When I transitioned from “stay at home mom” to “write from home mom” I envisioned a life with a very set schedule. I like structure and lists and agendas very very much. I remember so fondly the section of a Laura Ingalls story when Laura relates:
For Ma and other pioneer women, each day had its own proper chores. Ma used to say,
“Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.”
(I found this version with its links to activities a pioneer woman would do each day at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum website. Little House junkies, this site is gold!)
To me, that seemed like a great start to structuring a very open-ended life. I started out with a plan of my own.
Blog on Monday
Shop on Tuesday
Write on Wednesday
Laundry on Thursday
Fold on Friday
Play on Saturday
Sleep (in) on Sunday
OK, it was more complicated than that. There were hours set aside for fiction writing, for blog writing, for cleaning the kitchen, going to the library, and even for plucking my eyebrows. But the thing was, on paper it all made sense. Everything fit. It was going to work!
Coming from a career in physical therapy, where I had patients scheduled every 15-30 minutes and an aide who made sure they got there on time, I was used to being incredibly productive and efficient. (God, I love those words!) I completely forgot that no matter how good your intentions, creativity doesn’t pay attention to your schedule.
Neither do germs, snowstorms, leaking pipes, or avocados.
I can plan out the week’s meals in advance to be sure I buy all the ingredients, thaw the right protein before I get sucked into the blogosphere, and schedule quick prep meals for ballet/theater/library night.
What I can’t do is tell an avocado when to get ripe.
Sometimes it’s ready ahead of schedule, sometimes it’s stubborn as sin. And sometimes (like this Wednesday) I have to make nachos in the toaster oven instead of the planned (and healthy!) grilled lambchops, bulgar pilaf and spinach salad.
Why? Because guacamole is the best thing on earth and you should never, ever, no matter what waste a fantastically ripe avocado!!!
OK, it happens with avocados. And it happens with inspiration.
I’m learning that being a writer has to be much more fluid than the life I was used to. An awful lot, in fact, like being a parent. You can plan what needs to get done, and more or less when, but you have to be ready to go with the flow. When inspiration hits you like a ripe avocado, you can’t say “you’re on the menu for Friday.” Inspiration’s not going to wait. It’s going to be brown and squashy by Friday. You know what can wait?Dirty clothes.
And when you sit down in front of the keyboard on Wednesday and nothing worth reading twice is forth-coming – you have to be ready. You have to go wash some dishes and do some crunches and read a few kids’ books.
Or research agents.
Then come on back and check the avocado. Maybe it’s ripe now.
This morning, I had a title for this blog in my head and not much more. So I got online and registered for the NJ SCBWI 2014 Annual Conference. It seemed like a small task, but choosing which sessions to attend, which agent to ask for a critique – heck, which table to sit at for lunch – took a lot of consideration and thought. It took my mind off of the blog and gave the ideas I knew were in there time to “ripen” as I thought about other things. In fact, by the time I had my conference schedule all sorted out, I was ready to make guacamole (figuratively)!
So how do I keep on schedule while allowing for the inefficient and disorganized nature of life as a writer and mom? I’m still trying for structure, I promise. I’m working on a two-tiered system. First list is the categories of “work” to focus on for the week. I can give approximate hour goals if I choose. A sample for you:
- Fiction writing
- Blog/social media/networking
- Health and Fitness
- Childcare Essentials
- Quality Kid Time
- Quality Couple Time
- Me Time
Then, for each category, I list the tasks in that category I’d like to get done for the week. When I hit a block in one category – maybe it’s raining too hard for my jog or my husband is unexpectedly working late on movie night (or just maybe I can’t think of what to write…) – I switch to another category and get productive there. If I end up writing all day and nothing else gets done, it’s easy to see what can be re-prioritized or even (saints be praised!) handed off to my husband.
So how’s the new system working? So nice of you to ask! I don’t know yet. I’ll get back to you on that in a week or two. I promise. I put it on my list.
Happy Friday, friends! And thanks for reading.