Writing vs. margaritas

I am temporarily (and very happily!) in between jobs, which means I have a lot of extra writing time!

This is the first time I’ve had this much time off since I got focused on my writing, and it’s like a daydream come true. The dream, of course, would be to be able to do this full time and not have to have a job at all. πŸ™‚ But this brief interlude is awfully nice nonetheless!

It’s a challenge to treat writing like a job. Sure, there are plenty of writers who get up at 5am and write before going to work (I’m not one of them…), or who spend their weekends writing, and all that. The hard part is when you’re trying to stay focused and a friend invites you to do something when you were planning on writing. That can be okay, but suppose multiple friends invite you out, and you have a few appointments, and the weeds are getting a nice head start in the garden, etc. All of a sudden your writing time gets whittled away to a tiny portion of your week.

Sure, right now I have a lot of free time. πŸ™‚ But I ran into this last fall when I didn’t, and it was a great lesson in how to set boundaries and structure my time. I’m glad I put thought into this when I was still at my last day job. Doing so made me much more cognizant of this issue and how I wanted to handle it.

In an episode of The Creative Penn podcast last fall, Joanna Penn talked about how she schedules time to write and sticks to her schedule, even if something else comes up. This really resonated with me at the time. When I listened to that episode I was trying to focus super hard on my novel, but when a friend would invite me to do something I’d feel conflicted.

We all stick with our work obligations. How often do you skip out on a meeting at the office because someone invited you out for margaritas? Okay, maybe sometimes. πŸ™‚ But not if you had a deadline, right? So when I was writing in the evenings and on weekends and I’d get invited to multiple social events in one week, I found myself torn. I love spending time with my friends, but if I booked myself for three evenings in one week that meant three days where I knew I’d get zero writing done. Plus my writing group meets every other week, so while that is writing-related and technically counts, it’s also another day where I know I won’t have any actual writing time. And Jasper’s agility classes have started up again, so that’s yet another evening that’s booked.

None of this would be a big deal if I wanted to dabble in writing, but I don’t want to be a dabbler. I did that for plenty of years, for a variety of reasons, and that was fine then – but it’s not fine now. I love writing more than any job I’ve ever had. I’m excited about getting stories out of my head and onto paper. So I’m working super hard and prioritizing. And yes, I may have a margarita occasionally… But I’m also setting goals and working super hard to achieve them.

Before I go back to work next month I’m going to finish the novel, tidy up a bunch of short stories and send them out, submit another short story to a writing competition, and complete at least the second draft of a novella. I’m taking three writing classes, am watching several other video training series, and am reading several books/documents on writing and publishing. I start a third writing class in May. I also have a list of administrative tasks, like setting up an iBooks account, and I’ll make progress on those. And before the end of April I’m going to start sending out a newsletter. I plan to send it out quarterly, and in each issue I will provide a password/link to a page on my website where I’ll post a free short story. I will be drinking margaritas this Friday, but I’ll have accomplished a lot by then!

And, of course, I will have fun with Jasper and Rosie every single day. πŸ™‚

Damp but happy.
Damp but happy.
  1. jamie

    It helps that I’m in between day jobs and have a lot more free time than normal. πŸ™‚ But this will only last for three more weeks. Alas…

    If I have a few extracurricular things scheduled in one week and get invited to do something else, I try to push that event out for the following week. This isn’t always possible, of course, but most of the time it is. It also helps that my friends and family know I’m trying to set aside writing time, so they understand if I have to delay getting together.

    I’m fortunate to be good at multitasking and context-switching, so I can move from one project to another very quickly. If I find myself getting tired of working on one task I can switch to something else. It usually works best if the new task is a different type of task. For example, if I’ve been writing for a while I might do something administrative instead of switch to a different writing project. Or I might do an administrative task for 15-30 minutes and then switch to a different manuscript, just to give my creative mind a rest. I do find that after a certain point in the day my brain is done with writing, but I can continue to do writing-related tasks. So when that happens I can work on something that doesn’t require the same type of mental energy.

    I also find that working toward something specific can help keep me focused. For example, I might set a goal of finishing a chapter, or maybe writing the first half of a new short story. I may or may not achieve that goal, but having a target gives me something to shoot for.

    And last… Thanks to several classes I’ve taken where there have been firm deadlines, I know I’m capable of getting a lot done in a day if I truly want to. This was a really big lesson. It turns out I can accomplish much more than I thought I could. I just have to figure out how to keep myself motivated so I stay on track.

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