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Back To the Old Way

It’s cliché, but this is the time of year that I tend to look back and think about time-flies-clockhow my year went. Altogether, 2012 was a humdinger.

While in ways I’m content with how the year passed by, something popped out at me this morning about what I’d like to change—the stress over writing. Over the past two years, I can’t recall how many times I’ve squirreled myself away to write while Justin watches TV, or nights when he asks me to do something, only to be met with a, “Sorry, I have blog posts to schedule/a critique to finish/edits to do/an idea…” And with a baby on the way, the stress to get things ‘finished’ has only gone up.

Now generally, Justin’s been very patient with me. He’s told me before that he’s okay with the occasional crazy deadline. But I’ve noticed lately that whenever I say something like that, he just sighs and turns back to his computer or the TV.

It made me realize that this is not what I wanted. This is happening way too often.

A few years ago, I decided that I never wanted my writing to get in the way of God, family, or friends. Those that are close to my heart, I love too much to push away. It’s why I always said I never wanted to be tied down to a deadline of a book a year.

I love having room for spontaneity. Nothing is more fun when Justin & I randomly decide to spend a day at the beach or go on a date, all on the spur of the moment. Now I know that that will change a little as we have kids, but there will still be ways to be spontaneous.

And I’m killing that with stressing about writing. I don’t feel like it’s gotten horrible yet, but I do think that I’ve lost sight of my priorities—yet again. I tend to do that quite often…

Not only that, but 2012 has been the first year where writing is really a drudge. I used to have moments where I felt like the most worthless writer in the world, but those were few and far between, interspersed with long giddy hours spent creating characters and scribbling out their adventures. I can only conclude that I’m burning myself out at the most exciting point in my career, just as I’m getting started, getting a fan base, getting published.

Ouch. Not where I want to be.

So I decided to experiment. This whole year, writing has been a huge priority in my life, and I’ve been mostly miserable. Now, I’m going to go back to the way I used to do things.

*Chores first, writing second

I used to not write until I’d finished up cleaning, baking, and whatever else besides supper that I needed to do that day (with the exception of craft things—I usually do those in the evening while watching TV). So I’m going to go back to that. I’ll let myself read and critique during breakfast and lunch—meals that I usually eat alone—but other than that, no serious computer time until the house looks tidy.

*I Still Have Time

Something that I realized was that I’m still very young in the grand scheme of life. I don’t have to have a book published within the next year. It would be nice, but there’s no reason to stress myself out to do it. If I’d gone to college, I would probably be recently graduated—if I’d decided to stick with a bachelor’s degree. I might barely be starting on a career now. Instead, I’m now enjoying some career success.

No, I haven’t really brought money home yet. Despite selling a couple of shorts and some Avenir Eclectia books, I probably haven’t done anything but broken even, if that. And I need to remember that that’s okay. Justin has a good job. We don’t need me to make money. I contribute to the household by having time to cook and bake homemade meals, clean, and before long, provide childcare. All this actually saves us money, especially since I have time to do my research, clip some coupons, and be thrifty. Sometimes I feel guilty using money to further my writing, but Justin & I both look at it as a long-term investment, which is a lot better than stressing about earning anything.

*Managing Time Efficiently

I have trouble with this one—a LOT. I always have. I’m just not a schedule person. I don’t like making lists. And I hate getting up in the morning. It’s really the worst part of my day.

But I have to force myself to do it, otherwise I’ll sleep in until noon. On a normal workday, that leaves me four hours to do housework and writing before Justin gets home from work. It also throws off our schedules—it makes me want to stay up late, and Justin then ends up staying up too late, which makes him exhausted the entire week until all he wants to do on his days off are sleep. It’s a nasty cycle.

So last night, I made a commitment. I didn’t tell myself I was going to get up at a certain time—I just had to be out of bed before Justin left for work in the morning. I made it, but only because Justin came in after his shower and turned on the overhead light. Now that I’ve done it one day, though, it should be easier to keep going.

I also plan to limit my time more on Facebook and Pinterest…though doggone it, Pinterest is such a fun site! I love having the visuals of everything in front of me…but I can’t allow myself to spend so much time on there any more.

If I can just keep this schedule, then I will have eight hours to do housework and writing, with time for Pinterest and crafts in the evening. It’s not that Justin expects me to do all the housework, but I do feel bad if he comes home from work and there are dishes piled in the sink, laundry on the bed, and everything is dirty and messy. We’ve always wanted our home to be a place to relax, and while I can handle some disarray (dusty shelves, an unmade bed, a cluttery desk…those are fine) it’s hard to relax when everything looks like a tornado tore through. It will only get worse with kiddos, so I figured I need to get into the habit now.

Does this mean I’m shoving writing way onto the back shelf? No. I couldn’t live that way. Writing will still be a priority, but it will stay firmly in it’s place below God and family and friends. I will be consistent in my commitments like blogging (though I’m scaling down on that as well) and critiquing, but I’m not going to be so stressed about it that I spend my entire day hunched over the computer and dreading every minute of it. I’ll still make time to write, but I’m going to have to live with a semi-scheduled life and boundaries, and the times that those are broken will be few and far between, special treats that I’ve prepared and planned for.

It will be all right if I don’t have a hugely successful career right off the bat. It’s okay if I don’t have a hugely successful career, period. If I’m doing something I have fun with, and if I’m reaching readers, all while being able to enjoy my life, then that’s good.

All this, I hope, will help me return to the love and joy of writing again. Less worry, a less-grumpy hubby, and more time to do things—sounds perfect to me.

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About H. A. Titus

H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. Her love affair with fantasy began at age twelve, when her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings after listening to it on tape during a family vacation. Her stories have been published in Digital Dragon Magazine, Residential Aliens Magazine, and four anthologies: Alternative Witness; Avenir Eclectia Volume 1; The Tanist's Wife and Other Stories; and Different Dragons Volume II. In December 2013, her short story "Dragon Dance" won Honorable Mention in a Writers of the Future contest. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young son, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world. When she's not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skiing, or hanging out at her online home, hatitus.wordpress.com.

One comment on “Back To the Old Way

  1. Once the baby comes, your life will change drastically. I’ve got three munchkins, and I’ve learned to just take a year off when a new baby comes. I get nothing creative done for most of a year. I also have no brain. I can’t write or plot.

    Now that everybody’s on a regular bedtime and the baby’s weaned, I have 2 hours a night to be creative. It doesn’t sound like much, but over this past year I’ve completed Nanowrimo 3 times and finished two major rewrites of my current WIP. So it’s possible to still be a writer after the babies come. They just have to come first.

    Also, the Like Mother Like Daughter blog (http://ourmothersdaughters.blogspot.com/) has loads of good advice to young mothers on how to manage things like housework and meals while juggling babies. :-)

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