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Like many writers, particularly writers of innovative fiction or fiction otherwise out of the mainstream, my writing contributes zero to my ability to pay my bills. Consequently, I have to fit my writing schedule around my job. Of course, my life involves more than just writing and job, and I think all of us can recall periods in our lives when events and responsibilities have overwhelmed our schedules and stymied our efforts to create.

During such times, when a few minutes do become available, it often feels difficult to re-enter the work in a meaningful way–the mind is distracted, energy low. I’m presently going through just such a period–major home renovations, a new job, and the need to help an elderly parent with a major relocation have all dominated my attention for the past few months. Consequently, work on Housebreaking the Muse and my other projects has slowed to a crawl.

But, if you have enough energy to read, there is hope of stringing progress along, even when those crowded, demanding periods throw our lives into chaos. The trick is this: don’t read the unopened novel that’s been moldering on your bookshelf for months. Rather, read your own work in progress. Just read it–nothing more. Leave your pencil or marking pen in the desk drawer. Resist the urge to edit as long as possible. The reading will tend to move you outside your work, and you’ll notice things you didn’t see when deeply enmeshed in the creative process.

Naturally, at some point you won’t be able to help yourself and you’ll give in to the urge to edit. Hey! Look what happened! You’ve re-entered the work. And in my experience, editing leads inevitably to writing. If the process takes you that far, excellent! But, even if you only manage to read your work, you will still have maintained a connection to it and, more than likely, harvested insights you can use later to both improve it and sustain it when life ultimately allows you to return to the writing table.

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