Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Time Matters

Time and energy. To me, as a writer, those are the resources that I'm always trying to maximize (I suppose creativity and money fit in the list somewhere, too).

Once the kids got out of school at the end of June, I found a pretty good writing groove by waking up at 5am and working until they woke up. (Okay, not every day, and some mornings it was 5:30...) This usually got me 2+ hours of very concentrated writing time. I love writing first thing in the morning, because I don't have the cares of the day swirling in my mind yet. (By the end of the day, even by mid-morning, my brain is firing in a million different directions).

I had a pretty productive month revising my new novel, doing major rewrites of five or six chapters.

Now, starting yesterday, the kids are in camp for the next four weeks. I was pretty excited about this and the idea of a block of time every day for writing (no need to get up at 5am, right?).

The reality is that the chunk of time is a little smaller than I thought. My son has to catch his bus at 8, and then I take my daughter to art class, which lasts from 10-2, then it's time to pick up my son from the bus at 4. 10-2 is a nice four-hour block. Except for the walk to and from art class (deduct 15-20 minutes). And lunch (deduct 15-30 minutes--usually closer to 30, because I read tiny bits of the Sunday paper). This still leaves a good three-hour block, which is a luxury, I know.

But the tricky part is that a block of time with no kids around strongly attracts meetings, errands, chores, e-mails, house projects, etc. (Any parent will confirm this for you.) It's a common phenomenon for people to quit their day jobs to write, and then all of a sudden find they spend less time actually writing than they did before. (I'm sure this syndrome has a name.)

Luckily, I'm used to working at home, but this week has already shown me that I need to be more careful and protective of that small block of time. If I don't make a conscious effort to stay focused, especially starting so late in the day, I'm sunk. Just like for the 5am sessions, I need to clear off the desk, shut down the e-mail program, turn off the internet browser, and force myself not to check them for the duration (I rarely succeed at this for 3 1/2 hours, but I can make it for two hours).

By the time camp is over, I should have the system, schedule, and discipline in place (and then will need to start a new regimen).

((Big bonus for me--this weekend I have a getaway to the Cape with my playwrights' group at the house of a close friend. I try to go into these weekends with a strong plan for what I'm going to write/revise--otherwise those big gaping blocks of 4-5 hours of writing time are incredibly intimidating.))


Malachy Walsh said...

I'm taking notes on how you do this.... Wow. You get A LOT in.

patrick said...

You'll see pretty soon. I found that once we started having kids, my ability to multi-task was forced to take a few leaps forward. Also, for my writing, I found that if I only had half an hour a day, then I just had to be super focused for that time. Lots of practice.

The first baby is the toughest, because having a newborn can be so overwhelming. Still, they do take naps. (Though often you need to nap when they nap.)