Your family is coming to town and they’re staying with you for a couple of days. You’re going on vacation for two weeks. Summer has slipped by and a new fall semester brings endless stacks of essays to grade, student appointments to keep, and faculty meetings to attend. The holidays arrive and you’re slated for a round of house surfing as you visit relatives and the in-laws. Year after year, life is an endless battle for time and energy to write. We must fight like hell.
Love your family and friends but use tooth and nail to stake your claim on any precious hour or day you need to write. The name of the game is to preserve and conserve. Working writers must be stewards, guardians, or, more aptly, vigilantes. Sometimes you have to be cut throat.
Your great aunt wants to throw a surprise birthday party for your second cousin who you haven’t seen since your great uncle’s funeral, and you get only two days notice for a particular date you specifically reserved to comb through a draft of Chapter 3. What do you do? You should know.
Writers must be hyper organized if they’re expected to get any work done while balancing a full time job and family obligations. Time is precious so PLAN AHEAD. How does one do this in everyday life?
Example A: a writer and college professor had got all her copying done in the spring semester, so she doesn’t have to make endless trips to duplicating for her summer school class. She has her course calendar down, knows exactly what she’ll do from session to session because she worked it all out during spring semester, which left her the weeks free between spring and summer to write. She also, most likely, has more time during summer session for writing rather than prepping. A usual prep for one single class day can take up to three hours. If you plan ahead you can reduce that to one hour and have an extra two for your passion.
Example B: the parents are driving up. You have the day to write and clean. Reasonably figure out how much cleaning you need to do and how long it will take. Then get the writing done first! Always, whenever possible, write first. Its much easier to get to that before anything else because the anything else always finds a way to take longer and extend its longevity like a bad relationship.
Example C: you get home from a grueling day at work, and your brain is so tired its like oatmeal. You can barely muster the energy to feed yourself. Whatever you do, do not turn on the TV. Go for a walk. Though you’ll kick and scream because it hurts to pull on your sneakers and tie them up. And you’ll swear you can’t find your “walking sweater” so you might as well forgo the exercise. Once you get outside and the fresh air hits you, the kids laughing and screaming their heads off at the park nearby, and the birds cawing to each other in the trees will activate your senses. You will be rejuvenated. In twenty minutes, you’ll want to sit down to the computer and spend an hour fiddling with revision, and, more than likely, that hour will turn to two or three until before you know it, bedtime.
A crucial strategy for razing writer’s hell, know your time vampires and weigh with serious commitment if those monsters are really worth their time and effort. Know when to put the joystick down and log out of email. And then, do it. Set a timer.
Another battle cry, accept the guilt and start writing. You know that you’ll feel guilty shutting your bedroom door to the guests who are staying for the weekend even though you’ve already emailed them weeks in advance when they planned their trip that you’ll need two or three hours for work. If you don’t plan ahead with this, expect the more awful, most terrible guilt for letting a whole four days pass by without checking into your project.
There is something to be said for sustained focus. If you can live with a project, meaning have ideas percolating on a consistent basis either in the back of your mind, but more preferably in the fore, a work can and will only grow stronger for it. Fight like hell for that sustained concentration.
When you travel, reserve an hour a day for journaling. Add to your itinerary that cafe near your hotel for people watching and note-taking, and be sure to dedicate some time for your project. New environs should lend to a new perspective. A new slant on an old story you may have been working on for years may be just the kick you needed to thrust the narrative into action.
The fight is endless. Accept that now. There will always be loads of laundry, essays, and family obligations. Writing is like flossing. Its not glamorous. More of a pain than anything, and you’ve got to do it every day for your own sake.
Fight like hell for your artistic imperative. No one else is going to do it for you.