I was talking to a friend who is also a writer, and he asked whether the social networking I did (blogging, posting on facebook, tweeting) took part of my writing time. And I started thinking about how I’ve arranged my life to make time for writing. Because I think the answer is no, it doesn’t take part of my writing time – I just have to make extra time for it. But time – whether for writing, social networking, or going to conventions, is always an important consideration for a writer.
And my time is particularly precious right now, because I’m not only writing but also teaching full-time and attempting to finish a doctoral dissertation. And I have a seven-year-old.
To be honest, I think what I did to make time for all those things is cut out the things that wasted time, that didn’t seem worthwhile. But that took looking at life a little differently.
So for example, once upon a time I used to make dinner. I would get home from the university and make dinner, which took about an hour. When we lived in the city, that was easy to do and still left time in the evenings. But here, after my commute, I am far too tired in the evenings. So instead of making dinner, I rely on organic frozen dinners. I know, they’re not homemade, but they’re as healthy as anything I would make myself, and Ophelia gets to try all sorts of things I don’t know how to make. She likes Indian food in particular. Also, I could never get her to eat vegetables, but when they’re in one of these dishes, she eats them without thinking about it. It’s healthy and easy – I just had to learn to deal with the assumption that it was always better for me to cook. I’m sure I’ll go back to cooking myself at some point, but right now, these are the perfect solution. And while they’re cooking in the oven, I can write a blog post.
There are all sorts of other ways in which I decided to simplify my life and make time for what I thought truly mattered. For example, I decided a long time ago never to buy any clothes that required dry-cleaning. Clothes that need to be cleaned that way are fake clothes, anyway. Clothes made of synthetic fabrics. Anything natural can be washed. And I never bother anymore with anything that needs ironing. All of the dishes and utensils go into the dishwasher, including the silver plate. If silver plate is used every day, it doesn’t need polishing. I have furniture that doesn’t need a lot of care, solid wood pieces. The floor requires sweeping and the rugs must be vacuumed, but this is a small house, relatively easy to keep clean. (It could be both cleaner and neater, but here I’ve decided that I’m not going to feel guilty about spending time writing instead of cleaning. Because after all, everyone who visits tells me how neat my house is. So that’s good enough, right?)
We have two cats, who generally take care of themselves. The seven-year-old is surprisingly self-sufficient, although she would get you to play endless games of Ninjago if she could. (And she would win.) She goes to an after-school program that she loves, and when she gets home she does homework, or reads, or watches videos. (She can download Netfix instant, which is more than I know how to do.) I think there are things I’ve done with her, too, that have made childraising easier. If she doesn’t want to eat something, she doesn’t have to. After bedtime, she has to be in her room, but can stay up and play if she’d like. (She’s very good at putting herself to bed.) I never take her shopping unless it’s for her, because I remember from my own childhood how boring that can be. We’ve always treated her as a person with her own point of view, her own choices to make, and I think that’s given her the ability to make choices effectively.
I should say, too, that there are a lot of things people consider leisure activities that I don’t bother with, partly because to me they’re not all that interesting. Going to movies in theaters, for example. Any sport that involves a ball. (I’ve discussed, haven’t I, my experience with balls? We repel each other, like magnets. Imagine how difficult that made kickball, in elementary school!) Going sailing, just to go sailing rather than getting anywhere. Going to any sort of gym for exercise. (Why? I’d rather go to a dance class.) Going to a spa. (Why? I’d rather learn to spin wool, or fight with a sword, or just about anything.) And I don’t shop, except when I’m going to an old book store, a thrift store, an antiques market. If I’m going to shop, it’s going to be an adventure. (Malls. Why?) That’s a good rule, actually: don’t do anything unless it’s an adventure. The other stuff: what’s the point? (Unless you like doing it, of course, and then you should. But don’t do things just because you feel as though you ought to.)
Not that it’s effortless. There are days when I’m tired, days when I don’t want to write. But I do think that writing is not about having time, but about making time. It’s about priorities. It’s about doing the things that truly matter, and trying to minimize the rest.
Now, I’m going to watch about an hour of television while eating Cherry Amaretto Coconut Milk ice cream, which is what I call multitasking. And then I’m going to write.