Image by Rebecca Ford
When I launched this blog, I did so with the intention of posting something new and inspirational at least once per week. Something that would keep myself and my readers motivated to write on a daily basis. But if you look at the date of my first and only post thus far, and you do some second grade calculating, you’ll notice that I’m exactly a month and two days late. As a teacher, I would consider this unacceptable from any of my students, and for sure they’d end up with a zero for the assignment.
One day while my brain was being inundated with a plethora of excuses for not having posted to my blog sooner, I was suddenly prompted by an idea for this week’s post, one which I am most certain that all writers who work a full-time job have experienced. How do we create a balance that allows us to fulfill our daily responsibilities to our jobs, families and friends, and then have time to nurture our creative writing side?
I know that when I don’t find time to write each day, I’m miserable. Really! I am! Ask the people who live with me. With the exception of sending emails, I have spent less than ten hours writing during the past month, which has resulted in not only an increase in my dark chocolate consumption, but also in my resentment toward the things that take me away from my writing, i.e. a full-time job, a five day trip into the woods with fifty-five seventh graders, a two-hour round-trip, daily commute, household chores, and sleep! Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy being in the education field, but teaching children is mentally and physically exhausting, and most days when I arrive home, I require a power-nap to recharge my batteries before carrying on with the remainder of the afternoon and evening as a sane member of society.
But writing for me is more than a hobby or something that I can do every once in a while. I need to write each day, even if it’s a small blurb. It’s like people who need to smoke that cigarette after they eat, or people who go right for the popcorn when they enter the movie theater. If I don’t write, I become anxious, and then as I mentioned earlier, miserable.
In order to ensure that I write each day, I finally took some time to carefully examine my daily routine. I searched for ways to become more efficient with my time spent on non-writing tasks, and then implemented some changes that have really helped me boost my writing opportunities. Maybe these suggestions could help you as well.
1. Arrive to Work Early. I arrive to work an hour early and I spend the entire time writing. I’m usually the first one in the building, so it’s dark, quiet, and simply the perfect writing environment. As a result, over the course of two years, I completed a five hundred page draft of the memoir that I’m currently writing titled, Real Teachers Don’t Drive Carts: A Spanish Teacher’s Search for Her Classroom.
2. Find Time to Rest. As I mentioned, I take power-naps during the day. In many parts of the world, this practice is built into everyone’s workday. But we Americans haven’t caught onto that wave yet, and I’m not sure that we ever will. A power-nap energizes me enough so that I can drag my old bones to the gym, workout, and get those endorphins moving. This results in a rush of thoughts and ideas along with a burst of just enough energy that allows me to write for a short time before I turn in for the night.
3. Get a Smart-Phone. I bought an iPhone last year and I find that I spend less time in front of the computer checking email and more time writing. During those moments when I’m waiting in a checkout line, sitting at a red light, stewing in bumper-to-bumper Nashville traffic, lounging in a doctor’s office, riding six hours on a bus with fifty-five seventh graders, I can read and send emails, check phone messages in whichever order I deem most important, record story ideas digitally when they hit me without warning– like when I’m filling my gas tank–conduct google searches, and even pay my bills with online bill-pay. The possibilities for saving time throughout your day are endless when you own a smart-phone. Of course my monthly iPhone bill is more expensive, but for me the monetary cost outweighs the time that I’d be wasting.
4. Send Yourself an Email. I do it all the time. I have been known to be in the midst of planning lessons or correcting papers at my desk when suddenly, this magnificent idea hits me from out of left field. I immediately connect to my email account and send myself the details.
5. Send Detailed Emails to Your Friends. One of my best friends is also a Spanish teacher. We tend to email each other with our teaching gripes, frustrations, and sometimes triumphs. The memoir I’m currently writing focuses on my career as a teacher, and when I get an idea that I want to write about, it’s usually something that I would end up sharing with my dear friend. So, in order to kill two birds with one stone, I send her a detailed email. I cc myself, print the email out, punch holes in it, stick it into my binder and viola! I have a writing entry for the day.
6. Call Yourself and Leave a Message. I do indeed call myself. Yes I do! Do the men with white jackets need to take me to a white, padded room? Probably. But, when I get a really pressing idea that I don’t want to record on the voice memo for fear I’ll forget about it, I call myself and leave a detailed phone message!
7. Carry Your Manuscript Everywhere You Go. At this very moment if you were to search my big, black, leather purse, first you’d fall in, then you’d bump your head on a white, one-inch binder containing a manuscript and sticky notes. It’s great for those unintended stops to Starbucks or when you’re just stuck waiting, for example, on a charter bus with fifty-five loud seventh graders for six hours!
Ideally, I’d like to spend four to six hours per day writing, but sometimes that’s just not realistic with my current work schedule. At least by becoming more aware of time and attempting to be more efficient, I can ensure that I write something, even if it’s small, each day.
I’m sure there are plenty more ways to aid in balancing our writing lives with our many other lives, so I invite you to share your ideas in the comment area of this blog. Anything that can enable us to increase our time writing is always worth a try. Until next time, keep writing!