Monday, October 4, 2010

Driving 45 on the Interstate

That's what it feels like sometimes.

I don't know if you ever listen to the tales of Garrison Keeler about Lake Woebegon on the radio when you were a kid. I did. Every story had a thread of truth tucked into it, plus a wide load of humor. One story that sticks with me was of an elderly resident. For some reason, he was supposed to drive his nagging wife to the city on an interstate highway. Not having had much experience on the highway, he managed to survive by driving half on the shoulder at about 45 miles per hour while trucks and cars roared past.

The whole experience rattled him so much that he forgot his wife at a truck stop and didn't remember her until hours later. Then he had to figure out how to turn around.

Anyway, that's how I feel as a writer some days. I get up early and lurch into real time, working my way through the day. When things finally wind down about 10:15 P.M. and most of the kids are in bed, I get my brain back to use without interruption, but its shelf-life has almost expired and there's not much creative juice left. The result is that as a writer, I feel a little like the old bird on the highway with the traffic zipping by. I'm moving, but definitely not in the fast lane, and plenty of people are getting there so much faster that it's discouraging.

I hate that.

The problem is, no matter how many self-help writing books I read, it doesn't change the fact that I have x amount of hours in the day which are largely consumed by tasks which are necessary and cannot be set aside. Plus, after weeks of chiseling away at sleep time in order to buy writing time, I feel a little ragged and my husband gets concerned.

I have no easy solution to this problem. I don't believe there is one. But I am working on strategies to minimize the problem. Take a look, and if you have some to add, please share with us all.

Beth's Sanity in Writing Strategies:

1. Delegate.

I figured out early on that if I didn't split the chores between the inhabitants of our house, I would drop from exhaustion trying to keep up. Everyone child has a main chore for the week. They are required to do it or face the consequences, usually of extra jobs. In this way, the house is staying moderately clean and the laundry moderately kept up on. I can live with that.

2. Don't say yes

But what if it's really important? It doesn't matter. See if you can redirect the task to some other piece of humanity first. It's not that I'm trying to get out of things. I just have learned to stick to the things only I can do. Very hard for mom-types.

3. Don't say no

What? Now you're confused. This time I'm talking about writing. Don't tell yourself that you're too tired to write, that you don't have time, that you're too distracted, etc. Say yes to writing a specific word quota or for a specific time each day. I'm still working on this one, but at least once a day, I'm saying yes to writing.

4. Let it go

I have come to grips with the fact that my house is never going to look like Martha Stewart's, and I'm okay with that. When it comes to decorating, I go for functional and keep decorations to a minimum that fit most seasons. In December, I hang up my pencil for a couple of weeks and make cookies and decorate trees. Otherwise, I let it go.

5. Organize

What? That requires time, you say. True, but in the long run it saves time. I got this one from Jim Denney's Quit Your Day Job. Thanks to him, my desk is a little less cluttered, and I think it's helping me to be more productive. Also, the more I organize my time, the more time I have to use at the end of the day, which is when I like to write anyway.

In the meantime, it helps me to remember that although I may be in the slow lane, at least I'm going somewhere.

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