April 1, 2020

Free to Write March 16, 2020 — Down time

Ever since I met my husband Tom, he has been trying to convince me of the value of rest, relaxation and the art of just being. Over the years, I’ve slowed down some. But it has taken a global pandemic to stop me in my tracks.

I’ve written about this before – my tendency to go at life at a fast pace. To get as much done as possible on any given day. To fill up my calendar with endless activities and chores.

Lord knows I need down time to write and journal. And I’ve managed to carve out a few hours on a somewhat regular basis to do just those things.

But now, with a life-threatening virus spreading, I have no choice but to slam on the brakes and stay home. No trips to the YMCA to exercise. No lunches with friends or evenings at restaurants. No church activities or volunteer work. And only limited trips to the grocery store and pharmacy.

So what’s a writer to do?

I can think of two things.

The first thing I’m suggesting has nothing to do with writing. I’m reaching out to friends who live alone and making sure they’re okay. I’m in good health and have no underlying conditions that make me more susceptible to the virus. So far, I live in a city with very few cases, so if I don’t get close to others, I can help my older friends with a grocery run or some other necessity.

Second, I can take full advantage of all this unexpected down time and use it to work on my book project. I’m about two-thirds of the way into the first draft. Now is the perfect time to hunker down and focus on the final chapters. It’s like a gift from heaven.

I got a similar gift many years ago when I was working on my first book Texas Mutiny. I got laid off from work and it took eight months to find another job. I wasn’t happy about being unemployed, but I used that time to make a lot of progress on the manuscript.

I hope you can use some of this forced down time to do some writing, whether it’s journaling, crafting your life stories or working on a larger project that needs a lot of focus.

I also encourage you to remember friends and family members why may need help during the current pandemic. This week’s Writing Spark might help you think about this notion in specific ways.


Writing sparks

  1. Who can you reach out to in a caring and helpful way during the current flu outbreak? Write down some names and check on them. If you can’t go to their aid, maybe you know someone who can.
  2. Being intentional about using this time to write is a really good idea. That means sitting down with your calendar and getting specific about when you will write. Make appointments – set aside specific times when you will journal or work on a project. Then be sure to follow through!

The current crisis won’t last forever – even though it seems like it will. I encourage you to make the most of what time it frees up for you.

Free to Write March 9, 2020 — Expecting the Unexpected

“Sometimes the best things in life are unexpected.” — Faith Sullivan

Have you ever noticed how quickly life can change? Things seem to be rocking along in a predictable manner and then wham! Everything is upside down.

Just last week, we saw the race for the presidency take a dramatic turn. Before Super Tuesday, there were umpteen candidates running for the Democratic nomination. In a few days, we were down to two.

This sudden change got me to thinking about the abrupt flips and turns my life has taken.

On the job front

During my career as a writer, I saw my fortunes change at lightning speed. There was the time I quit my job so I could become a freelance speechwriter. I had no work lined up and it seemed a crazy thing to do. But I had a strong inner sense that it was the right path.

Within three days, I had a part-time writing gig at The University of Texas – a job that would keep some money coming in. After another month, I became a contract speechwriter for the American Medical Association.

And then there was the time a few years ago when I was laid off from my job unexpectedly. Within a short time, I became head of The Writers’ League of Texas.


I’ve seen some pretty quick changes in my personal life, too. Eight years ago, I was happily single and living a full life. I wasn’t dating anyone and didn’t plan to.

Then I met Tom and in short order, it was clear that he and I were going to go the distance together.

On a sadder note, in 2009 my 90-year-old mother was living alone, driving and managing her own affairs. She had tons of friends. Then she fell and broke her hip and the life she knew came to an end overnight. She moved to a retirement community where she could have more support.

Like the picture above says: You never know what’s around the corner.

Writing spark

How has your life changed dramatically and quickly? Think back and write down a few occasions that come to mind. Then write about one of them in detail. Try to free write – keeping your pen on the page and writing as fast as you can. Try not to think too much. Write about what happened and how you felt at the time.