If you asked me what’s the most difficult part of writing, I wouldn’t say coming up with an idea, translating what’s in my brain onto the page or even getting words—any words—on the page. For me, at this moment, it’s boundaries.
I’m lucky enough to stay home and write full-time, or as full-time as I can manage with two kids. I love writing. It satisfies a deep need within me that nothing else can satisfy. When I don’t write, I actually get a physical reaction that can only be stopped by sitting in front of my computer and starting to write again. I sleep better when I write and I’m happier when I write. However, I can’t write all the time.
I have other things I have to do—I have a family, I have mundane chores, I have friends, I have other obligations—all of which prevent me from writing. The prevention isn’t a bad thing, and I’m not complaining. But it means I have to set up times to write and times to do other things, and that’s where my difficulty lies.
Back in July, I participated in a writing challenge, where I had to write 1,000 words a day. I did it for the discipline as well as for the progress it would allow me to make on a manuscript. When I know I have to get something done, I usually plan my day around doing that thing. It becomes a priority. But is writing really my priority when I need to get laundry done so we have clean clothes (nakedness is still frowned upon), or grocery shop so we can eat (seriously, every day people?)? Sometimes it is, but sometimes there are other priorities.
I typically try to get my writing done when my kids are at school, so that I can spend time with them when they’re home (they might not want it, but I do). But what happens to all the errands I also have to get done? Does that mean I leave those for when the kids are home? Or do I divide up my time during the day?
And what about weekends? This weekend, I decided I was taking a complete break from all writing and editing. I thought it would be good for me—it would clear my brain and allow me to focus on other things. It would also make me a better writer when I sat down again. I made it until 7:30 on Sunday evening and then I HAD to write again.
If you work in an office, the boundaries are preset. For the most part, not including the work you might bring home when necessary, you work THERE and you do everything else at HOME. Your brain focuses on work when you’re in the office, and on home when you’re home.
Mine can’t. Because the boundaries are fuzzy at best. Sometimes that’s a good thing—I can take advantage of extra time here or there to write when inspiration strikes or when everyone else is busy. But sometimes it means I’m not fully present when I need to be. It’s not my computer or phone that’s keeping me apart. It’s the need to write. Or the deadline that needs to be met. Or the 2,000 dependent clauses that need to be fixed (yes, that was a thing and OMG!).
I suspect that my self-imposed break this weekend was healthy and I should do it more often. I notice that my kids take my writing more seriously, and are hesitant to interrupt me when they see I’m writing (they no longer just assume I’m playing on my computer and interrupt at will). My husband always supports me when I’m writing (although I suspect the lack of food in the house is starting to get to him). So I probably need to practice boundary-making a little more seriously. Like any “muscle,” it needs to be exercised and used in order to work well.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All writing and no living makes this author write badly. And makes my family hungry. So, like everyone else, I just have to find the balance.