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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

When Life Is Determined to Kick Your Ass

Bringing an all new dimension of  weirdosity and tension
to the fact that you can't tell the difference between
"May" and "me" in some songs.
I started this with a title about May. Like "It's gonna be May" or something. Then I scrolled through my Facebook, and I gotta tell you, between Justin Timberlake and Jonathan Coulton, if you don't know it's May––if you don't know that today is the first day of a month that is called May––I'm guessing you're one of my four readers who aren't on social media.

Let's do something a little different today.

Instead of a post where I tell everyone how May is going to be this existential crisis of screaming clown heads, and I tearfully admit that I may not manage to get to every single last post that I have previously scheduled for myself, even though literally no one but me cares about me missing a day here or there and even my patrons wish I would just quietly skip the damn post once in a while and not feel compelled to share all the excruciating details about why ("listen I got this G.I. bug and it's turned my digestion inside out––here are some pictures––and that's why I won't be posting today...")

Um, yeah, so instead of doing that, I'm going to flip the whole thing around. We're going to look at it from the other side for a change, in accordance with the Updates in Real Time portion of our mission statement, in which this blog tries to be as transparent as possible.

May involves two pet-sitting jobs (one in San Francisco and one in Santa Clara) that will take up the entire month. Mostly no big deal since I can write anywhere, but for those days that I have to trek to Oakland to do my newly bolstered nanny hours, I will be spending hours in the car.

And easily this could be the end of 2/3 my writing productivity for May if I weren't careful. I go to Oakland four days a week. In traffic either of the trips I mentioned could take two hours one way. By Thursday, I'd have spent 25 hours at work and another 16 in commute. I'd spend Friday recovering. Saturday and Sunday would be my only days to get everything else done that I needed to. I'd hang in there for a week, maybe two. And then....screaming clown heads.

So what do you do when you have a chance to sock away an entire month's worth of expenses with your favorite clients? When you need those side gigs to keep you from entire weeks of nothing but PB&J sandwiches and to provide a bit for the occasional train trip? But also what do you do when you're a working writer whose income is crowd funded and you can't do a G.R.R. Martin impersonation for a month?

As often as I get asked any other question, it is "How do you do it?" and what they mean by "it" is making a living with creative writing. And that answer, or at least one month's worth of decisions about that answer, you're about to watch in praxis.

How I do it....is that I make sure that when something like May is coming, I keep writing my priority. I could toss it on the back burner, do a bunch of filler, neglect some of the longer stuff, and come back to it stiff and out of practice (if at all) in June, but that's not how I got here, and that's not how I keep going.

So first of all I know that to keep writing, I need two things. The first one is a no brainer, but the second one is just as important or I will end up cannibalizing the first one.

  • Writing time
  • Self care*

*Not bubble baths and retail therapy here. I'm talking about getting enough sleep. I'm talking about spending enough time doing shit like reading, watching TV, relaxing, and taking care of parts of my life that aren't just writing. 

My first move was to see how things looked on paper (not great). If I have big open weekends, sometimes I can take on a tough day or two during the week, so long as I remember to do my writing earlier.  Unfortunately three days off and four on is too much, so I couldn't just Tetris my writing time. I had to find some substantive changes.

Then I started making tweaks until I found enough time for writing and the self care that keeps writing viable:
  • By making my needs known to my side gig employers (the parents of the nanny gig), I was able to work in a May substitute for the little three hour shift I had on Thursdays. So during the month of May, I'm only driving out 3 days a week and have a four-day weekend.
  • The Mondays are sort of unofficial, so I can wait out traffic before I head out.
  • One appointment on Monday got cancelled, so I made sure the whole day was cancelled. That week I'll have Monday off. And I'll keep my eyes open for any other opportunity like it. A day off here and there can make a big difference.
  • I'm using BART to get to the city job after I do the initial drop-off of stuff. That'll keep me from having to dig through traffic (it'll be about the same amount of time, but being able to read is a HUGE plus to any T graph). 
  • I'm going to pick up a couple of audiobooks for those rare occasions when NPR isn't blowing wind up my skirt.
  • It might make for some long days (and some slightly hungry kitties by the time I get home), but movies or hikes I can do after I work, so that I can wait out the traffic.
  • Double dipping with an infant while they're napping is pretty easy if one is determined to make it work.
  • I pay someone to help me with some of the admin of social media management. I lined up extra hours for them in May.
  • I've saved up a lot of admin-type posts and am running a poll that will require a lot of reminders. 
  • I have a lot of important but shorter posts "saved up" just for May––we're running a poll with semifinals that will require a lot of reminder posts. And I haven't done "best of" for 2019 yet. I can't run an entire month of filler, of course, but having a LITTLE less that requires my urgent attention day after day makes the fits and starts dynamic of May's writing/self-care time––and the fact that Tuesday and Wednesday are just about going to be a wash––a little easier to handle.
  • Since I have more money than time during May, I have set up a couple of low-key Facebook promotions to make up for the fact that I won't be able to be 110% on social media or write quite so many heavy hitting posts.
  • I'll still have a week front-loaded with side gigs and back-loaded with writing, so I need to sit down with my planner every week and really plan out what posts I'm going to write ahead of time and get them done early.
And that's how I do it. I make writing the highest priority, I scowl at my schedule, and I don't fuck around. A lot of people love writing, and I'm not here to judge their love or how much of a writer they are, but if they get into a pinch, it's the first thing they toss to the back burner and the last thing they sit down and plan for how they're going to keep it a priority through a rough time. For most working writers, that would be like not figuring out how you're going to get to your job or see your family during a rough time. 

If it's a priority, make it a priority. 

This is Folksy Wisdom; over and out.

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