People ask how I can write four different stories at the same time. Well, that part is easier than it sounds. I liken it to having children: you treat each child as the utterly individual beings they are, but you also know them so well, so intimately, that you don’t even have to think about it. When you’re with them, you’re just in their zone, talking their language, feelin’ their vibe (ooh, yeah).
My issues flare up when it comes to balancing writing with down-time and family. I love to write and I love these projects. I want to get them right (and rather need to, as well). But what happens when my family humbly requests my presence? Politely asks if I will join them for dinner, for a chat, for a movie? Do I hiss in their faces that I’ll eat when I’m damn well ready (or, worse, cook dinner)? Do I ignore them as they reveal their latest news and keep tapping at my keyboard while offering the occasional , Mm-hm, Uh-huh, and Awwww? Do I pretend to watch the movie while actually composing the next scenes in my mind, and then pretend to discuss the movie afterward with some kind of authority while really not knowing at all what I’ve just seen???
The thing is, I know I need down-time and breaks (and dinner) or my work will suffer. But when a deadline (or in my case: deadlines, plural) is looming, how do you prioritize?
This is what I’m doing, for right or wrong. When my kids need to tell me something, I finish typing my sentence and give them my time (I know I can usually get right back in the flow, but I might never get that moment back with them) When my husband needs to tell me something, I ask him to wait (you see, he gets it. And while his feelings can get as hurt as the next guy, he’s also remarkably resilient.). If it’s my turn to make dinner, I prepare my go-to quick meals (even if we’ve had chicken six times last week, or *shudder* take-out). Housework and taxes? Those fall by the wayside, but I do try to set aside an hour here or there to manage them. Amazingly, stuff gets done (if not exactly to “spring cleaning” standards). Movies and playtime? This is my Achilles heal. It feels like play should be put off till I’ve met my deadlines. But when another deadline will just replace the last one met, then that might mean deferring it till, I don’t know, 2013. So I force myself to put away the computer for certain chunks of time. And watch a movie. With my peeps. Is it hard? So very!! But I do feel better afterward. Refreshed. Ready to write more and better.
But it’s also a constant battle. And one I have to keep reminding myself to wage. How do you do it?
Deb: When our son was younger this was a real issue for me as I wanted him to know that he and his Dad were always my first priority, but I also wanted him to learn to respect the fact that my work needed my attention too. We came up with a solution, the memory of which still warms my heart.
I told him "Luke I will always stop writing to be there for you, so you never have to worry about that." But when someone is writing it is awful to be in the middle of the perfect sentence, the perfect thought, and be interrupted. When that happens, your creative moment comes crashing down. So, here is my idea Luke. When you want me, just come up behind me and gently and without sound, lay your hand on my shoulder. That will tell me you need me, I will finish my sentence or thought and then I will be all yours." The sweet memory of that boy coming up to me time and again, laying his hand on my shoulder and waiting patiently just lights me up. And it worked.
And as a young adult writer I hope he understands how important that little ritual was. As I am writing this, I would give anything to have his lovely hand on my shoulder. What I wouldn't give right now for one sweet distracting interruption from my boy.