Monday, January 2, 2017

Changing Things Up

Welcome to 2017! 
I love beginnings. New days, new weeks, new months. Yes, I am someone who actually loves Mondays. On Monday, the week always holds possibility and the chance for something better than last week. I also love mornings for the same reason, and because of coffee. Mornings = Coffee, so how can they be bad?
And today is not only a Monday, it’s the first Monday of 2017. A new year, fresh and open to possibilities. A chance to change things up to meet goals.
Okay, I confess, I didn’t wait until the first of the year to change things. I started last Monday. I’m impatient like that. But since I made changes a week ago, I’m now an authority, so I can give advice.
The last couple of months, writing has been a struggle. Really, for the last year. I did complete a manuscript in 2016, but that happened because I took a week off from life and wrote like a fiend. Truthfully, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to work writing into my everyday life. My other responsibilities feel more important: homeschooling five children, feeding those same five children (even though they do a lot of the cooking, I still have to do the grocery shopping, some assisting, and fix a few meals), driving those children to activities, spending time with my husband, exercising. Yes, those responsibilities are all important, and I honestly enjoy them all too. (Except the tenth grocery store visit in a week. That I do not enjoy.) But I was giving these activities priority, which left me too tired to do the writing thing. I had the time to write, but not the mental energy. Sandwiching writing after homeschooling and exercising and before driving and feeding left me too drained. Those two to three hours became my downtime, NOT my writing time. So I decided something had to change.
A few years ago, I started making sure homeschooling happened first because it was the top priority, and for several years, that worked. Then that schedule stopped working. But because I had drilled into myself that I wasn’t motivated enough to succeed at homeschooling when it came second in my day, I took a really long time to address this problem and recognize that I needed to—and could—make a change. Not only that, but life had changed. My kids are older. Our school day isn’t filled with phonics and addition and crafts. I don’t need to be my freshest, most patient self because the subjects no longer try my patience (most days anyway). Writing can take the first of my day when I’m freshest and school the second half, when all I really need to do is check assignments, read, and ask questions.
So if you’re finding writing (or any other important task) not fitting into your life, here are a few tips to try changing things up.
  1. Reevaluate Those Things In the Past That Didn’t Work: So you tried once a month cooking five years ago to give you a couple more hours in the evenings to write, but you ended up eating out too often because you consistently forgot to thaw the meals. Or you attempted to write during your child’s music lessons but you were constantly distracted by the teacher’s teaching and couldn’t focus. Just because these things didn’t work before doesn’t mean they can’t work now. Maybe you can tweak the idea to fit your life better, such as once a week cooking, so you can prep ingredients but keep them thawed in the fridge, or write in the car during music lessons since your child is older now. Don’t continue rejecting an idea simply because you tried it once and failed. You’ve changed. Your life has changed. So try again.
  2. Think Outside the Box: For a while, I took a long nap in the afternoons. I got up in time to help with dinner, spend time with the family, and after the kids went to bed around 8ish, I wrote until midnight. Then I’d sleep until five-thirty, go to the gym, homeschool, and after lunch, nap again. It was like living two days every twenty-four hours. Day one was gym and homeschooling, Day two was family time and writing. And it worked. So try arranging your schedule unconventionally.
  3. Don’t Give Up Too Soon . . . : When implementing a change in your life, don’t quit before giving it a realistic chance. If you’re getting up an hour earlier to write first thing in the morning, and by day three the newness has worn off and there isn’t enough coffee in the world to wake you up, don’t give up on the experiment. Keep setting your alarm. Keep programming your coffee pot. Keep making the change.
  4. . . . But Don’t Be Stubborn About What Isn’t Working: If after a month of waking up early you’ve actually written LESS than before you tried writing in the mornings, reevaluate. Obviously, writing early in the day isn’t working. But maybe it’s only the writing muse that sleeps in while you actually find yourself awake and not hating the solitude of the quiet pre-life hours. If so, what could you do during that time that doesn’t require creative brain cells but would free up time later in the day when the words start flowing? 

Most of us are fitting writing into our lives around family and job and other obligations, and sometimes, the pieces stop fitting together. When that happens, don’t give up on a piece that isn’t fitting. Make a change instead. Try fitting those pieces together in a different way, build a new picture, and make a new beginning.

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