Finding the Time, Making the Space

If you’ve been following me anywhere, you know that I’m a new mom and that my maternity leave ends next Monday. I’m nervous for so many reasons: am I going to be able to get to the train in time, how is ELF going to handle other people Victoria and ELF (at 3 months)watching her, how are other people going to handle ELF? But there are plenty of reasons to look forward to going back, including reestablishing my writing routine.

Back in the day (you know, in 2014, before morning sickness, “pregnant narcolepsy,” and then 24/7 newborn care), I was writing my novel at my favorite bakery on weekends and in snippets between things during the week, mainly on the 45-minute train ride in and out of Boston and during my lunch hour. At first, I wasn’t very productive, but I did manage some highly effective sprints in places you wouldn’t think were conducive to getting things done. I trained myself pretty well.

Now that my weekends with ELF will be pretty sacred, it’s going to be harder to leave the house for uninterrupted writing time, so my time on the train and at lunch will be more important than ever. I’ve been anxious about this throughout my leave because I have very little uninterrupted time at home.

But yesterday, I stumbled on a Codex thread by Dawn Bonanno that covered this very subject. One big asset that Dawn posted: a link to Odyssey Podcasts #85 and #86 featuring Alex Hughes‘s 2015 Odyssey lecture on productivity. Listening to both was a great reminder that I was doing it right last year and the novel draft was proof of that. Now, it’s time get back to it.

Since the question of when I’ll write is pretty much answered, I need to make sure I’ve given myself the mental space to write again. I liked Alex’s reminder that this kind of process should be like a Couch-to-5k for writers. I do need to retrain myself and I need to do it in a way that is both healthy and effective. So here’s my plan between now and the end of the year:

  • Beginning (first week, maybe first few weeks):
    • Be prepared to write at any time.
    • Go cold turkey on distractions (internet, social media, etc.).
    • Give myself positive reinforcement if I attempt every day and every opportunity. NO GUILT ALLOWED.
  • Middle:
    • Once I’m getting something on paper, establish a few realistic word coals.
    • Allow only minimal distractions (e.g., research okay if necessary)
    • Give myself positive reinforcement if I attempt every day and every opportunity. NO GUILT ALLOWED
  • End:
    • Increase word count goals. It’d be great to get back to a 1k/1h pace, but I’ll get there when I get there
    • Allow only minimal distractions (e.g., research okay if necessary)
    • Give myself positive reinforcement if I avoid distractions and attempt every day and every opportunity. NO GUILT ALLOWED.

I’m hoping that, with this plan, I’ll average about a chapter a week (rewritten and/or revised), putting me at a few chapters from a complete draft by Christmas. The great news: I’ve got some vacation time in there and a BSpec retreat (1 day of writing with the group). Not all of that free time will be able to go to writing, but I’ll make some opportunities for myself and make the most of them.

But there are tons of pitfalls along the way, too. It’s possible that I’ll be too exhausted. It’s possible that I’ll be too burnt out. Its possible that I’ll have to change some idea of how this all works together. But I’ll only fail if I don’t try, if I let TV and the internet and low priority things worm their way to the top. (Read: don’t expect daily blog posts haha.)

I hope that thirty or so years from now, ELF looks back at this point in my life as an inspiration to find the time and make the space for her goals and passions. And I hope I can prove to myself, more than anyone, that I’ve got what it takes to finish this book and get it out there!

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