Making Time to Write (when life gets in the way!)
Has it really been six weeks since I’ve last published a blog post?
Gosh, time really has gotten away from me. I admit that ‘balance’ isn’t something I’ve been too successful at in the past two months. I took on way too much and felt overwhelmed. It’s taken time, self-reflection and trial and error to find my feet and get a better handle on things.
What have I been up to?
Well, in May I made the decision to expand my freelance writing business (after taking a break for 12 months) and officially niche in health copywriting. I undertook two short courses with the Australian Writers Centre (AWC) and while doing this I put some feelers out there and wound up with five new clients within a few weeks. A great result for business, not so great for work-life balance.
So, not only was I working my part-time ‘day’ job I was also racking up between 20-40 hours of freelance hours and parenting a 2.5-year-old and uh, trying to work on my novels (and preparing a submission to the Richell Prize). It’s probably no surprise that I wasn’t sleeping all that well, I felt anxious and like I wasn’t really doing a great job in any aspect of my life. The past six weeks has also been a difficult time for me on a personal level, which is obviously not something I’d planned for and it made meeting all these demands quite emotionally taxing.
I also received my structural edit back on my manuscript (I’ll save this for another blog post!) and had to take on the enormous job of rewriting large sections of my novel. My ONE goal of 2018 is to get an agent and to get an agent, I need a complete manuscript to submit. Earlier in the year, I’d booked in for a literary speed dating event hosted by the ASA in early July. So, I gave myself the self-imposed deadline to have my edits complete by then.
I owe my survival over the past few weeks to having a good support system (partner and friends) and also taking a step back to reassess priorities, have clear goals and trying not to be too hard on myself.
The very week I accepted my first copywriting project, my daughter quit day naps. I was devastated (still am, if I’m being honest!).
I’ve never been one to sleep while my daughter sleeps, or watch daytime dramas or even engage in any form of household chores during naptime. Because naptime= writing time. Then all of a sudden I no longer had that 90 minutes in the middle of the day to look forward to. I no longer had that precious time to recharge through words and energise me for the remainder of the afternoon.
So, I had to find another way to carve out writing time. While my daughter no longer has day sleeps, she does now go to bed an hour earlier. I quickly worked out that I could still manage an hour of writing before my husband was even back from work, and maybe an extra 30 minutes when I accounted for his shower/ dinner time. It meant I had my 90 minutes back without any interference from my family time.
Also, I’ve rebranded naptime to ‘rest time’ where my daughter will now have some quiet time with books in the middle of the day. This means I can sometimes sneak another 30 minutes of writing time (and we’re both much happier as the afternoon hails in), but sometimes it’s as little as 5 or 10 minutes.
I’ve learned to accept what time I have and make sure I am 100% focussed in short periods of time. When I have large copywriting jobs then I also ‘book in’ some work time on Saturdays when I have an extra set of hands.
Who doesn’t love lists?
How utterly satisfying is it when you tick off a task, or two, or three? Even something as simple as respond to an email or write an article outline, just the act of checking it off a list feels remarkably empowering.
At the moment I have three separate lists: one for copywriting projects, one for business-related tasks, and one for creative writing. I probably should have another one for LIFE stuff but I tend to keep all that in my head.
It can be overwhelming to look at a three-page list of tasks, but since becoming a parent I find I can focus quite well on small tasks in a short period of time. So when I have only ten minutes to achieve something before my daughter announces ‘no more rest time!’ I don’t want to be wasting my time reading emails or messing about on social media. I want to focus on a task and check it off. It’s the only way I get anything done. If it’s not on a list, it probably won’t get done. If I don’t have a goal or a deadline, I’ll just procrastinate.
I’ve never been someone that’s very creative in the evenings. It’s the time I like to zone out and watch crappy reality television or chilling crime thriller shows. Or just read a book before bed.
Of late, I’ve had to sacrifice T.V. time for writing time. I feel totally okay with that. Partly because there’s been nothing on television and partly because it’s the only time of the day I can write (whether it’s copywriting or creative writing). Perhaps the temptation will change when a certain trashy dating show returns to television (ahem The Bachelor anyone?).
I don’t like to write while my daughter plays, mostly because I feel too guilty and because I’ve made the choice to be home with her most days of the week. But weekends, I have had to sacrifice some family time (at least a half day) so I can work on my writing projects. It’s amazing what can be achieved in a few hours of uninterrupted time. It also allows me to get on top of things, feel like I’ve got things under control and then I can set it aside and enjoy the rest of the weekend with my family.
There are days when I’ve thought, is all this really worth it?
When I think back to the number of hours, week, years that have contributed to my passion (not to mention the time spent entering competitions, revising, editing and feeling defeated by rejections), which has brought about absolutely zero financial rewards (well my fiction anyway), I have considered giving up. But only momentarily. I love creative writing too much to quit. Besides, I’m very grumpy when I’m on a writing hiatus. The emotional reward far outweighs any potential financial or physical reward that I may get from writing. So, I’m not ready to give up on my dream yet.
Even though I’m taking on more paid copywriting work, I’m still drawn to the novel sitting on my desktop that I write for free.
Timeout from writing
I love to get outdoors and when I’m not in the presence of a tree at least once a day I feel a bit jittery. So, this time of year is perfect for walking, bushwalking, and picnics. I try to plan these activities so that the time doesn’t come and go.
We’ve also had a weekend away and day trips out of Sydney, with device-free time and making a point of taking time out from work and responsibilities to enjoy each other’s company. While writing does emotionally recharge me, I also need time away from writing to recharge my muse.
I’m submitting my manuscript to an agent very soon!
I’ll keep working on my business until it no longer works for me, and I’ll continue to reflect. Because reflection is the key, really. Taking time to slow down and reassess, means that I can focus on what’s important in the time I have available.
I haven’t quite found the exact balance, but I’m trying.
Finally, I’ll cross my fingers and hope for the best!