When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I know this topic comes up a lot for busy parents, writers with other day jobs, and people who just have a lot on their plate, whether it's taking care of a sick parent or volunteering for a cause they believe in. Plus there's housework, lawn work, grocery shopping, and everything in between. We've had writers address this time issue in several different posts, and I even suggested the 80-20 equation a while back, where a writer spends 80 percent of their time on the writing that makes her money and 20 percent on the creative writing, such as the next Great American Novel.

But alas, the topic is on my mind again today; and it's my turn to blog, so here we are. I currently have a one-year-old daughter with an ear infection, teething, and a low-grade fever. I have a poor, old Basset Hound who the vet says has two months to live. I have various commitments this week helping a friend with her business, and of course, the holidays loom ever closer. There's always a lot to do anyway, and I manage it all and all my writing when everything goes smoothly. But stick a sick child and dog and extra appointments, and everyone is overwhelmed and tired! But writing has to get done. Deadlines are coming, and so are bills. 

So in the last hour or two, I've come up with a couple solutions. 

  1. Prioritize: Instead of what I want to get done, I ask myself: What has to get done tonight? By Wednesday? By Friday? Then I prioritize those projects and save things like editing my novel for the weekend when hopefully my daughter is feeling better and I have more help.
  2. Ask for help: Who at home or in your family can help you and with what? I've learned that even one thing off my plate like my mom giving my daughter lunch can really help me find an extra hour in the day, and that's good for both of them, too.
  3. Sleep and eat anyway: The first two areas we tend to cut out when life gets in the way are sleeping and eating. This actually does NOT give you more time because you are then just fighting fatigue and hunger all day instead of concentrating on your work!
I'll make it through this stressful time. I always do. But if you have more tips, please let me know!
post by Margo L. Dill; Margo's Social Networking for Writers class starts tomorrow 11/16. You can still sign up here: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html

photo by wwarby www.flickr.com


Karen Wojcik Berner said...

These are good reminders. Sometimes, especially heading into this time of year, it seems next to impossible to find time to write.

Hope your daughter feels better soon and very sorry about your dog.

Jodi Webb said...

My husband was sick this summer and I found it's easy to sink into a "I will never get anything done" trap. I found it was helpful to make short, manageable daily lists. Not 62 things but 5 things, 7 things. It helps to cross things off the list.

Unknown said...

I have been juggling a full-time job and full-time school for the past three years. I am now a graduate student, so this won't change anytime soon. I recently added writing to the mix.

What I have learned about managing when things get crazy is simple: ONE THING AT A TIME. As you said, what has to get done today? Worry about the first deadline, not the next two. Otherwise you get overwhelmed and paralyzed.

I've also learned to be flexible. Don't take an all-or-nothing approach to things. I've learned to do homework walking through the grocery story with my husband! I can read and push the cart, or listen to a video lesson on a portable DVD player and still push the cart.

Exercise whenever you can. That gets lost even quicker than food or sleep. You will feel better if you even just take a quick walk around the block with the dog.

Like you said, get help. As women we somehow think we are supposed to do it all ourselves. That isn't healthy or even feasible.

Finally, relax. I know that's tough, especially when family members (including pets!) are ill. But taking a deep breath and putting things into perspective makes a big difference.

Now I'm off to try and put my own words into practice!

Tamara said...

I don't have children, but I am a full-time graduate student with a job. It's not the nice feminine approach, but I've found that sometimes I just have to be selfish. Of course you have to go to the grocery store and sleep enough, but there are some things that have to suffer. The dishes may pile up for a day or two. My SO will just have to spend his evening alone with video games (not that he minds much!) And if I just /can't/ find enough time to write properly, I'll make outlines, write blog posts, or pick one of the easier projects to work on and save the heavy stuff for later.

Unknown said...

Everyone here has great advice. As a parent myself who has been through bouts of not only caring for a sick kid, sick dogs (yup, we have two), volunteering, working, etc., etc., I also did a lot of care for my father in the two years before he died. That got pretty nuts.

So, what did I learn? 5-minute meditation is a fabulous thing to stick in the middle of the to-do list. Put an alarm on your smartphone or your computer and when it goes off, just close your eyes and breathe. It's amazing how much that helps you refocus and move on to the next thing. Just once a day can make a big difference, especially if it's scheduled at the time when your energy lags the absolute most (mid-afternoon for me).

Margo Dill said...

@One Minnesota Writer--That's sort of where my sleep idea came in. I have been taking a 10 to 20-minute power nap when I snuggle with my daughter in the afternoon before her nap. It is working well, and I notice at night that I function better and am not falling asleep at the computer as much. :) It's like we all need to shut down for a few minutes and then reboot.

@Karen--thank you. The good thing is Hush Puppy is almost 14 years old and has lived a good, long life. Our neighbors had a 4-year-old boxer with a brain tumor and that was devastating--especially for the children. we are just trying to love him as much as we can until it is his time.

@Jodi--I LOVE LISTS! :)

@confessions--I agree--one thing at at time. Although I love lists, sometimes if the list is so long, it can be overwhelming too. I like Jodi's idea of 5 to 7 things.

@Tamara--I do the same thing. Like now, my daughter is playing happily on the floor while I check some email and this blog. I can't write an article while she does this but I can focus enough on this kind of thing. Then when she's sleeping, I can do the big projects. :)

Ladies, I feel so much better today by just sharing all that and hearing your words of wisdom and support. Thank you!

Christine said...

I agree with the prioritizing idea. I take it one writing project at a time. I also schedule writing time for myself on a regular basis.

BECKY said...

Hi Margo. I hope your little girl feels better soon! (I can't believe she's a year old already!)And I'm sorry to hear about your dog, but as you said, he's had a good, long life...although I've had dogs that lived to be around 14 and it was still heartbreaking to say goodbye...as I know you already know, too. I agree with your thoughts and everyone else's too. All great suggestions. I so admire women who work full or part-time, have kids, go to school, etc.etc. I would never have the energy for all that. And gosh, here I am, one of your people on your To Do List!! No hurry for me!

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