How to Keep Your Writing Alive in a Family Crisis

Whether it’s an accident, a health problem, a financial problem, or a mental health issue–the upheaval of a crisis can cause chaos. There are things you can do to keep your writing alive in a family crisis. Ways you can lessen the chaos. Things you can do to care for yourself, your loved ones, and to keep your writing alive in a family crisis. These things are applicable to any job or goals that get interrupted.

How to keep your writing alive during a family crisis

Recognize that there is a crisis.

We all tend to deny the scary stuff in our personal lives. Stop and look at your situation. Sometimes the crisis is long term, sometimes it’s short term. The crucial thing is to recognize it’s a crisis.

Your emotional response is normal.

No matter what you are feeling, your feelings are a normal reaction to stress and grief. Yes, even if there’s no death involved there will be grief. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings but don’t allow them to rule you. (I am living proof that this is not always easy.)

Remember that other family members are having emotional reactions as well. Give each other the time and space you need to feel the feelings. Talk about your feelings. Support each other.

Don’t dwell on feeling sorry for yourself or lashing out at others. If you feel stuck in self-pity or anger, talk to someone. A trusted friend or a mental health professional can help.

Don’t fall into addictive behaviors whether its alcohol, drugs or video games. It’s tempting to hide or numb yourself with your addiction of choice. Numbing yourself to the situation doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help the situation. Get professional help.

Decide what you can do to fix the issue.

Be honest with yourself. In my case, beyond getting medical help for my loved one, there is nothing I can do to fix the issue. Critical health issues exist. Fixing it is up to God, the medical personnel, and my loved one’s strength. Your situation may be different. Focus on what you can do.

Accept what you cannot do.

This is hard. It calls for an honest assessment and forgiveness of yourself.

Decide what you can do.

Be honest. In a family crisis, you have limitations in time, emotional strength, and in energy. What are you willing to do? Can you do each and every one of the steps required to accomplish the task?

Let some things go.

Does it really matter if the rug is vacuumed or the furniture is dusted? Let go of the small stuff. It will still be there when you have time to deal with it.

Make a plan.

Make a specific plan for when, where, what, how, and why. Share your plan with someone you trust and can help. Perhaps a friend or family member can sit with your loved one to give you time to step away and write.

If you have a hard deadline—contact your editor or publisher or boss. Give him or her the bare facts. Too much detail. Ask if your deadline can be flexed. If it cannot be adjusted, ask for help from family and friends. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to do what must be done AND to take care of yourself.

Follow through with your plan.

Implement your plan. Be flexible. In a crisis, things rarely go exactly as planned. Have a backup plan.

Early in the crisis, you may not be able to meet a word count goal. Make your goal to get some words down, even if its just two minutes in your personal journal.

Work in short blocks of time. Your energy will be limited. Do as few or as many blocks of time as you need to or must, but allow yourself breaks to check on the crisis or to exercise or to replenish your creative well.

Sometimes the crisis is too overwhelming and you don’t have the time or energy to write. That’s okay. Make a plan about when to start writing again and what to do to get your head into the writing again. Be kind to yourself.

Ask for help.

This one is even harder. Or is that just me? It is not a weakness to need help during a crisis.

The earlier you ask for help, the better. Getting help early can help keep your life less chaotic and help you feel more in control.

When you’re deeply caught up in a family crisis it can be difficult to conceive of how someone else can help you. Make a list of the things you would like to be able to do. When someone offers to help, ask them what item on your list they are willing to do. Asking lots of people for a little help here and there doesn’t overly tax anyone.

Rinse and Repeat

Take time to go back through all of these steps over and over again. You will need to adjust to each new development in the family crisis whether it’s improving or getting more intense.

Take Care of Yourself

Above all, take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water. Eat well. Good nutrition during a crisis is essential. Get as much rest as you can. Do gentle exercise when you can.

Get medical, psychological, financial, and legal help. All those things will be affected by a family crisis.

Give yourself permission and time for something enjoyable at least once a day.

Be kind and loving toward yourself. You cannot fix the crisis if you run yourself down to the point where you are the next crisis.


I’m trying to follow these steps during my family crisis. Have I found the perfect way to cope with a family crisis? Heck no. I’m coping. How to keep your writing alive in a family crisis isn’t a one and done type of thing. What coping techniques have you found helpful or hurtful during a family crisis? Are you willing to share with us?


  1. Your suggestion about getting at least two minutes to write something, anything, is one that I find the most helpful. It provides immediate distance or perspective from the crisis. Mine is health-related, as you know, not necessarily a crisis but progressive. On my worst days I find myself writing blog drafts, many of which never see the light of day and those that do, far from original form. I am still a writer, I realize, and that helps me with my health. Excellent post, Lynette!

    1. Thank you, Karen. Chronic health issues are like a slow-moving crisis–sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. I’ve been living in that state for the past five-plus years. Yes, you are a writer. One whose poetic phrasing, philosophy, and general personhood are things I admire very much. So you keep on taking those two minutes, even if no one else sees those words. I’m rooting for you.

  2. I can’t write during times of crisis. Just can’t summon up anything creative. So try to keep the well refilling (or at least not emptying altogether) by reading more, and watching good stuff on TV.

    Hope your husband’s health improves, and you’re able to get back into more writing soon!

    1. Oh, that’s a good point, Jennette! I should have mentioned that as a method of keeping in touch with your writing. Thank you for sharing and thanks for your good wishes.

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