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shana galen

When Life Gets in the Way


One of the categories in my local RWA chapter's annual Rose Awards ceremony is "Life Got in the Way." Year after year, we all chuckle as, one after another, each and every member receives a rose or certificate with this distinction.

Life gets in the way for all of us. If nothing else, we have that in common. Husbands, kids, work, errands—they make up our lives and take up our precious writing time.

Recently life got in the way for me. And not just life—LIFE. At first the interruption was minor. My car wouldn't start one morning, and I had to take it to the dealership after work instead of writing as I'd planned. No problem. On my way out the door, I had the presence of mind to grab my laptop and was able to get a little writing, if far less than I would have liked, accomplished.

The next day, car crisis dealt with, I rushed home after work to catch up, only to be greeted by LIFE and the sound of running water in my bathroom. I don't have a roommate and, though I can be scatterbrained, I hadn't left the water running, so I dropped my bags and sprinted for the bathroom.

The ceiling was raining. No, not just raining—water was pouring into my bathroom, rapidly turning my floor and carpet into Lake Erie.

No writing time that night, I figured. And after the multitude of maintenance men finished haphazardly patching the ceiling and generally standing around shaking their heads at the gigantic mess I would have to clean up, the last thing I wanted to do was delve into my chick lit.

But I did. I told myself I'd write for fifteen minutes and then I could quit. I'd just started a writing log and hadn't missed a day of writing yet. I wasn't going to let Niagara Falls ruin my writing streak. With a periodic drip-drip from the bathroom punctuating my sentences, I typed away, figuring I'd end up deleting most of what I'd written. But surprisingly, after the first five minutes the words were really flowing. The writing was pithier, more jaded than my usual style, but it was also witty and fun and real.

And the next day when LIFE, in the form of a redneck cop, gave me a speeding ticket, instead of despairing at the amount of writing time defensive driving and calls to GEICO would deplete, I started crafting a scene where Georgie, my chick lit heroine, has a run-in with LIFE. It became the climax of the novel—the ultimate test of her character. I'd like to say that the traffic ticket was the end of my dealings with LIFE, but my printer had other ideas. Still, through it all, I kept writing. I kept logging my hours. And what I found is that life, even LIFE, didn't need to "get in the way" of my writing. Life actually got into my writing.

And isn't that the reason that we, as authors, write? Writing helps us deal with life, make sense of it, come to terms with it. In a recent article in The Writer magazine, noted young adult author Katherine Paterson wrote, "Writing clears away the leaves of debris from the spring. If we don't write, or do whatever we do that cleans away the debris from our souls, we are in trouble. We have a responsibility to ourselves—we need to write for our soul's sake."

Writing for our soul's sake. Those are powerful words: words I embrace, words I want to live by. So I'm taking this opportunity to propose a new category for the Rose Awards—"Writing Got in the Way."

Any takers?

© Shana Galen


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