I’m a busy person without counting any of the writing I do. I look after my home and family, hold down a busy, complicated job four days a week as a fundraiser and event coordinator, and try to steer the Sunburst Award organization toward their goals. In addition I spend a lot of time crafting menus and shopping for groceries and making healthy foods, and looking after my physical fitness and managing my weight. Phew! Now I’ve even impressed myself.
Did I mention I am doing all this while coping with a chronic illness? I won’t go into details, because the efforts I make on the health and fitness front have helped me enormously with this issue. Life can be a struggle, and my life is no different than that of many others. I strive to learn, cope and manage so I can thrive.
One thing I don’t do a lot of, is shop. I order stuff on-line and go for a clothing shop to one or two of my favorite spots and buy a season’s worth of items all at once. No strolling the mall for me!
So where do I find the time to write? I will tell you, it’s not easy, but if you have the bug, like I do, you owe it to yourself to find a way. There are gaps and corners in my schedule, and I’ve found times over the years I can dedicate to writing. In the morning before I go off to work for an hour or half, or when I come home in the afternoon for an hour when I’ve already made dinner on the weekend. And on the weekends when we don’t have social stuff on the schedule, traveling on a train, waiting for an appointment. Even on vacations when I get up in the morning or during the afternoon break from touristing, and of course, on the plane and in the airport departure lounge. I’ve included a few photos below of our most recent trip to Las Vegas, San Fransisco and Los Angeles.
I used to watch more television, and I think I still spend too much time on that. I try to make it a reward for the end of the day, when my work is done. But even when my schedule is wide open, I have to beware the challenges of procrastination that keep me from getting started. When I open my computer to work, I go to my browser and check my email and a whirlpool of ideas, offers, learnings and friendships awaits me, threatening to drag me away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone that route, but as an hour or two goes by without any awareness, I end up chastising myself for following that rabbit down that hole. I should know better, really!
I do, but I don’t. The fact is I knew it was a bad choice when I opened up my email program. I knew it when I just flipped to Facebook to see what was happening and who had liked my last post. I knew it when I started to check my calendar and my bank account and Amazon for deals. I do know this, yet I do it anyway. You see, I am avoiding the dragon that awaits me. The one that makes me doubt what I’m doing, that makes me struggle to resolve the issues my story has. No amount of hours of work or sweat and blood will ever overcome this. It deviates my intention and makes me feel the hours I spent avoiding the work have been totally wasted even if I had all of those things on my list to do.
I do sometimes win this battle. It helps if I start out right at the beginning of the day doing exactly what I intended. A little work right up front helps to grease the machinery of creativity and remind you that you can do it, and will. I prove it to myself in these times. It also subverts the evil procrastination monster that lurks in my office corner snarling at me. But I’ve also learned the reason why I use other activities as a way to avoid the hard work of creating: I have to do all of these other things too, and at least I know I can successfully accomplish them. My hope is that the sense of accomplishment I get from doing other tasks will propel me forward into my creative work.
Does this work? No! Why? Because I am still using these other activities as an excuse to avoid the really hard work. But the fact is, the writing is never as hard as it seems it will be. When I have been able to get the writing done first, I come to it with an openness that allows me to feel my way through the pitfalls of my plot and I find solutions and create excitement in myself. Even I don’t always know what my characters are going to do, I discover it as I go. It’s terrifying but exhilarating!
I’ve taken over a year to edit a novel at the story level because in part, it took me that long to figure out how to fix it. And I’m not done yet! Novel writing is a marathon of sorts. It takes stamina and sticktuitiveness. Yeah, I know it’s not a word, but one day it will be!
I need to learn how to make myself take charge and do the work. Even writing this post felt in some way like an avoidance of the work. At this point, everything feels that way, as if I need to be working on this project all the time, to the exclusion of everything else. I have read much from other authors about how they don’t do the laundry or dishes, which makes them a challenge to live with. I couldn’t function that way, but somehow, I need to find that balance. The place where creation and maintaining a life come together nicely. Until that happens, I will feel guilty and struggle with my demons.
So why bother if it’s such a struggle? Good question. I guess perhaps because I need to do this. And really, when it’s working, it feels absolutely awesome. The ideas flow and for a brief time, I feel almost invincible. Not only do I find ideas come more easily, but the creativity spills over into my work life as well. The after-effects are quite amazing. With rewards like that, it’s hard to stop.