This last weekend I spent a lot of time doing non-work, non-chore things. I spent time with the kids, I worked on some crochet, I read a bunch, watched the playoffs with friends, and watched the first two of the LOTR with the kids (their first time). By the third day, I had started to have an anxiety attack. I kept twitching and feeling like I should get up and do stuff. I have a huge list, and of course the writing is never done. That’s the nature of the work. You can finish a story or a book for a time, but usually you must revisit it, if only to copy edit, and then you must start the next one. What that means is that you have to discipline yourself to not work as much as you have to discipline yourself to work.
Writers don’t work 9-5. Or rather, some probably do, but most have better times to work. And writers don’t necessarily stop writing for lunch or for breaks or for the 5 o’clock chime. We write until the wordcount is done, or until the deadline is made, and sometimes we get a ton of words down and none are useful and we have to start all over again. Sometimes the story changes direction and we have to revise a bunch. But the deadlines remain and you end up working late or on weekends. But even if you do manage to work 9-5 or 8-4 or whatever, you can’t turn your creative mind off. You end up thinking about the story all the time and rarely get away from it. Or another story comes along and blindsides you and you have to write it down and it wants some head time for thinking . . . . The point is, you never really leave the job.
Somewhere in there, you also have to do life stuff. Run errands, pay bills, raise kids, cook, clean, maintain the house, and then of course, the rest of living life. It’s so easy when you’re a writer not to have a structured day. One where you insist that the writing time is sacrosanct and only this time is allowed for other things. After all, so many places are only open during the day. You need to call the plumber and go to the bank and the post office and get the oil changed and and and and. There is no end.
So that brings me back to this weekend. I planned to do several things. I planned to do the LOTR with the kids, and I planned to do some chores. Because my husband is living away from us (working out of state), I’m temporarily a single mom with a day job and writing. I’ve learned that means not to make plans so much. Not to expect so much from myself. Part of that is time and part of that is emotion. I have to struggle sometimes to get myself to do things, even the stuff I want to do, because we’ve been married for 23 years and it’s not that easy living apart. Harder than I thought, in fact, and it’s been going on now for over 9 months.
I did get a number of chores done, along with the other stuff that cropped up. Of course, several fixit projects also cropped up and I did not get those done. They will get in line behind a whole slew of other things. Or is that slough? I don’t know. (looked it up. Slew is correct. Slough would be a swamp or fen. Random fyi). The point is, neither the writing nor the stuff to do ever ends. The writer must draw lines in the sand. The healthy writer must decide that this time is going to be life time/family time/regeneration time/fun time. No work, no chores, and most importantly, no guilt. Maybe the writer brain doesn’t turn off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn yourself to other things.
Of course taking that advice can be tough. I’m still roiling in my stomach from what I didn’t get done and what my idiot guilt is saying I should have got done. What I need to do is establish a written schedule, one that I can keep, and try to keep it. I would hope that in doing so, I could get rid of the guilty anxiety of not doing everything and not doing enough.
I have to remind myself that the work reloads ad infinitum and I must reload myself if I’m going to stay sane and healthy (notice how I separate those two as if they were, in fact, separate entities. See how I fool myself? Also, there’s no need to point out that staying sane may not be an issue for me, since my sanity is ever in question.)
How do you organize yourself? Does it work for you?