Monday, November 18, 2013

Fitting It All In

Gotta leave some time for
my new passion: sushi!
People ask me all the time how I manage to fit it all in – writing and family and a full time job teaching.

The fact is, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning, and I can’t get it done. You might be surprised (or maybe not) that it’s the teaching job most likely to make me feel this way … not writing. Last week was a particularly bad one, but I’m not going to write about that. People have asked me how I schedule my time, and that’s what I’m going to share.

One thing in my favor is that my daughters, at age 16 and 13, are self-sufficient. By the time I get up in the mornings, they’re already dressed and getting ready to catch the bus to school. After they leave, I generally have 30 minutes to read and comment on blogs while I have my coffee. I've given up responding individually to people who comment on my blogs, but I try hard to visit theirs as often as I can.

I live 2 miles from the school where I teach, and somewhere over that brief drive, my mind switches from blogs and writing to school-related matters. Teaching can be all-consuming. Usually, I can’t even remember to use my planning time to make a doctor’s appointment if I need to. I have to plan ahead just to use the restroom.

I’m allowed to read my personal email over my lunch break, and sometimes I do. Often, I will try to read a book for pleasure while I eat lunch.

Recess duty is, in my opinion, a gross waste of the tax payer’s money. When Governor Corbett cut the funding to Pennsylvania schools, we lost most of our aides. Now, the highly paid teachers spend 30 minutes of their day watching kids on the playground. I often find my mind wandering to my WIP during this time. You’d be surprised how many plot problems I’ve worked out in between breaking up the game where boys see how close they can run up to the swings without getting kicked in the face.

When I get home after school, I need to unwind before doing anything productive. That’s my social media time – Facebook, Twitter, maybe some more blogs.

Writing takes place after dinner. I'm lucky that my husband will voluntarily cook dinner when he’s at home. When he’s away on business, I do it, but my daughters help. The daughters also clean up most nights.

If I must have certain papers graded before class the next day, I’ll do that in the evening. But most of the time, I save grading papers and lesson planning for the weekend. Weekend is also usually when I write the two posts for my own blog. I almost never watch TV during the week, except for The Big Bang Theory if there’s a new episode.

I can revise a manuscript at any time of the day. But new words come best late at night. So, if the only task ahead of me is writing the first draft of a new chapter, I will probably work on promotional posts (guest blogs and interviews) or family things in the early evening. The Muse generally shows up around 9pm, whereupon I’ll spew words fast and furious across the page until 11pm, when I reluctantly head to bed.

So, that’s a typical week for me. Of course, I’m leaving out some things – driving daughters to and from play practice or attending one of their concerts, days when I flop down on the sofa and read a book cover-to-cover, an occasional encounter with the Bow-Flex … Mostly, it all seems to get done, even if I do have weeks that drive me to tears.

Don’t we all?

18 comments:

  1. Loved hearing how you squeeze it all in. It's great that your family helps so much. With my daughter's swimming, her days are as long or longer than mine, so I really can't ask her to help. Plus she helps a lot with my husband, who has chronic lung problems and is on oxygen. And I think that's why I can't fit in the writing as much as you do. I have to take care of about everything at home as well as work at a demanding job. But my daughter will be a senior next year so I know there will be more writing time one of these days.

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  2. We've had a few crazy weeks at school - I'm quite worried about a few of our kids at the moment and that makes it very hard. I didn't realize some teacher's didn't do yard duty - we always have up here.

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  3. My goodness, YES! I'm sitting here typing this between directing my youngest in his multiplication and my middle child with adjectives vs adverbs, and my oldest with geometry. Thankfully writing can often fit into the cracks in our day. =)

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  4. Oh gosh, the forever schedule. I wonder if the afterlife is like that? I'm sure more will be open to us, and we'll want it all right now. Or maybe not. There's always hope, right?

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  5. Wow. Dianne. Just reading about your life makes me tired.

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  6. I'm so impressed by how well you manage to juggle it all!

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  7. Love this post, Dianne. I have immense respect for teachers, period - as I went to a college that was originally started for women to become teachers in the early 1900s. A lot of my friends went onto to become teachers. I can't imagine trying to fit in writing too and I am impressed with the way you do! Thanks for this insight. :-)

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  8. Sounds like you have a pretty good system :) I am so glad I only work part-time - I can't imagine trying to get everything all done!

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  9. Wow, busy-busy-busy. And look at all those books on your sidebar! You must be doing something right. It's an inspiration for the rest of us to get to work.

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  10. It's wonderful your hubby cooks! Recently I haven't been cooking much, and although my husband's perfectly capable of cooking or bringing food from outside, he mopes around and gives me the puppy-dog face to make me feel guilty (but I'm pretty b**chy, so I don't waste much of my precious time feeling guilty OR cooking! lol).

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  11. I'm really impressed with how you juggle all the hats that you wear together! I know what you mean about planning ahead... I jot down so many notes on my planner to remind myself to do stuff that at the end of the year, some of my pages look like they've been hit with spilled ink!

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  12. Thank you so much for writing this! I only have a part-time job, but my kids are still in elementary school, so I'm very often feeling overwhelmed. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life and letting us know we're not alone.

    -Vicki

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  13. It's always good for me to read and see how authors fit in writing around life...thanks for giving us the method that works best for you. And yeah, recess duty...maybe you'll get some story ideas from it?

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  14. Hi Dianne .. being busy is a good thing .. it keeps us honest and seemingly the work gets done. How on earth you write after 9.00 at night I'll never know .. but then I'm a morning person or was!

    Squeezing in those few minutes to write - an essential part to a writer's life ... well you're succeeding - congratulations - cheers Hilary

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  15. Whew... Exhausting schedule, Dianne.

    It sure seems like there is a lot of "outflow" of your energy: giving to your family; giving to the kids, parents, and administration at school; giving to others via your blog; giving to others via commenting and visiting their blogs, facebook, and twitter; and of course giving to the process of writing -- getting the stories on to the page.

    When's your downtime? How do you recharge your batteries and replenish all that energy that flows out?

    Maybe it's just me, but I find the writing process draining -- it's an outflow of effort and energy. But playing my guitar and creating music is recharging and stimulating somehow -- even when I'm creating, it's an inflow of energy. I'd love to get to the point that writing is also. Is it for you?

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  16. At least for me, I've found that the more things I have to do, the more deadlines I have to meet, (whether self-imposed or from some other entity) the more efficiently I manage my time, and the more I get done.

    It'll be interesting as to whether you'll continue teaching, no matter how stressful it may be, when you're rich and famous. (Not if, mind you... when.)

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  17. You still amaze me. I'm impressed how you fit it all in. I'm getting there to the point where I can make some things work. I have a writing schedule but it can change because my kiddos are younger. But I'm trying to stick to one mainly for sanity purposes. So far, it's working.

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  18. Yes, I used to teach, and it was a six-day-a-week job for me. My husband wants me to teach again, and I can only laugh. With two boys under 10 (one of whom is completely dependent on me), I believe it's impossible. I'd rather remain an overqualified instructional aide and make less money.

    You do have a very full schedule.

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