Professionally speaking, I haven’t been very focused during the later part of this year. I have been trying to do too many different jobs, wear too many different hats you might say, and not focusing on my writing career. Sure, I write everyday for different website content sites, I need to in order to pay the kids tuition for school; However, my own creative writing and long-term goals have sadly been thrown to the side in order to accomplish those things that I must do for financial survival. I miss the creative freedom of bubbling articles topics, brainstorming and seeking out new ideas or reinventing old ideas/evergreen topics to send off in a query letters. Yesterday, in a blurry of creativity I sent two queries out to a magazine, taking important time away from the general productivity of content articles that were due. However, it felt good to be writing the way I want to write and not the way the writer-for-hire jobs require. I would not trade the private school for my kids, as I want them to have the academic opportunities not afforded in the school district in our area but I wish I could find a way to combine their academic success with my personal goals accomplished. I vow this weekend to slow down, evaluate my professional path and find a new way to combine consistent paying work with creative expression, I know this is possible if I just slow down long enough to work it out.
I have been gone a long time. Regrettably I have been consumed with “all things children” and unable to find the time to write my blog, the blogs that I am supposed to write for profit, my for-hire articles and my personal goal articles. While I love my time with my children, my nephew (I watch him during the week to “help-out”) and volunteering at my boy’s school, I have missed being able to write. I love the way my fingertips feel as they hit the keys on my computer keyboard, words traveling from my brain down through my fingertips, leaving their impression upon the whiteness of the screen.
Yet, here I am, more determined than ever to continue meeting with my computer keyboard, in the late hours of the night and early hours of the morning; time stolen to ponder my thoughts, learn new facts and share the information as I gather it. I am a “hunter and gatherer of information”, needing to discover new facts as often as possible. I find myself lying awake at night pondering sentence structure, paragraph outlines, and different ways that I might share the information that I have gathered, anxious to greet my computer in the early morning light. A cup of steaming coffee, the glow of the computer screen in the morning darkness, my notes in a pile on the right side of the computer and an immense sense of personal glory that I have one hour of silence to myself, fingers tap, tap, tapping on the keyboard. I love my writing life.
I have been sick for three days; I am rarely sick. To top it off, I am rarely so sick that I cannot function as a wife, mother, daughter and writer. I was that sick this weekend. Unable to function, I got out of bed only to attend my two son’s little league baseball games. My husband drove, unloaded and prepared kids with equipment and uniforms. He parked the car so that I could see the ball field and with his continual nudging, I remained awake long enough to watch my children at bat. I have not been that sick in years. I am glad to report that today the fog has lifted and I am up and around, trying to build speed and stamina as I progress through the day. At the onset of the morning, my darling five year old son sat down with me at the kitchen table. Smiling he said “Isn’t it a Prettyful day?” I smiled back at him. I love the way kids make up their own words. I paused and agreed with him. “Yes, it is a “Prettyful” day”. It feels so nice to be back with the living.
I recently added another challenge to my writing career, one that initially made it difficult for me to focus on my work: I added a fifth boy to the daily mix of responsibilities. No, I did not have another child; rather I am taking care of my six month old nephew, full-time, Monday through Friday. He is an easy baby, always happy and laughing; a pleasure to spend my days with but I had forgotten how much attention a young one needs.
After waiting years for my youngest son to enter preschool and thus give me three hours a day-three days a week for myself, I offered to help out my brother and sister-in-law and provide childcare for their youngest son.
As we discussed my providing childcare, I simply figured that he would fit into my already established routine. In my mind I set nap and play times on a schedule for times that I would write and then I would play with him and my older boys in the other hours. I created a schedule based upon what I wanted to accomplish and forgot that infants create the schedules that parents/aunts adopt. I had forgotten how demanding an infant can be. I also forgot that infants don’t necessarily follow or agree to abide by a schedule that is established by an adult. Boy did I learn…
My nephew, we call him “peanut”, has proven to teach me a few things in the last two weeks, rather than my effectively teaching him much of anything. Yet, I can honest say that his becoming a part of our household has been very beneficial to my writing. I once allowed myself time to “research” on the internet, traveling link to link, randomly following whatever direction my journey went; no destination in mind, just reading and learning. In reviewing my day, I suddenly realized how much time I was wasting with little results. Peanut helped me to focus my 9 free hours (preschool schedule for my five year old) using my energies on my articles, online class work and blog rather than just perusing the internet.
Another benefit has been my refocusing of my workspace and work time efficiency. I have a beautiful office that I love working in but with the arrival of the baby (and the lack of room for a crib or playpen in the office), I had to move essential work tools of my day down to the island in the kitchen; I now work with the playpen next to me and my work is done in bits and pieces; everything having to be moved when necessary for meal times or board game play with my older kids, baby sitting on my lap.
My world has had to become much more organized, rather than stacks of “possible research”, my files are focused and “work ready” whenever I get a chance to sit down. I have learned to mentally focus as soon as a writing opportunity presents itself. I also leave myself notes;
à What I need to accomplish during my next work opportunity
à Detailed objectives for the next hour, day, week and month
à Things I need to look up or telephone calls I need to make
à Web sites I need to visit or research I need to accomplish
Using the “13 in Play” sheet, a query tracking list and the “Accountability Worksheet” I keep my work organized and I don’t waste time having to search for papers or lost notes.
When I first attempted to combine babysitting for “Peanut” and my writing, I was fearful that I would lose the momentum that I had worked so hard to create; rather I discovered that growing and adjusting to new challenges helped me to focus on becoming even more than I could ever dream.
Are their challenges in your life than have forced you to re-evaluate your daily schedule and re-create your life? How are you dealing with those demands? I would love to learn tricks that other writer mama’s or writer’s in generally use to create, build and maintain momentum in their writing careers.
In an email today, a question was presented to me, “What are you grateful for right now?” This questions was extremely timely for me as I have created a New Year’s Resolution to reflect upon my life each night before I go to sleep; whether it be my daily activities, professional goals or parenting objectives; the evaluation offers me an opportunity to review if my chosen path is working for me, if I am accomplishing what I want for myself, my husband and my children, how I can improve on my quality of life and what I would change or maintain. It only takes me a few minutes to quietly reflect but it has provided such clarity to my world.
After reflecting, I make a short list of a few things I want to celebrate or modify the following day and then I go to sleep. This simple quiet time actually makes my sleep more restful, my life less stressful and my outlook much more focused the following day.
This morning, coffee in hand and computer on my lap, I paused to think about the things I was grateful for:
1. My husband, a man who works hard outside the home so that I can stay home and follow my dreams to become the writer professionally that I am in my heart. A man that I not only love but admire for his honesty, integrity and strong work ethic. I am proud to be his wife and hope with all my heart that each of my son’s grows into a man like their father.
2. My children-I have four boys. Enough said…my house is filled with action figures, constant energy and noise. I love it. I love being a mom!
3. My family. I am blessed to live nearby all the members of our family, on my husband’s and my side. Family provides roots for stability, history, love, laughter and knowledge in counsel from our parents and sometimes the innocent voices of our children. I value every aspect of our family- our own immediate household and the households of family members around us. We are truly blessed.
4. My friends. I value the quality of friendships rather than the quantity of friends. I choose my close friends very carefully. Acquaintances are important and I maintain quality relationships with many but true friendships are invalid in my lifetime and I guard them to the death. I am eternally loyal to my closest friends.
5. My writing. I have written all my life and dreamt of becoming a published author. In November 2006, I sold my first article, ghostwritten, for very little money. But I had sold an article and the client loved it. I sold over 600 articles and one eBook over the next twelve months, all ghostwritten. The little bit of money I made for my efforts as a ghostwriter was inconsequential in comparison to the lessons I learned along the way. Now, I am writing with a byline, getting paid for my efforts and have become the published author I always knew I could be.
As you will discover in an earlier blog, I have a new list of goals for 2009 and know with absolute certainty that each of these goals will be accomplished at the end of the year. For as they say, “It doesn’t matter if you take big steps or small steps as long as you keep moving toward your goals.
So let’s get moving…
January 2, 2009: This year is going to be a powerful experience for my writing career. I can just feel it!!
I have been blessed with so many different opportunities at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009, that I cannot help but eagerly advance into the New Year.
In an effort to prepare myself and my efforts for my highest level of productivity, I have created an accountability list for 2009. (I first discovered the Accountability Sheet, by Wendy Burt, in The Writer Mama by Christina Katz. This powerful writer’s tool is essential as a weekly guide to keep both my energy and focus moving forward each day.) In this instance, my 2009 Year-long Accountability List is going to work as an outline of my objectives that will be accomplished at the end of 2009.
1. Achieve Publication in a national magazine
2. Build a strong platform, transform my efforts into a nonfiction book proposal by December 2009
3. Create a writing event for my community
4. Join the Writer Mama Riffs blogroll
5. Successfully complete the six-week online class taught by Christina Katz, Writing and Publishing the Small Stuff, beginning on January 14, 2009; participate in additional online classes taught by Ms. Katz to build my professional platform.
6. Attend the remaining seminars for the 2008/2009 Northwest Authors Series in Wilsonville Oregon
7. Participate in Wordstock 2009; a fantastic literary event that takes place in Portland each year.
Each of these goals is challenging enough to stretch my abilities and yet also close enough within my reach to be successfully accomplished in the next twelve months. 2009 promises to be a year of great accomplishment, new friendships and personal satisfaction…I cannot wait!