I’m still working on my talk about fitting writing into our busy lives. If you are a writer with a day job that requires you to get up and leave the house for hours every day, would you mind weighing in on a few questions?
The big question is how do you manage to write when you have to be away from home for 40 hours a week or more? Do you send yourself email and voice mails to remember things? Do you have stacks of Post-its and notecards that you have to gather up at the end of each week? Do you take lunch in your car so you can write for half an hour?
When you come home from work do you go right to your writing or do you have to wait until everyone is in bed?
Are you one of those early risers who can get up and write for an hour before they go to work?
Other than not enough hours in the day, what is the biggest struggle for you in trying to write when you also have a day job?
Warning. Serious whining ahead. Monday mornings bring this out in me. Gawd I hate getting up at 5am. Hate hate hate it. Maybe if I was off at some lovely writer’s conference and was getting up early to meet with other writers and discuss the latest and greatest in children’s books and which celebrity author we’d most like to see choke, maybe it would be different but I doubt it. Let’s face it, every year at our Asiliomar SCBWI conference I skip breakfast just so I can sleep another couple of hours. I love sleep. I love it more because now I never get quite enough of it. It feels different than when the kids were young and sleep depravation was a way of life.
I know, I did this to myself by switching my work schedule so I could go in early and then come home early. The logic was that 5 years ago when the Silicon Valley was booming, it used to take me over an hour to drive 15 miles straight on the freeway just to get to work. Same thing coming home. That means I lost about 2-1/2 hours every day to DRIVING. I hate driving. So I got the bright idea that if I went in to work early I could skip a bunch of the traffic and the bonus being that I could leave work at 3, missing more traffic on the way home and then have more time to write before my husband comes home from work. And it works most of the time but of late I think more and more of the literary lifestyle and sometimes nothing makes me happy. On the weekends I follow my body’s timeclock, stay up working until 1am, sleep until 9, and wake up refreshed and ready to work. Of course that means that Sunday night there’s no way I can fall asleep by 9 or 10 pm. Ha! So I either stay up late, working, or go to bed and toss and turn for a few hours. Then the alarm goes off at 5 and I start the week in negative sleep numbers. Okay, done now. Maybe if we were building something that could save lives or enrich lives or do some good in the world it might not be so bad. It doesn’t help that we’ve been spun off, bought and sold, and then endured quarterly layoffs for what feels like forever. The mood is seriously dark around the building, unless, of course, you are one of the top guys bringing in the big bucks and all the stock options. Enough. Time to think writing thoughts even while I contemplate engineering schedules and slips and shortages.
Every time I complain about my day job someone points out how much writing I get done because of or in spite of it. I suppose they are right. My last novel turned out to be a verse novel, (please let it sell soon) nothing I ever really planned to write, all because of a suggestion from a friend. When I was working 7 days a week with really no time left to write, this friend suggested that I try playing with poetry. Maybe just short poems about the characters to help me keep the story in front of me while I was working.
It turned out that breaks at work were just the amount of time I needed to jot down some rough ideas. Later those rough ideas smoothed out into something that screamed VOICE and I realized that I had broken through whatever was blocking the novel from coming to life. From then on I was obsessed with writing free verse for the novel. I’d drive to work thinking about one and then sit in the parking lot and write it down before I went inside. I’d keep a notebook in front of my computer because it never failed, I’d be in the midst of something intense in Excel and the boom, I’d hear a line for the poem and jot it down. Some days it happened often enough that by lunch time, I had another rough draft of a new poem. I started sending myself emails from work to home so I didn’t forget things. Some days I would be stuck in traffic and no pen or paper (I know – what kind of writer am I anyway?) and I would use my cell phone to call home and leave a message for myself on my answering machine about the line I didn’t want to forget. It was my busiest time at work but darned if I didn’t write my middle grade verse novel smack dab in the middle of it. And of course, because writing begets writing, by the time I had finished that book I had several more ideas clamoring for attention.
But then ideas are never a problem for me. It’s the execution that slows me down.
I spent most of the entire day working on the website. I think I am almost finished with the writing section of the site. New bullet design (only took 2 days) so I had to replace all the bullets on all the pages. The resource section is complete. All the articles that need to be there for the launch are done. Need to finish the motivation pages and the creativity shop. Oh, and integrate the writing exercises somehow. Okay, maybe I’m not almost finished but I am more than halfway. I never was good on judging time anyway.
I have to admit that as much as I want to be home writing full-time, it’s a little scary. I worry if the lack of structure from the DDJ will make it difficult to write or to even try to write. Discipline isn’t my strong suit. (If it were, I’d be a whole lot thinner than I am now.) Funny, sad funny not ha-ha funny, how when I had the time to write all day because I was a stay-at-home mom I was too naïve or young or inexperienced or something to put the time to the best use (I mean I wrote but I didn’t WRITE to build a career) and now that time is such a luxury, it is all I think about. I’ll get there, I know I will, the same way you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.
Write on, right now.