Here’s the truth: today, I wanted to be writing a post about some new Surinamese adventure. Or perhaps sharing a funny anecdote about learning to live in a new culture. But at the moment, I have more mundane things on my mind. The most exciting Suriname-related thing to happen this week was the discovery of two snakes in our yard and I was neither the one to find them, nor the one to… ummm… dispatch them? (Though Texas-Born-Daughter-of-a-Hunter that I am, I’m pretty confident in my ability to take care of business as needed.)
Instead, my mind’s on this: learning how to have a full-time “day job” and keep up with this crazy career called writing. To be honest, the balance is proving a challenging one.
In the weeks or months to come, I hope to pen a post offering some practical tips for making this work. After all, I know I’m not the only writer out there attempting this juggling act. But since I don’t want to go around dispensing advice I have yet to road-test, that post will have to wait for a few more months’ trial and error. After all, I’ve only been rocking my role as Political/Economic Assistant for about three weeks.
But for now, here are the things I’m learning:
No.1: When your writing time has to be worked into your schedule after 40+ hours of “real” (read “office”) work and whatever exercising, errands, chores, etc. also need doing, time becomes a hyper-precious commodity. This has had the unexpected side-effect of tempting me to resent the writing deadlines/projects that stand between me and the writing I’d rather be working on.
An example? What I want to be doing is editing my historical novel. What I have to do is finish writing the article with the fast-approaching November deadline. And having my writing time slashed to a mere 10+ hours a week means that instead of said article taking me 2 weeks to complete, it’ll now take 4-6. That means another 4-6 weeks before I can return to the project I’m most passionate about.
In moments like this, I have two attitude options: 1) Get frustrated by the project pile-up and my inability to quickly conclude projects or 2) be grateful for the opportunity presented by November’s article. The temptation to yield to the first option is mighty. But it’s also wrong. Having too many writing opportunities is–as every freelancer knows–a magnificent problem to have. I’m blessed to have been invited to write this article. It’s a gift, as every writing assignment is. And I’d do well to act–and write–like it.
No.2: One of my big roles in my office job is editing Suriname’s local news for readers back State-side–political and economic news, in particular. The political items can be pretty intriguing, but like many lit/word nerds, numbers just aren’t my strong suit. I did well in high school economics, but every year, that course material fades further into the shadows of memory. Word-smithing numbers-heavy articles involving interest rates, bonds, loans, and subsidies when that isn’t your area of expertise is time-consuming and occasionally frustrating. Whenever I make the mistake of thinking about how I’d prefer to expend these editorial efforts on my own projects…. Well, my mood deteriorates at an alarming rate.
But again, this is an issue of attitude. Because the flip side is this: how cool are writing and editing skills, which are equally useful when applied to material as diverse as historical fiction; medical journals; and economic reporting? Perhaps I’m the only writer to experience this ism, but occasionally when I chat with doctors or engineers or lawyers, my profession, my skills can feel lesser. How practical, really, are my fiction-writing, literature-analyzing abilities? But the answer is very. The subjects writers deal with may not always be as glamorous as we’d like; it’s not all novels and poetry and passion projects. But for those of us with a toolbox loaded with syntactical, grammatical, and narrative tools, there is literally a whole world of opportunity. Good communication is a foundational elements of society, and we have the honor of being guardians and practitioners of this precious skill.
So there you have it. I’m still working to identify the practical techniques that will best enable me to perform this 2-job dance. (Is it better to write for a block of several hours on Saturdays or Sundays? Or to try to sit down for at least an hour a day?) But what I’ve learned thus far is simple, and hopefully, helpful to other writers confronting this issue: cliche as it may sound, attitude is everything. Whether I view that proverbial glass as half full or half empty doesn’t change the amount of time I have to write. What it does change is how energetic and enthusiastic I am when I sit down at that keyboard… and how contentedly I live my life in general. So no matter how many times I have to forcibly wrench my thinking back onto the right track, I’m going to try. Because the end result–for my writing and my life–is worth it.
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