One of the questions that writers are often asked is ‘how do we manage our time?’ Sometimes my answer is “I don’t; it manages me.” I mean, really, that’s how it feels. I’m a parent, I’m involved in neighborhood activities, I have several hobbies, oh, and, of course, I also have a day job. Meeting all the obligations that those and other claims on my time demand isn’t easy. But writing is what I love. It’s what I always wanted to do from the time I was a child so how do I balance everything?
One. I don’t say ‘yes’ to everything. Some parents wanted me to run for head of the PTA last year and it was something I think I could really have been good at but I knew my writing would have suffered so I had to say ‘no.’ I continue to help out on class trips and I drop in by the school once a month to back up the teachers but I cannot do more. Similarly, some friends wanted to go on a trip this year but I had to say ‘no’ – I would have loved to really, but I needed my vacation time to finish off some manuscripts. Is it easy to say ‘no’ to friends and family, or even to strangers? No, of course it’s not but I’ve got to do it if my writing is going to get the attention it deserves – if I want to finish that manuscript I’ve been working on since Methuselah was a child, if I want to attend writing workshops to improve my craft, if I want to network with other writers and learn all I can about this glorious business.
Two. Every day, I devote time to working on a manuscript. I might only write a page, I might only review an outline but I have to give my Muse that kind of attention or risk her going off in a sulk and refusing to respond when I finally make time for her. It’s not always convenient, sometimes it means that I have to ignore a house that looks as if the Tasmanian Devil swept through, but I have to get it done. Shut the door on your kids and on your man, don’t answer the phone or the door, skip the after-work social. Don’t become a complete hermit, that won’t help your Muse either, but weigh every social engagement to keep your balance. If you went out shopping with your best friend last week, surely she’ll understand if you can’t do lunch this week. And don’t feel you have to use all the time you save on your writing, sometimes sitting on a park bench just watching the pigeons can be as useful to your unconscious as diving into a research book.
I’ll continue these tips in my next entry so stay tuned.