I dislike the onset of winter.
I don’t mind the cold. Actually, yes I do. It’s a bummer to go from mid-80s to a teeth-chattering 30s within a month. But once I get used to it, the cold’s not that bad. I like snuggling under blankets, making kettles of warm soup, taking it easy when it starts getting dark around 4pm.
But I do dislike the fact that my writing productivity plummets along with the temperature. The end of November to the end of December feels like one long, perpetual Holiday. It seems that I can never get things done, much less focus on things to write. And for a stay-at-home mom like me, that says a lot.
But you know what else sucks the productivity right out of you? Changes. Big changes. Big, big, massively big changes.
My husband has just accepted a new job. It’s in Madison, Wisconsin, which is roughly 130 miles away from where we live in Illinois. Taking the job means, of course, that we will be moving up there.
Moving is probably the number 1 worse writer’s nightmare. Having a baby would be first in most people’s minds, but with the house market being the way it is, I’m sticking it at number 2 (and no, I’m not, BTW. I got enough stresses for now.) Having relatives come over to spend the holidays in your house would be nightmare number 3 (that would be the other stress I mentioned in the previous sentence).
But here’s the clincher: there’s a good chance that once we make the move, I will need to go back to working full-time again. The possibility of going a stay-at-home mom to a full-time working mom again… well…that sends all the other nightmares shrieking off to suck their thumbs under the bed. That’s the mother of all writer nightmares.
So with all the cleaning and searching for housing agents and arranging for inlaws coming and worrying about the future, you bet that my writing productivity went down. I couldn’t focus on any of my projects. When I did sit down to write, I’d be so frazzled, I couldn’t think straight. I spent more time freewriting than actually working on something constructive. I felt like I was getting nothing done.
That’s when I realized that, instead of haphazardly working on whatever I felt was screaming the most, I needed a plan.
So I took a night to go to Panera and hash out a writing schedule for the next couple of months. I gave myself lots of leeway–I don’t have the scads of time that I had before all the changes occurred (not that I had scads of time to begin with, but I did have at least a couple of hours every day that I devoted to writing). I scaled back the projects I’m working on now to just my novel and a short story (and thank God my novel is in the early editing stages–I don’t think I could’ve handled all this chaos and finish a novel at the same time). Working on something for 15 minutes a day when I used to have a couple of hours hurts, but I’ll adjust. At least I’m getting something done.
And I’m choosing not to worry what will happen once we get to Madison. That will come in its own time. And who knows, maybe by then I would find a way to work from home, or we won’t need me to find another job, or my husband goes insane and runs off to Canada…
I’m not afraid being forced to stop writing altogether. I know for a fact that won’t happen. Writing’s in my blood now. It’s what keeps me going. When I don’t do it, I get itchy, twitchy, grumpy. It’s a fix that I gotta have, every day. The only thing that might change is the amount of time I spend on writing, that’s all.
And even then, who knows what the future holds?
I would love to get some advice from you other writers. How do you deal with changes in your writer life? How do you discipline yourself when things are going crazy around you? Do you barricade yourself in the basement? Write between the hours of 3am to 5am? Steal a few moments to use a Blackberry and hash out a sentence at a time?
And while I’m asking, anyone wanna buy a house?