People often ask, “How did you handle X, and still manage to write a book?” Maybe X is a bad breakup or the birth of your second child or a demanding day job or your water heater exploding. X can be anything, but it absolutely will be something.
There is never a perfect time to write. Sure, occasionally someone gets a grant and goes off to the woods or the seaside to sit in perfect solitude and cuddle up to his or her muse. But that’s not how most books get written. Most of the time something stressful or exhausting or frustrating is happening. This thing– be it spouse, toddler, unpaid bills, new crush, leaky roof, existential angst, head cold, scary tumor, drugged out neighbor, rotten ex, or pigeon trapped in chimney– will distract you, pummel you, exhaust you, and most importantly, it will divert you from your routine.
This is life. This is what happens. The bills must get paid. The roof must get fixed. Illness must be endured. Grief must be honored. If you ignore the storm, then you risk being smashed on the rocks. But let the storm take you off course for too long and you may never make land at all. Okay, maybe you don’t like nautical metaphors. Maybe you see yourself as more of a lone bicyclist or a gentleman explorer. The point is that whether it’s ill winds or a bump in the road or a vicious pterodactyl that gets in your way, when the worst has passed, you have to find a way to get back to work.
Face the page alone every day. Regardless of what is happening in your life, keep writing. If you don’t feel able to wrestle with your WIP, at least maintain the practice of sitting down at your laptop or your notebook. Journal, blog, put together a pitch for a new project, take up composing dreadful poetry. Face the page alone every day. Do not lose this habit. It is the core of your routine. The rest can be built around it.
One of the greatest challenges of book 2 was building a new routine. While writing book 1 of the Grisha Trilogy, I got very set in my ways and I loved it. I walked to the coffee shop each morning, ordered the same thing every day. I sat at a large table in my dining room with all of my papers laid out in neat piles, with my nubbly sweater and my favorite mug near to hand. Then my deadline got bumped up and along came X as it invariably does: Winds! Rain! Thunder! Drama! I ended up writing book 2 while living out of a suitcase and eating jam from a jar. But it got written.
Face the page alone every day. It will feel like a chore, like you’ve got nothing left, like you’re looking into the abyss, but make yourself do it. Each day that you affirm that you’re a writer you are correcting your course and moving toward a new routine that will replace the one that got disrupted. That knowledge can help quiet your doubts, and it may just give you the strength to weather the storm or punch the crap out of that pterodactyl.