Sleep? Ain't nobody got time for that.  From our friends at
Sleep? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
From our friends at

Being a responsible adult really sucks at times. I have to go to work, do my job, complete my graduate assignments, get sleep at some point, pay the bills, socialize, and somehow find some time to work on my thesis. All of this insanity sadly leaves me with very little time to write. Actually, for the past three weeks, I haven’t done any creative writing at all…not even poetry. I’m not really going to have time to do any this week, either: I have two 15 page papers to write, two classes to teach, and a second job to work. Oh, and research. That’s important, too. So right now, I’m dealing with a little separation anxiety. I don’t have any time for non-academic writing, but I desperately miss it. I feel like I’m guilty of child-neglect or something, that’s how bad it’s gotten. I know many people make themselves take breaks to write during their high-intensity weeks, but I’ve learned from experience that using that method just doesn’t work for me. I get so wrapped up in my writing, even if it’s just a haiku, that I can’t transition back into my more serious efforts. Awful, I know, but there it is. During my busiest weeks, I HAVE to distance myself from my creative writing, or nothing else gets done. I’m sure at least one other person has the same problem, so I thought I would share some of my tips for dealing with the separation anxiety until I can get back to writing with a clear conscience.

1)  Reading. Since I can’t write fiction during intense times without my academic work suffering, I choose to read the fiction of others. I generally go for Agatha Christie, Tolkien, or Poe in this situation, but I have been known to mix in some Dostoevsky and/or Ellery Queen. Reading a really good book eases some of the strain I’m under, but without entrapping me so deeply in my own world that I can’t get out of it in time to get back to my daily obligations. It distracts me from the fact that I can’t do any of my own writing at the time, but also inspires me to get my work done faster so that I can actually get back to writing. It’s a win-win situation. The trick is to read a book that I’ve already read before, particularly one that I really know and love. If I try to start a new book, I run into the same problem I do with creative writing. But reading definitely helps!

2) Utilizing a completely different creative outlet. I’m a dancer – I do East Coast/Lindy and West Coast Swing, Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata. When I get tired of working at my job or homework, but I know I can’t try to write, I get up and practice my dance moves. It allows me to expend the pent-up creative energy, and as a bonus, gives me an adrenaline boost that helps me feel energized so that I can get back to other work. For you, this option might entail art, crocheting, cooking, or something else along those lines. Just be creative! dance

3) Brainstorming. This is the option I use when I just can’t stand to be away from my writing anymore but I am still in possession of a modicum of self-control. Usually this occurs late in the evening after a long day of work when my brain is overheating and I’m exhausted. At this point, I set my books down and allow myself a 10 minute shower. During this time, I think only in terms of a story or a poem. I let the creative ideas come, and I just follow them down whatever path they take while I’m in the shower. When my 10 minutes are up, I write down the words or images that came to mind, put the notebook away, and get back to work. This method is used only out of extreme necessity because it runs the line between frustration and satisfaction a little too closely. Still, it works when I need it to.

I hope that helps someone, especially during this really busy time of the year 🙂 Anyone else have any tips for dealing with separation anxiety when it comes to writing?


3 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety: When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

  1. I feel your pain, Selayna. The time from leaving the house for work to returning is almost 12 hours, spend some time with the family, and onto other work. The last fortnight and a bit have had no time for writing, though the long commute time to and from work has assisted greatly in catching up on my reading. That being said, one feels neglectful because of so many conflicting tasks at hand.

    I am amazed at your grueling workload, and am quite jealous at the wide variety of your dance skills =)

    Unfortunately, there are no hints to be had from me. Reading keeps the neurons firing, and providing some subconscious sustenance for one’s own writings.

    Good luck with such an epic list of projects; hope everything goes well =)

  2. It’s always good to mix the style of book, classics and philosophy are great but its always nice to balance that out with something light and or cheesy. I tend to poke mine with a stick first to see if they bite.

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