it was a blip on the radar in my mother's long 81 yo life-span.

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  3. Pam, I'm here and you are so right. Or "write." I was able to write during the pandemic and finished a couple of projects, but forces from the outside slowed me down. My nonfiction local history book won't be out this summer as I planned, and I'm still waiting for the paper copies of a book I had published July of 2020. All well and good to say, oh, everything's digital these days, except when it isn't, a number of my readers still prefer paper. I just signed a contract for the third and last "Western Dreams," and am hoping that won't be slowed by what's left of COVID. It's a domino effect, isn't it?
    Well if I were James Joyce I'd rest after "Ulysses" too.
    This post really helped me. As a relatively new author, I'm often afraid to stop because I might lose momentum. I need to stop and breathe and remind myself I'm in it for the long haul.
    And God is in control. If I let Him be.
    And we go on, when we can. I've finished the first half of my Revolutionary War book on my self-imposed schedule, I'm taking a few days to shore up what I've already done, then I'll plunge into the second half. And I started a novella mostly for fun. Because what's in us eventually has to come out.
    Glorious day here, not too hot, will be taking a road trip to western NH with my daughter to shoot pix for a possible next nonfiction history book and at least today, life is good.
    Have a blessed Memorial Day if I don't get back here.
    Kathy Bailey
    Always your Kaybee
    Letting it all unfold in New Hampshire

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    1. Kathy, you've been faithful to your calling the last 12 months. Even with a few setbacks, you've accomplished so much!

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  4. I agree that there is a lot of wisdom here. I haven't written much at all in the last five years, but I'm feeling a new motivation to get back to it. When I feel tempted to chide myself for the wasted time, I remember the verse from Joel 2:25 about the Lord restoring the years that the locusts have eaten. I feel like God gives us seasons to write and not write and we should glean what we can from the time we aren't and use it for the times we are.

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    1. What a perfect verse to hold on to, Glynis!

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  5. It has been a crazy year. I am one of the rare authors who is extroverted and thrives on human interaction. And yet, I found it easier to write last year than this one. I don't know if it's just because we've gotten so busy again, or if I just exhausted myself, but now that school's over, I am hoping for enough rest to be able to knock some things out this summer before I go back to school and have edits for my fall/winter releases. Thank you for the reminder that it's okay to take breaks when we need them.

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    1. Isn't it interesting how our personality traits affect our productivity during hard times and even good times? Some people thrive under pressure while others shut down. Sounds like you've taken all in stride, Amy. Well done!

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  6. Great post, Pam. Thanks for the reminder that it doesn't have to be over when we get a dry spell.

    It has been a great week of five posts. I have loved the everyday!

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  7. Hi Pam:

    Loved your message this morning.


    Take a breath.

    Take a break.

    Take a page from some writers who took a lot longer than a year to get back in the game.

    Take care of family and take care of yourself.

    Then, when the time is right, pick up your pen, or open your laptop, and begin again.


    The important part of this is taking care of family and care of yourself.

    Time is precious. One year might not seem like a big deal until you start to wonder if you even have a year left. Then a year becomes a lifetime!

    For each writer who came back after many years to write again, how many died before they could finish their last great work? Kafka? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Hemingway?

    While the time missed from writing should never act as an excuse not to start writing again, neither should such lost time ever be taken lightly.

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    1. Thank you, Vince. I love your last sentence. Wonderful wisdom we should all take to heart!

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  8. It's reassuring to know other writers made it through difficult times and eventually published again!

    I'm rejoicing that we're on this end of the pandemic.

    I'm claiming it's over!

    Shall we burn our masks? Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. And, yes, I still wear a mask at times...but it's the exception now instead of the rule. And I feel so liberated.

    Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all!

    God bless our fallen military heroes!

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    1. Burning masks... sorry, but that made me laugh. Very 60s'ish! lol Happy Memorial Day back at you!

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  9. Ugh! Ya'll, I commented earlier today from my phone and thought all my comments went through. They SEEMED to.

    Sorry to look like I was AWOL all day. :(

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  10. What a blessing of a post! I will admit, this pandemic hit me hard in the creativity. Putting words on the page seemed such a slog! I am amazed I was able to finish a book, and that by the Grace of God!

    Take a breath, take a break.

    I can do anything for _________.

    Gonna hug those two thoughts to my heart for awhile.

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