A Year of Full-Time Writing or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Daily Structure

Well, I’d been dreading it for a while, but I finally bit the bullet and… rearranged my books and stories page.

Not such a colossal undertaking, I suppose, but one I kept putting off nonetheless. It’s a little more intuitive now, I think. Still divided by novel vs. short fiction, but with my recent releases closer to the top for easier discovery, and a whole new section just for highlighting the newest, shiniest thing I’ve put out. (Pssst, I’ve just put out a story today, and you should totally check it out!)

It might not be the fanciest of such pages on the net, but I think it’ll work for the time being. Should be easier for me to keep up-to-date, too. So I can check that off the Neverending List of Dreaded Chores and skip along to the next task.


 

The Husband and I made some changes to our lives last year, including moving to a new house in a neighborhood that suits our lifestyle and values much better, lessens his commute by at least half (thus giving him back a huge chunk of time that he used to spend dodging idiot drivers and white-knuckling through Michigan infrastructure), and allows me to work from home. These changes have made such a huge impact on our happiness and quality of life, it can sometimes make the time before the move seem like a dream out of someone else’s life.

So, my first year working as a (essentially) full-time writer wrapped up about a week ago. It’s taken me pretty much all of that time to really figure out how that was going to work for me. I’ve kind of ended up focusing on a lot of short fiction this year, doing various stories for a variety of bundles and other markets, and using those smaller projects to hammer out the kinks in my daily, weekly, and monthly work schedules.

Writing while holding down a day job is tough, frustrating, sometimes even impossible. Sometimes you have to make some annoying choices about how to use what free time you have. Get some progress done on the WIP, or spend some quality time with The Husband?

But somehow, bits and pieces of time are found, and the work gets done. Maybe not as fast as you’d like, but it gets done. The idea of quitting your day job, of finally being “full-time” and having the ability to get tons of projects done, is a billboard that reads “If Only I Had More Tiiiiiiime,” and it glows way off in the distance on the dusky interstate of life, indicating an exit that may not even lie along your current route. Or an even better metaphor.

A funny thing happens once you suddenly have all that tiiiiiiime, though. Because all that tiiiiiiime does not come with the built-in structure for how to use it the way a day job does, and, for someone like me, lacking structure leads to floundering, flailing, and ultimately, surfing the internet all day before finally getting maybe a hundred words written.

If it weren’t for all the other wonderful things I mentioned about our new life, I’d have slid head-first into depression within a handful of months.

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I’ve never had to define my own daily structure before. Maybe this reveals something about me, about the privileges I had while growing up and then as a young adult. But it is what it is, and suddenly having the freedom to decide exactly how I’m going to use every second of my day turned out to be a lot scarier than it seemed back when it was just a big, glowy “If Only” waaaaay off in the distance.

For a big chunk of this past year, even though I was still turning various projects in, I felt like I wasn’t getting anything done AT ALL.

I tried a lot of systems to manage my time. Some worked once, some worked for a few days or even a couple weeks. Maybe all of them would have worked right off the bat if my personality were more attuned to this sort of thing, but maybe not. I have no way of knowing.

But I think the reason none of them worked is that they were designed around the writing. They were designed to get myself motivated, or to trick myself into writing with various rewards or Pavlovian responses, or even to berate myself for not doing the work, rather than being built around giving myself a daily structure. Because once I focused on structure, it all suddenly clicked.

My writing schedule today isn’t really about writing, it’s about my whole day and where writing fits into it. Because I’m not just a writer, I’m also a wife, a home owner, a cat guardian, a reader, and a gamer, plus I still have a small part-time job that has to fit in somewhere, too, and all of those parts of myself deserve time on my schedule. The structure makes it so I don’t have to decide every day when to do each thing or how to prioritize the parts of them, and thus removes a huge piece of the fear that used to paralyze me in the earlier parts of this past year.

So I’m learning to love my daily structure, as scary as it seems, because it’s my own. At the very least, I’m a lot happier with the way I’ve utilized my writing time since implementing it.

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