In the last post we established that the number of demands placed upon modern writers has increased, but the amount of time we have to meet the demands has not gone up at the same rate.
If anything, with the busy, activity-filled lives of our modern culture, our time for quiet, centered writing has gone down.
Even if we're setting proper priorities for our writing stage, we still struggle to fit everything in. The problem for most of us is that we can't tackle writing, researching, learning the craft, blogging, networking, etc. in 40 hours a week, especially when we're not making a full time living from it. Other responsibilities fill our days--jobs, children, school, etc. We're forced to squeeze writing work onto the side.
Or. . . we begin to take time away from our other responsibilities. Perhaps we sneak onto blogs or twitter while we're alone in our office at work. Maybe we facebook about our kids instead of getting on the floor and playing with them. Or maybe we neglect exercise and sleep to the detriment of our health so that we can finish our daily word count.
Let's all be honest. We have so many writing demands and so little time, that we often let the writing work cut into other important priorities.
I'm reminded of the life of Clara Wieck Schumann, a 19th century composer and wife of the acclaimed musician Robert Schumann. First, as a woman she already had the challenge of finding success in a world dominated by men. But more than that, she had eight children whom she raised with great care in addition to the many household duties expected of women during the 1800's.
Clara didn't have a microwave, washing machine, the McDonald's drive-thru, dishwasher, store-bought bread, or thousands of other modern conveniences we've come to rely upon. For a time, she single-parented her eight children when her husband was hospitalized.
And yet the list of Clara's accomplishments is astounding. She taught at the Leipzig Conservatory as well as gave private lessons. She performed piano concerts throughout Europe and was continually composing her own works. And of course, as any piano student knows, she had to practice, practice, practice.
Clara Schumann became known as one of the greatest pianists of her time.
How did she do it? How did she manage the heavy demands of a musician's life and all of her other responsibilities? How can we manage the load of a writer's life and still keep up with our other priorities?
I don't think there is an easy answer to that question for her or for us. But I take courage from her story. If she was able to achieve a successful music career amidst the responsibilities of her large family, without modern conveniences, then certainly with all of our technology we can find a way to handle our work loads.
Here are just a few of the ways that I've tried to manage writing priorities and other responsibilities:
Set boundaries. I set aside specific writing time every day. I use the time for actual writing, researching, or editing (and I turn off the social networking). I've established my "work" time with my family and they're learning to accept and respect the new boundaries.
Keep up with the work. In other words, I try not to procrastinate. When I'm away from my computer for any length of time and then return, I quickly run through my emails and delete all of the ones I absolutely don't need to read. Then I spend a few minutes right away answering or reading the ones left. I try to do the same with blogging and other networking.
Know when to stop. This is a hard one for me. I tend to justify doing more and working longer because usually my work time is often a jumble of interruptions (even with boundaries). But I also don't want to look up from my computer some day and realize my children aren't there anymore, that they're grown up and gone. Which brings me to my last point. . .
Savor life. I'm passionate about my stories and characters. I cry when they cry. And I laugh when they laugh. I notice the tiniest details--the shadows under eyes, even the quiver of a lip. If I can immerse myself deeply into my fiction, then surely I can take the time to experience such emotions in real life.
I want to savor this life God's given me--the intermingling of imagination and reality. I long to find just as much passion and beauty in real life as I do in my stories. But that means I have to make a conscious effort to fully live in each moment, no matter what I'm doing.
How about you? Do you know when to stop working? And are you taking the time to savor real life as much as the imaginary one?