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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sunday Writing: On Juggling

I have found a personally-viable solution to my juggling problem, so I thought I'd share.

I have too many things to do - things I have to do, things I ought to do, and things I want to do.  I realise that I am not alone in this.

I have a job that spills out way beyond what many consider to be the working week (yes, teachers work long hours - don't make the mistake of focusing on the so-called holidays).  I have a husband, 2 daughters and a dog who all deserve my attention (in varying amounts) from time to time.  And I have writing projects.  Yes, projects.  My big problem here is that, although my writing time is severely limited, the writing I want to do is not.  I always have at least one teaching-related WiP, I have ideas for YA and 8-12 fiction, and I'd like to do some article writing and non-fiction outside of the teaching world, not to mention blogging regularly.

There was a time when, following the common (and common-sense) advice that aspiring writers must write everyday, I somehow managed to translate that into doing each kind of writing everyday.  Well, it didn't take long to realise that this approach is Not Workable in tandem with my job.  That led me to prioritise the teaching-related writing, since it was being published.  Naturally, this squeezed everything else out, leading to my current cv of published teaching material and no progress at all on any other front.

Personally, I'm a planner through and through.  This applies in all aspects of my life: I love lists, structure and outlines.  So, I now have a writing schedule where I am writing every day, but the focus is allocated for each day.  Since I like complicated schedules, it works on a fortnightly basis, giving most time to two strands: the YA novel which I decided I wanted to develop beyond a premise and the teacher writing.  Blogging and generating article/non-fiction ideas also have their slots, and I am Much Happier.  No more guilt about working on potentially unpublishable fiction when I could be (read should be) producing teaching stuff that is likely to be marketable.  No more dissatisfaction with not 'being able' to work on the range of writing that makes me happy.  No more frustration that I can't 'make it' as a 'real' writer (i.e. fiction) since I'm not producing any.

I realise of course, that not everyone is a planner or feels the need for the same degree of control that I do, so others' approaches would be good to hear also.  What Not To Do As A Writer.com treated a similar angle this week, with a post entitled: Mistake #30: Be monogamous, in which she implies that she switches between her projects according to her mood or her needs at the time.  The post (and the blog generally) is well worth a read.

Juggling is always an issue for writers, I think, especially those of us who write alongside another career.  I'm currently happy with the way I have my time organised (she says confidently...)  I've now been through the fortnightly cycle twice and have found that:

  • I've been more productive with the teacher writing, even though it's been on my to-do list less often.
  • I'm developing an outline that I'm happy with for the YA novel (yay!), having had just a couple of sentences of summary before.
  • I've been able to stick to the schedule without guilt or undue stress, since I have a clearly defined focus for each day, rather than a vague sense of 17 things I should be doing.
  • My 'Do not disturb: Mummy is working' sign DOES work, if applied to the bedroom door (a corner is my office) for just an hour a day.
So, how do you manage different types of writing, along with other demands on your time?  Or do you focus on a single project at a time?

image by Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Thanks,Beth! It's a great idea and exactly what I needed to hear right now as I've been trying to juggle several projects with young family life and not actually getting anything done.

    Of course, my numerous ploys for procrastination don't help but being a 'list' person I can see how this might.

    Many thanks

  2. Thanks for coming over, Rachael. I know what you mean about procrastination - sneaky little beast, that one.

    All the best


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