Sure, becoming relevant and popular as a writer is my ultimate goal, but I’ve learned to budget my time by setting up a writing schedule. Why? Because I’ve got a life! I want my stories and their messages to go out to the public more than anything, but I don’t want to feel like I gave up living in order to write.
My name is Linda and I’m a workaholic! When I take on anything—a job, a project, a book—I usually go ALL in. So, about three months ago, I decided to pull back from the nonstop writing, editing, blogging, and marketing that had consumed my life.
Usually, I’m many things—a wife, a mother of grown daughters, a sister, a helpful neighbor, and sometimes I volunteer. During the writing and editing of my book, I was none of those things. Not truly.
I’ve come to realize that I need a more rounded lifestyle with plenty of time to rest, refresh, and have some fun. Yes, writing is fun most of the time, but it’s a solitary fun and I have to program breaks that build in time to embrace the relationships; not view them as intrusions that take me away from my writing schedule.
I’ve resolved to provide myself this time for many reasons, but especially because yesterday my neighbor, Norm, was funeralized. I wasn’t asked to say any words at his service and I’m not sad that I wasn’t; but I will tell you the story I would’ve told had I been on the program.
Norm and his wife, Sandra, liked to take evening walks. They often walked past my house and Norm would admire my backyard garden. Norm and Sandra were avid gardeners and I had longed to take a peak into their back yard as well. Since it wasn’t as open as mine (I have a corner house), I had to swallow my pride one day and ask Sandra if I could go around and take a look at her backyard.
It was everything I had hoped it would be, and Norm and I became admirers of each other’s gardening skills. We each went on to earn our Village’s Annual Beautification Award and on more than one occasion, I’d stand gazing proudly at his plaque or he at mine.
When Norm developed Alzheimer’s he grew so ill that he didn’t even know who Sandra was, and a health care aide began escorting him on his walks around the neighborhood. We would often find him in our backyard, showing his various aides our garden and the other plantings along the walkway, too.
Last summer, as my husband jokingly loves to tell (though I really think it’s a dig at me), when Norm brought his latest aide to our backyard, he seemed confused. According to my husband, Norm spread his arms and kept turning and looking around, Finally, shoulders slumped, he just walked back out to the street.
He could be heard muttering, “This doesn’t seem to be the yard.”
Do you know why Norm was confused? It’s simple. He may have forgotten his way back home, and he may have thought his wife, Sandra, was just a nice lady, but he knew my yard and what he’d seen that day wasn’t what he knew or expected.
The tulips had died and I hadn’t bothered to dig them up or plant over them. The flowers had bloomed, died, dropped off, and the remaining stems were withered and brown. Pots of dry dirt sat all over the patio. The gardens along the paths were full of weeds that had choked back the young perennial sprouts. The dirty lawn furniture was stacked against the side of the house.
Had I been speaking at his service I would’ve stopped telling the story where Norm said, “This doesn’t seem to be the yard.” I would’ve said something funny about him being able to always find my yard, but the truth is, I had failed Norm!
You see last summer, I’d been in a writing frenzy. Nothing else mattered. My house was a mess, my friendships had been neglected, and my garden was the least of my worries. My husband did outside chores like cutting the grass and trimming the bushes, but I had let my neighbors down. Especially Norm, who took pleasure in a small thing like bringing strangers to my yard to show them something pretty.
After a drought that lasted almost thirty years, writing had finally become my passion. For years, I’d put writing on the back burner, only stealing hours in the late evening and early morning to spin my yarns. When I finally had the freedom to pursue my passion, I went all out, foregoing chores, relationships, vacations—all because I didn’t want to run out of time. I was so deep into another world that nothing else mattered and I was working feverishly to get that world down on paper.
I finished the book and guess what? The work wasn’t done. Even more time had to be expended editing, marketing, blogging, and planning book two (can’t let too much time elapse or they’ll lose interest).
Had I taken a much needed vacation? No!
So, this year I started new! I managed to clean my house, and this spring, I tended my garden, but by then, it was too late for Norm to see.
In 2017 I made the conscious decision to give myself the gift of time. Below you’ll see the homemade schedule that I created for myself:
Budget Time for Writing and Blogging
Morning start time for novels and stories
- What: Writing
- When: Tuesday— Friday 10 a. m. to 3 p. m.
- Where: Office
- How: Typing (stupid. I know!)
Dedicated days and times to:
- Tweet, Blog (identify interesting posts to reblog) (Monday-Friday random free time)
- Research (topics to blog and other research for novels) (Monday)
- Newsletters (write and schedule monthly newsletters) (Saturday)
- Build an email following (give-a-ways, short books and novellas, recipe book) (Saturday)
I’ve blown this up into a sign and placed it above my desk. It may not look very professional, but it works for me right now. It helps remind me that there is a time when writing stops and my life begins. Since I’m an early riser, I use the time between 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., in the summer, to plant, weed, and water. If I don’t do it then, I have ample time to get it done after 3 p.m. unless I’m caught up in a scene that has to get completed. If a scene isn’t urgent, I put it away.
My husband and I tried a weekend trip and I didn’t take my laptop. Thank God the hotel had a writing pad, but otherwise, I was fine. I’ve managed to reconnect with my girlfriends for our weekly Tuesday morning line dancing class and our monthly lunch, and I’ve recommitted to a church group that I enjoy every Wednesday from 10 to 12.
It’s a process, but I realize that for me writing has to be done in moderation if I’m going to be in it for the long haul. Continuing on at the pace I was going is detrimental to my relationships and my reputation as a master gardener.