Like most authors I know, I work at other jobs in addition to writing fiction. I teach creative writing to kids every week through a local non-profit. I work as a consultant on college application essays. I work as a journalist, too, and this year I’ve been reporting and writing articles every month for Parade magazine. And I’m in the midst of writing my fourth novel.
And like everyone I know, I have family and community commitments on top of that. Sometimes juggling all this works out just fine, and other times I have days like the one I had last week, when I had to take my elderly mother to a two-hour dentist appointment, make several reporting calls for my latest journalism piece, meet with two anxious and overstressed high school seniors about their college essays, read chapters of two other authors’ WIPs for my critique group, try to find a tree expert to deal with the dead branch hanging like a sword of doom over our front walkway, etc. On those days, even feeding the cat seem like one responsibility too many. And it all feels like a vast conspiracy designed to push my current novel-in-progress down onto the lowest rung on the priority ladder. I know my agent wonders how in the world it can take 6 months to write 60 pages—heck, I wonder how in the world it can take 6 months to write 60 pages.
So this fall, when my youngest left home for college, I decided I’d try to yank my writing back up to its rightful place in my priorities. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned:
Pay yourself first. This old adage about saving money—to take a bit of your paycheck and immediately deposit it in savings before paying any bills—also applies to writing. I even think about it that way. When I get up in the morning I try to “pay myself” by spending an hour or two writing before I tackle other work and obligations. If I can’t squeeze it in, I remind myself that I haven’t “paid myself” yet today. For me, something about the psychology of thinking about my writing time as something I’m doing FOR myself instead of another thing I’m supposed to do helps enormously. [Read more…]