When my son was born and my daughter was 2, I left my teaching job to stay home for the short term. During this time, I took a number of writing workshops that were marketed to women like me, home with small children and wanting to write. We learned how to write articles and blurbs for parenting magazines in particular, which was fun but totally not my jam.
More to the point, many of the lessons suggested that we use the short spurts of time that we weren’t diapering or rocking or feeding or chauffeuring or refereeing squabbles or tearing our hair out to write. Got 10 minutes while the kids eat mac & cheese? Great! Write a quick how-to article. Sitting in the lobby during dance class? Super! Pull out that notebook and get to work!
The instructors wanted us to maximize our limited time and write when we could.
This is an absolutely ideal situation. Kind of like the perfect families pictured in those parenting magazines with squeaky-clean kids and stylish, fit moms.
The problem, for me anyway, is that I cannot shift my brain that quickly.
If I am engrossed in a different part of my life, I have to first calm my brain down to neutral. Then I can begin to consider the next thing. I cannot switch it on and off like a light switch.
So when I tried to implement this strategy of short bursts of writing, I failed miserably, and became resentful and frustrated, ultimately blaming myself for my inability to do what seemed to be so reasonable.
My point is, when deciding how much time to dedicate to a daily writing practice, you have to take your whole self into account.
I think that part of the reason I struggled with writing in short bursts is my monkey mind and chronic anxiety. I have to calm myself down to a place of stillness before I add on the next thing, or I get so agitated that nothing good can come of it.
Creativity does not flow from agitation.
So, listen, maybe you are the opposite, and short bursts of writing work perfectly well for you.
Great! Carry a notebook everywhere you go and maximize your limited time.
Maybe you need to plan your writing to allow for transition into and out of the creative process, like I do.
Right on! Let your kid doodle in your notebook in the waiting room and set yourself up for success.
I mentioned in the last post that now I get up early in the mornings to write. I’m not going to lie, I would rather stay in bed. But I get up early enough so that I can make coffee, stretch, and sit at my desk for at least an hour. I’m not being productive that whole time. Sometimes I rest my head on the keyboard and close my eyes. But I sit there, and eventually my brain catches up. Since I’ve built in enough time, I am able to get work done every day.
An hour might be too long for you to commit to. Or it might be too short.
Be honest with yourself.
What do you need to be your most creative self?
What works for you?
How can you build part of your day around it?
Whatever you figure out, be gentle with yourself. There is no one right way to do this crazy thing.