During the latter half of this year I've been finding it increasingly difficult to settle down to writing unless I have a specific deadline to work towards. There aren't that many competitions for novels and I've not been sending work off to agents as I used to. It's also been hard for me to balance the need to earn money with my need to write.
Let's not forget that it's the Summer. Yes, I know we live in the UK and summer is a very loose word to use. But, when the sun shines it means we want to get out into it. For an ex South African the allure is almost impossible to resist. My body is convinced it's in permanent vitamin D withdrawal.
Then there are the friends who live abroad and come to the UK for only 2 or 3 weeks in July or August and just have to catch up with me. And I just have to catch up with them. After all, I only get to see them once a year.
Not to mention all the tango events which MUST be attended. I don't have gym membership. This is it for my weekly exercise people.
Distractions, distractions, distractions.
All writers know:
distractions = writing hours lost = low word-count = skills unhoned.
In a bid to be efficient I print off a weekly schedule of work and also write a tick list of essential duties to perform for my various jobs:
- Inkhead Creative writing tutor
- KEYS English tutor
- Tango South London Administrator
But I have not been doing this for my writing.
Then I read the Autharium article Being A Writer and loved this particular piece of advice - “Act like a pro, even if you aren't one.” I had a EUREKA moment.
I realised I have to act more like a writer, less like a teacher/tutor/administrator.
So I shifted my early morning focus to begin the day with my writing rather than my paid work. I now write a list of essential duties for my writing as well as my other work. And I put the writing at the TOP of the list.
For those of you who know my love of highlighters, I've also created a word-count spreadsheet with weekly targets. To begin with I found sticking to my daily word count a chore. But I now find l get an uncomfortable itch under the skin if I know I haven't managed to achieve it for the day. I have found that despite all the 'things' that take up my day which seem to make it impossible to find time to write, there is ALWAYS time. I'm proud to say that not only am I achieving these targets but am now regularly exceeding them.
The reward for exceeding my writing target is that I get to watch that Game of Thrones DVD or go to an extra Milonga or tango session. And all guilt free, with a huge sense of achievement to boot.
And for the bosses of my paid work reading this – please don't be concerned that you are being short changed. I'm still getting the job done and since I'm a happier writer I'm a happier employee too.
It's all about work/life balance you know.