Monday, October 10, 2016

Protecting Time

We had a bad news/good news moment at Middle Grade Minded this week. The bad news was when our longtime contributor Jason told us he was going to have to step aside from writing for the blog. The good news is he’s leaving because other opportunities are coming up in his life, and he has to devote his time to that. And, like he said, “I'm having to scrape together 15 minute blocks here and there every day to squeeze in work on my current manuscript.” Of course we’ll miss having him around, but we wish him well on whatever he’s got coming next.

The more I thought about his news, the more I admired the move. I kept reflecting back to what he had said about finding the time to write. The truth is that a large bunch of us in the writing community have some other job or career we rely on to pay the bills, and only a lucky handful of people will ever reach the point of being able to work as full-time writers. 

I just came off a week where I related to the idea of feeling over-extended all too well. Not only was it a typically busy autumn week at the school where I work, but we had our first two nights of parent-teacher conferences, which made for some extra-long and tiring work days. After I had to keep my Teacher Brain engaged for thirteen hours, I was much more ready to park down on the couch and fall asleep in front of the TV than I was to work on a manuscript synopsis, or character biographies, or setting descriptions, much less any drafting work. Unfortunately writing is like any other endeavor that requires sustained effort to make progress, like developing an exercise habit or learning to play a musical instrument. You lose momentum if you don’t keep at it regularly, and once that happens it doesn’t take long before the project you’re working on gets away from you.

Protecting your writing time, as long as you decide it’s important to have that time available, is worth the sacrifice. Did I get a lot done at the end of those two thirteen-hour days I endured this week? I sure didn’t. But I got something done. Maybe it was just rewording a few paragraphs or getting half a page of ideas down, but I still did some work. I knew it wasn’t a lot and right away I felt lazy and guilty about taking something of a pass, but a few steps forward was better than standing still. Once I gave myself permission to be okay with that, I was proud of what little work I managed to get done.

Those of us who still have day jobs and careers know all too well what that struggle is like. But sometimes it helps to remember that jobs and careers, while they can be bigger parts of our lives than just how we earn money, are more about what we do than who we are. I tend to think that something like writing, which gives so many of us such gratification regardless of how difficult and frustrating the work can be and how far away our personal dreams and goals surrounding it can seem, might be a better window into what we decide is important to us. If Jason knows that pulling back from blogging is going to help him find the time for his manuscript, more power to him. And the same to everyone out there looking for those brief time windows when you get to pursue your work. 

Like I said so many times during conferences this past week, continue to challenge yourself. The effort you're putting into your work can make all the difference, so keep it up. 


cleemckenzie said...

I've found my writing time has been chipped away until at the end of the day I haven't written one new word on my WIP. I've pulled back on some social media, but that still hasn't helped. Good luck to Jason. I hope he can use this freed up time for his writing.

Mirka Breen said...

I wouldn't get any WIP writing done if I didn't treat the time for it as sacred time... Good luck to Jason, and many thanks for his previous contributions..