I Need Rhythm!

Back when I first started writing, I worked a day job, 7AM-3PM, was a single mom to two school-age boys, and working on my first manuscript.  I would get up every morning at 4:00AM and write for an hour.  Then I’d either get ready for work or if I was off, I’d write another hour.  At six, I’d either go to work or awaken the boys so they’d get ready for school.  If I wasn’t working, I’d putz around until the boys were home from school, then take a nap while the guys played outside.  After supper and homework, time with my sons before they went to bed.  Sometimes I would watch TV; sometimes I would write, then off to bed after the news.  The next day, the cycle would start over.

Then the hospital went to 12 shifts and suddenly the rhythm of my life was permanently screwed up.  At first, I tried to save my writing for my days off, but if my shift the day before was chaotic, writing was impossible.  After a few years, I quit the hospital and went into teaching…thinking I’d get my rhythm back.  Not!  Did you know that teaching takes more than just 8 hours a day??

So I went back to 12 hours shifts and wrote the best I could.  Now that I’m part time, you’d think I would be sitting pretty.  My mornings free every day whether I go to the hospital or not.  But it’s not working out that way!   November went great, but December brought the holidays.  In January, I was working on contest entries and February was the great snow blizzards which should have been prime writing periods, but somehow all that snow must have frozen my brain because all I did was read. 

How do I get my rhythm back?  How back into the swing I had when I first started?  Is it because now I’m alone and don’t have to stay on track because I have kids to keep on track?  Is it because I’m no longer in a weekly critique group which I have to admit did make it easier to keep moving forward?  I’m not sure, but I do know, if I don’t get into a rhythm soon, I’ll be pulling my hair out.  And I can’t afford that!

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8 thoughts on “I Need Rhythm!

  1. Jackie,

    If you figure it out, please let me know. I need the same thing. I really think the critiquers expecting content each week helps, though. spw

  2. I can’t count how many writers I’ve heard say that when their lives were full of obligations, they had no trouble writing but once they quit the day job or the kids moved out or whatever, they slacked way off.

    When you’re really busy, you have to MAKE time to write; you pretty much have to schedule it the way you would your job, getting your kids to school, meals, etc. But when you have plenty of time, it’s way too easy to say, “Oh, I’ve got all day. I’ll get to it LATER.” And later never comes.

    You can make it part of your routine again. You get up in the morning, brush your teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast. Make “write” the next thing on that list (if you’re a morning writer). Set a goal of spending an hour or writing two pages or plotting or whatever, and convince yourself you don’t get to do anything else until that’s done. But cut yourself a little slack in the beginning: you only have to do it three or four days a week.

    Then start increasing it: two hours or five pages, and so on, until you’ve reached a level of output that you’re comfortable with mentally and physically.

    The hard part is getting started. But consider this: writing isn’t just a hobby for you. It’s not just a passion. It’s a career. More simply, A JOB. Even if you’ve never earned a dime from your writing, if you’re planning to be an author, you HAVE to look at it as a job. You show up, you perform, or you NEVER get paid.

    Coincidentally, I wrote about this over at http://the-twisted-sisters.com today. Check it out. 😉

    • This makes soooo much sense. Thanks! I’m printing this out and taping it to my desk where I can see it every day.
      I think you’re right. When I first started writing, I started slow and built up to a routine. That’s what I need to be doing now. Except for the smoking; I’m not starting that again!

  3. Jackie,
    I did the same thing with the cold and snow. Thought I’d be super productive but all I wanted to do was read. The sun comes out, snow is melting, my head clears and I’m back at the keyboard. Go figure.

    Btw – Great advice, Marilyn!

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