When Life Hits Us and Forces Our Fingers Off the Keyboard

If we’re serious about publication, then we have to be equally serious about our writing time. We need to schedule it in and prioritize it. We shouldn’t approach it with the attitude—“If I find time, I’ll write, and if I don’t, I won’t.” No one will make it far with a haphazard writing schedule.

Most of us know what we need to do, but struggle with the reality of finding a writing routine that works for us. We find ourselves waking up in the dark hours of the morning, staying up too late, and sacrificing sleep. We end up saying no to friends and fun activities in our continuous battle to squeeze in time for our writing.

We try so hard to stay self-disciplined and stick to our hodge-podge routine. But suddenly, BAM—life hits us and forces our fingers off the keyboard. The unexpected, the call of real life shouts at us and demands all of our attention and energy.

What should we do then?

Real life hit me last week in a couple of different ways. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have heard about our adventure with baby squirrels. One afternoon last week, my two youngest discovered a tiny creature attempting to crawl around on the ground underneath a scraggly elm tree in our back yard. Upon closer examination we realized it was a baby red squirrel. It barely had its eyes open and could hardly hold up its head.

I quickly cautioned the children against touching it, knowing in some cases parents will reject a baby that has human scent. While they hovered around it, I rushed inside and sent out a cry for help on Facebook and Twitter.

Within minutes, people responded with all kinds of ideas. One local friend sent me the phone number of rescue specialist, and I immediately contacted her. The specialist directed us to leave the baby alone for a while to allow the mama squirrel the opportunity to get it and return it to the nest high in the tree. If the mama didn’t retrieve it by nightfall, we needed to bring it in, feed it water, and keep it warm.

Of course, the mama didn’t show up and so we had a house guest for the night. The next morning we tried again to lure the mama to her baby. But we didn’t see or hear her. By that time, we started syringe feeding Squeakers. As we worked to save his precious little life, we noticed three more baby squirrels clinging to the bark high near the nest.

The short of the long story is that eventually the other three either fell off or crawled low enough for us to reach them. We spent hours syringe feeding all FOUR of them kitten formula diluted with warm water. Over the phone, the specialist walked us step-by-step through what to do and believed something must have happened to the mother. Without their mother to nurse, hunger had driven the babies from their safe nest.

During the busy hours trying to save the lives of the tiny squirrels, I reluctantly gave up hope of meeting my daily writing goals. I knew I could try really hard to squeeze it in and get frustrated with every interruption, or I could just lower my expectations and embrace the chaos of the moment.

Amidst all of the squirrel feedings, the phone rang. It was my husband calling to let me know he’d just received news that his dad was dying and had less than a month to live.

With tears in my eyes, I gazed at the baby squirrel cupped in my palm with its paper thin claws, shivering body, and the formula dribbling down its chin. And I realized at that moment just how fragile life can be.

Yes, we need to have commitment to our writing. We have to set writing goals, push ourselves to stick to them, and viciously guard our writing time from outside distractions. But when real life drops into our hands (sometimes literally) and forces our fingers from the keyboard, we need to remind ourselves that life is short and delicate.

Life is like a hungry baby squirrel clinging precariously to a tree, or a 65 year old man hanging on to each breath until he can say good-bye to his sons. We never know when we’ll lose our own delicate grasp on life.

My encouragement to all of us (myself included) is to use our writing gifts with all of the passion and purpose inside us. But there are times when we need to lower our expectations, give ourselves a break, and embrace the interruptions life hands us.

Sometimes life is too short. We should live each moment to the fullest before it’s our turn to let go.

What interruptions has life handed you? How do you know when to push through the distractions and keep on writing? And how do you decide when to embrace the chaos and give yourself a break?

P.S. A local rescuer expert now has the squirrels in her care. Even though we miss the babies, we know she'll be able to take care of them properly and eventually release them back into the wild (maybe even into our back yard!). And my husband flew half-way across the country and is saying good-bye to his dad.

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