Juggling It All as a Professional Writer
I get asked by a lot of people about my writing routine – not to put down my own prowess, I don't think it's much interest in my art as it is with how I balance my creative work with my disability and my childcare duties. Writing professionally is not a profession you begin to make money, and a lot of big-name writers don't earn as much as you think. As such, most writers I know are similarly struggling to balance their passion with their life, and most newbie writer's want to know whether it's worth trying to work out a balance at all. Spoiler alert: It is worth it. Even if you never become the next Neil Gaiman… it's worth it.
So, I've mentioned in other posts that I wrote my first play over my baby's head whilst breastfeeding in the middle of the night. In those days I had few priorities: sleep; feeding my kid and doing anything to stave of the depressive breakdown that I was on the verge of falling in to. During that period, writing was my mental saviour, and the thing my sanity was pinned to – I found the moments because I had to.
Then my children got old enough to move about, and the sleep situation didn't improve and I began to have no time to myself. You will notice here that my writing routine is linked to my mental health. I needed definitive times each week where I wasn't being a parent and so my eldest (and then my youngest when they turned up) began to have nursery sessions. We could barely afford it but my sanity required it – I know I don't need to justify this. Once I started catching up on my sleep, it also meant I had three mornings a week where I could do whatever I needed. My plan was to use it to be creative, but I slowly began filling that time with dentist appointments, doctor appointments, any situation where taking the kids just made it harder. This was when I learned the lesson of protecting my writing time. I also learned how to work quickly, and use ritual to evoke inspiration.
Once my children started school, I dreamed for months about all the work I could get done whilst they were at school. However, it would seem I still hadn't quite learned the lesson of protecting my writing time; I signed up to Spanish classes, a creative writing masters, agreed to work I didn't feel passionate about for the money. I was burned out and still had no time to dedicate my writing time.
And then the pandemic. I had deadlines and children full time. I couldn't get my work done without a child on my lap. I finally learned the lesson of taking the things I'm passionate about, and I yet again honed my ability to work in small moments between all my other obligations. But I felt creatively stifled and I wasn't doing my best work.
This brings us to now. My mental health is still not great and I am stuck in the living room with a broken ankle. So, I find that my most motivated time of the day is about 8:30 to 10:30. I try to get one of my worst to do jobs out of the way first – the email I've been putting off or the editing I needed to do. Something quick that gives me the rush of "woooh I completed a thing". I then open whichever project feels right – I normally have three or four things on the go at any one time. My brain works best when I flit from thing to thing. I usually eat lunch early, like eleven o clock early. Sometimes that's my day done, sometimes around 1 I get my computer back out and do some more, although psychologically knowing I only have a couple of hours until the children return so its usually my blog writing, reading, planning time. Of course, there are the days where I have appointments or events that mean I don’t work at all, or I just don’t feel I can work. Those are the days where I don’t beat myself up for not having worked. You have to have breaks.
So there you have it. A ridiculously long story to explain just how tied to my mental health my writing process is, and how luckily I have the time at the moment to explore, and sit with work and write. What does your process look like? Let me know in the comment how you balance it all.