the abyss part 2: return of the abyss

I’m doing it again. I’m forsaking all other commitments in favor of writing time.

Okay, not all other commitments. Mostly the blog has gone silent, the floor has gone un-vacuumed, and I’m appearing at fewer events than ever. But it’s the only way to get anything done, and my self-image is closely tied to my ability to get things done!

Contrary to what some suffering artists™ say, writing doesn’t have to be your #1 priority in order to be productive. I saw an eye-roll-worthy essay going around recently from a writer saying he was a bad father when his kids were young, because writers are by necessity also bad fathers. Well, no, not really. You just chose writing over your kids. If that’s your choice, that’s your choice, but own up to it. (And if you decide not to have kids at all and focus on your career, writing or otherwise, good for you, you knew what your priorities were going to be.) (And also, writing moms tend not to get the option to lock themselves in a study and leave baby-rearing to the spouse, so suck it up, dad, the Great American Novel can be written after bedtime.)

Writing doesn’t have to be #1. It just can’t be #10, or even #5. I work weekday mornings. I take care of my baby weekends and weekday afternoons, and I don’t like giving him up to babysitters on my off-time because I’m already gone ~30 hours a week including commute.

But everything after that is a toss-up. If I want time to write, I’ve got to give up something else, and “something else” includes, but is not limited to: keeping up with television shows, going out to happy hour with coworkers, sewing my own costumes, casual arts and crafting, and often: sleep.

(Aside: I’m lucky to be healthy, so I’m not also battling a mental or physical obstacle to writing other than my perpetually poor sleep. I’m aware that everything I’m saying here comes from that perspective.)

If you want more time to write, you meet your adult responsibilities and then give up some other hobby. If you love writing, you won’t even mind very much, because you enjoy writing more than those other things. If writing is an absolute chore, and you constantly procrastinate, and you always choose other activities first, and then sigh and say you just don’t have enough free time…well, I don’t know, maybe reassess what you’re writing for.

All of that said, I know I take things too far. I get fixated on finishing projects, but since writing projects take months I descend into a workaholic craze for months at a time. For example, right now it is 9 a.m. on a Sunday and all I’ve done is make breakfast and tidy up the kitchen and write this blog, and I’m already feeling anxious and unproductive because I didn’t get up an hour before the baby to write. This is DESPITE KNOWING my husband is running around with the baby this afternoon and I’ll have plenty of time then. Because that’s bonus time, which I could have had on top of my morning sprint.

Here is how I fit writing around a job and a baby: write while baby eats, write while baby naps, write a few sentences at a time when baby feels like playing by himself, before he notices I’m on the laptop and runs over to oust me, at which point maybe switch to a notebook and type it in later. I have to keep my current project in mind at all times so that if a 15 minute gap in my schedule appears I can take advantage of it without dawdling the 15 minutes away refreshing my memory with what I did last time.

Anyway, don’t go full Sam. Never go full Sam. Find your work-life-writing balance and embrace it. Just, you know, make sure you’re actually including work and life and writing.