I've noticed a recurring theme that echoes in my thoughts about writing, and it pops up often when other writers talk about allocating time for writing, too. I have posted about this previously, so I hesitate to recycle old ideas, but the same issues keep coming back to bite me -- how do I keep all the balls in the air?
Janet's recent post on what she called My New Reality illustrated how often we have to revisit our intentions and renew our vows to The Muse. After all, so many resources stand at the ready for us to deploy, if only we are determined, committed, and positive in our attitude. But those goals do need constant tweaking as we adapt to new circumstances, and we need to remind ourselves that what we set out to do months ago is still important.
Retirement, once a far-off dream, is now my official status. I never worried about what I would do when I retired. All the projects, postponed pleasures, reading and travel that I wanted to do made a long list. And, yes, somehow I would fit in the writing that I never found time to do before. What I didn’t think about was that the length of the days wouldn’t change. So, here I am still juggling all the things I have committed to do and having just as much trouble fitting them into the limited time available as I ever did when I had a full-time day job.
In the nine years since I retired, I have been energised and inspired by the commitment of other writers. And I have become acutely aware that if writing has become my most important objective, then I have to give it top priority over all other activities. To paraphrase Janet's more eloquent declaration: Writing must come first because it is now my job.
So, what prevents me from giving writing top spot? Firstly, I don't make it obvious to others that when I am writing I am busy doing something that is important to me. I have the same amount of time as anyone else on this planet, but it only stretches so far, even if efficiently used. I am often my own worst enemy. For the first time in my life, I thought I had unlimited time, so I began volunteering for activities in my community -- I sit on various boards, deliver meals on wheels, belong to a book club, and am involved in constituency politics. My extended family is very important to me. I like to visit all of them as often as I can. Every once in a while an opportunity to travel somewhere new pops up. So what is a retired gal to do? Juggle!
I have a serious problem with self-indulgence in time-wasting activities that include watching TV and movies (which I sometimes try to fool myself into thinking is "research"), but thank goodness, the season finales are upon us, and a team will soon claim the Stanley Cup. I have a deadline coming up for using all the points I accumulated in the movie rental program that ended abruptly a short time ago. I do consider reading an important activity for a writer, but finding enough time ... More juggling!
The more I know about what it takes to actively write, revise, submit, revise, market, enter contests, revise, and attend useful conferences, the more I know that something has to go. This year I have made some strategic decisions about what I will be dropping out of as I complete some of the commitments I've made. However, writing activities must increase, not decrease, and I will not neglect my family.
In the meantime, my furniture has a perpetual layer of dust that I do not notice when I am writing. I have a garden to plant and the grass needs frequent mowing as growing season shifts into high gear. So not having a full-time job doesn’t make it easier. I always laugh a little when someone says, “Oh, but you’re retired. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to.” Are you kidding? I’ll consider doing nothing when I CAN’T do the things I want to do. Please don’t encourage me to waste my precious time.
My task right now is to review my goals and schedules. That seems to have become a monthly exercise which could turn into a daily habit if only I would get serious about making that list of six items and checking them off as they get done the next day. My lifelong tendency to procrastinate is still with me, so it didn't take long to fall off the wagon on that one. (Janet and I were going to be buddies for that resolution, but I didn't have any successes to report, so I guess she knows.)
Over the years I have drafted countless schedules which tell me to sit in front of my computer every day as routinely as I take my morning walk. Hopefully, my renewed commitment to a regular regime will gain momentum, and the juggling will become effortless. If I can make my life simpler, maybe fewer balls will hit the floor due to conflicting commitments.
Well, folks, how do you manage to juggle all your commitments as you try to make time to write? What have you given up in order to focus on writing? Do you have any effective methods to share with us?