Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do You Do It?

I work at a public school, and I'm very lucky that I have a principal who supports my "side job" as an author and is all about encouraging me and pumping me up as much as possible. Now that my secret writing life is out of the bag at work, I have a lot of my fellow teachers asking me how I have the time to basically work two full time jobs. The funny thing is, most of them don't even realize that I'm also working on my MFA, so when I tell them that, they look at me like I have Time Turner or something. They can't even fathom how I can go home after our (very exhausting) work day and then do something else that requires brain power.

But it has gotten me thinking...it's obviously a Big Deal that I can somehow work full time as a teacher and also write novels when I get home. So...how do I manage it?

Writing is a priority
I've realized as I've gotten older that you have to make time for the things that are important to you. I know it's a bit of a no-brainer, but I really do see people all the time talk about how much they want to be a writer, how much they wish they could do what I do, etc. But then when they have free time, they don't use it to write. If something is important, if you want to make it happen, then use the little time you have to actually do it. If it's something you want to do, DO IT. Otherwise, you're probably more in love with the idea than the actual thing, you know? I get it...the idea of being a writer is a lot easier than actually being a writer. But thinking about it doesn't get books written.

I have a husband, and he does pretty much all of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and dog care
I'm lucky here. I'm married to the cleanest man in America, and even before I started writing seriously he pretty much took over all these tasks because he has to have them all done just so. Fine by me! So when I get home from work, I don't have to prepare a meal or clean anything up, I can just sit down and get to business, which is awesome. He also works from home, so it's easier for him to take care of mundane tasks around the house and dog stuff than it is for me.

I don't have kids
I don't have to give my time or attention to anyone else when I get home from work. (I know people who work full time, and write, AND have kids, and, damn, I am in awe of you people. Seriously.) And, honestly, my husband gets all into his TV and I get all into my writing, and I don't even give him all that much attention. The dogs curl up in my lap, so the only attention I really have to give another living thing when I get home is idle fur stroking while I write.

I do my best to leave work at work
This one is difficult for me, because teaching is one of those jobs that you never really get a break from. But I do my best to take care of all of my lesson planning / grading / emailing while sitting in my classroom, even if it means I need to stay later than I want to. Tied into this, I never write while I'm at work. I focus on work at work and writing at home, and keep those two lines as clear as I can.

I have my own computer, and I'm on it all the time
Having a computer that is 100% mine at all times is really important. If I had to share it with my husband ever...well, that would just never happen.

I don't watch TV
My husband is obsessed with having the TV on from the second he gets up until the second he goes to sleep, so it's always on, but I'm not really invested in very much. I have the occasional show I watch with him, but for the most part, I don't watch anything. I can't write and watch TV at the same time because I want to focus on the show, and since writing is the priority, TV just had to go. I know some people who manage to watch a ton of TV and still get more writing done than me, but I just can't multi-task like that.

Being an adult is hard. I get it. There's so much responsibility, so much to take care of, that it's very difficult to fit everything in. I'm lucky in that my husband takes on a lot of the adult jobs around the house and lets me contribute to our household in other ways. But in the end, it takes sacrifice to get the things you want. I have to say no to things and skip out on things and put things off so I have the time to write because it's that important to me. I don't think anything here is groundbreaking, but it's how things go for me, and it's how I get it all done. I know it may seem crazy to some, but, man, being a parent seems impossible to me. Or being a competitive athlete. Or a lot of things. But if it's important to you, you just DO it...right?

How do you do it? How are you able to fit writing in with your real life?


  1. I've wondered how you do it, too! I remember what it was like to teach full-time, and there was no way I was doing anything but vegging when I got home from work. I love what you said about making writing a priority. Sometimes it would be nice to just watch TV or take a bubble bath or something, but writing time is limited and I always end up hating myself when I don't use it wisely. Great post, Jess!

  2. Love this post! You really are a rock star! I'm lucky in that my current job is strictly 9-5 and I have a short commute so I can make time to write in the early mornings before work or right after. My boss is also really supportive of my writing. It was much more of a challenge a few years ago when I was getting an MFA, since two nights a week I was in class, PLUS I was also planning my wedding at that time. But like you, I put writing and school work first and made it work.

    Your husband sounds awesome! My husband is also really clean and he's willing to help with the cooking and cleaning. This month I told him I wouldn't be doing much around the house because I want to finish my WIP during Camp NaNoWriMo and he made us dinner last night, and cleaned! It makes SUCH a difference to have a supportive spouse.

    We want to try to start a family soon-ish so I know my writing time will be greatly affected with kids. I'm taking inspiration from the other writing mamas I know!

    Anyway, this novel of a comment is long enough. Happy writing!! xo

  3. I think it also takes a real talent to be able to easily get into the writing zone and crank out words. I have always been someone who does a lot of mental brainstorming, but when it comes to actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), I'm like my dog circling the carpet for 10 minutes before actually settling down to rest. Any advice on how to quickly get into that writing headspace, especially when I know my free time may only happen in 10 or 15 minute blocks? Is it a natural ability or did it take practice?

  4. Also, you forgot to mention that you also work out! Are you sure you don't have that time turner?

  5. I like how most people ask "how do you do it?" That seems like a question I get a lot when I make time to work out or make time for crafts with the kids or cook at home. I liked your answer. You make time for what you want and what's important to you. And, there comes a point in life where we stop making excuses for ourselves & just fill in the blanks. :-)
    You're amazingly focused and talented in your writing abilities. So when people ask me "how does your friend J do it all? Doesn't she work? She has another book? How?" I just say, "She's just that good." ;-)

    1. At a workplace lunch one of my coworkers was marveling how I made time to do something--it wasn't writing, I don't remember what it was. I asked what her day looked like when she got home. Her kids were grown though she had a spouse who needed caretaking due to a medical condition. So I get that. But she couldn't come up with anything in her day other than make dinner and get ready for work the next day. She lived closer to the office than me too. I just don't understand what people do with hours of time every day--other than caretaking and household things, which all of us have to do to some degree. I have writer friends with kids who work full time who still make publication deadlines. I think it comes down to how much do you want this thing, and how much effort will you put into it. It's not easy.

    2. I liked that you said that too. It's not easy. It's not always easy but always worth it. :-)

  6. This: but I really do see people all the time talk about how much they want to be a writer, how much they wish they could do what I do, etc. But then when they have free time, they don't use it to write.

    I'm much like you; have my own computer, no kids, (though I do the majority of the cooking, shopping etc.). I have some flexibility with working from home 2 days a week which means I get several hours of my day back by not commuting or getting ready for work.

    I think often people who want to write but don't just aren't sure where to start. I was that way for awhile. I literally did not know where to begin and that hurdle seemed to big to even tackle, so I didn't. Slowly (too slow) I realized that dream wasn't going to happen on its own.

    1. Yay for getting over the hurdle! :-)

  7. I work full time as a copywriter and then I write for a newspaper on the side, so I'm already doing so much writing that it's hard for me to find time or motivation to write anything else. I know that I need to make it more of a priority. However, I honestly don't feel that I am only in love with the idea of being a writer, not actually being one. Sure I am lazy and could do more writing, but it's still something I want. I just haven't been able to find the right balance. Guess I need to just do it!

  8. I feel like you just have to make it happen, you know? If you want to do it, make it so. (Which, is exactly why I haven't gotten back into my pre-pregnancy jeans yet. Working out just hasn't moved up the priority list. :))