I grew up believing that if I wanted something bad enough, I’d get it. It was just a thought that I kept in my back pocket.
I’d had things come up throughout the years that may have lightly touched on this theory, but nothing I would consider a real test of dedication. A prom dress that I so wanted, only cost me a few extra chores during the week, not much sacrifice there; the car that my father bought for me wasn’t perfect and new, but perfect enough for me, and cost me nothing but a promise of responsible driving.
There are 3 things in this life that I love most: my kids, my husband and writing. So it stands to reason that I would be challenged to have each of them.
I suppose the first test came when I met my husband 10 years ago. At the time, we lived nearly two hours away from one another and only got to see each other on the weekends. Because of the distance and other forces that interfered like work and school, there were some weeks we couldn’t see each other at all. Instead we’d talk on the phone. How could we sustain a relationship this way? It wasn’t easy, but I was determined to make it work. So we kept at it in spite of the roadblocks along the way.
The second test came with my youngest daughter. I was pretty certain that having another child would be easy; I didn’t have much trouble with my first. But when an entire year passed and I still wasn’t pregnant, I began to worry a little. The second year, with my share of loss, put me on the brink of giving up. Maybe I was only meant to have one. But I’d never wanted something so much in my whole life, so I gave her a chance and was beyond elation when that digital test smiled back at me.
When my husband recently approached me with a crazy, summer work schedule that would put him anywhere from about 60-70 hours a week, I nearly panicked. This could only mean one thing for me with my 40-hr work week: good-bye writing. I suddenly felt familiar pains of loss.
My days, already riddled with stresses, would be a challenge of endurance: running my kids to and fro; single-handedly managing the household; and doing my best not to destroy basic meals that I’d be forced to cook now that my husband would be home late. Every minute would be consumed with preparing for the next day. And so on. And so on. No time for the little respites, sipping on wine while writing away the frustrations of my day.
It was as if some of the oxygen had begun to escape my one and only lifeline. I refused. And like everything else I’ve loved before the writing, I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. My very first step was recognizing and accepting that it was going to be difficult.
And then, as they do in life, things began to fall in place.
So do you wanna know what I came up with?
I’ll just warn you now: this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. In fact, it may just make you run away from this blog post screaming. But I can tell you from experience that it works, because here I am as I’ve been all along, writing my usual Sunday post on a blissfully quiet morning.
- Focused Concentration
Having grown up in a family of small business owners, I know there are certain tricks to getting the job done. One such trick, is making your brain believe that an inflexible deadline exists and is about half of the time you originally anticipated to complete the job. If you have four hours on your hands to get some writing done, convince yourself that you really only have two hours and see what you can accomplish. It’s surprising how focused your thoughts can become. Those hours of fruitless daydreaming are suddenly a covert mission to dredge ideas from some untapped reservoir in your mind.
2. Get Organized
You may think you’ve exhausted every ounce of organizational know-how packaged within your DNA. But I’m here to tell you, there’s opportunity for more. Here’s what I know about myself: if given the task of planning dinners, perfectly matched outfits for my kids and cleaning toilets during the week, chances are, disaster is going to strike. The end result? Fast food every night, mismatched clothing and mold in the toilet bowl. Disaster.
Again, maybe this isn’t for everyone, but what I’ve found success in, is designating 1 day of the week that I refer to as ‘A Day in Hell’. It typically occurs on the weekend. And sure, I could use this day to write for about 10 hours straight. But I’d also have a couple of naps peppered in along with moments of staring off, stressing about the week to come. This marathon day of writing would also leave NO time for writing during the week, as I’m desperately researching quick meal ideas on the internet.
So my solution is to complete everything that would normally eat up those few hours each day. Everything? Like what? In celebration of Hell, I try to cook and freeze about 3 meals for the week. Yes, the beauty of it is, my husband is there to keep me from destroying it.
I gather all of my kids’ outfits for the week and set them out in nifty little closet organizers (Martha Stewart would be proud). I even go so far as to select matching hair accessories to save a seemingly simple step each day. In fact, all of the laundry, including my drycleaning is done on this special little day, so if I’m REALLY ambitious, I can set aside two week’s worth of outfits (ain’t been that ambitious yet).
Finally, I make other preparations like washing and cutting fruits & veggies for my kids’ lunches, paying bills, scrubbing bathrooms and making sure I have an empty dishwasher to start the week. It may sound like a lot of work. I’m not going to lie, it is. But you’d be surprised how many extra minutes a day can be skimmed just by performing these simple tasks at the beginning of the week. All those hours of pondering ingredients for some casserole I’m sure to screw up can be spent appeasing my muse.
3, Push and Pull
Anyone who knows me well enough can attest that I’m not afraid to push myself to the edge of insanity. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’d tell you I’ve already gone over. But what’s important, when your fuse has been nipped by half, is maintaining some sense of balance. Sure the kiddos might get a kick out of toying with a zombified mom at the end of the day, (think of Goldie Hawn in the movie Overboard when she can only muster ‘buh buh buh buh buh buh’) but what good does that do?
There may be nights (yes, I’m going to say this) when you just can’t write. Say what? WHAT?! No! Ditch the guilt and make up for it the next day with a fresh new start. Staring off at a blank screen for two hours just to make a poor attempt at word quota for the day is senseless. Ideally, you should write something every day in order to sharpen the craft. But if you can’t because your brain has officially gone on strike, then leave it alone and perhaps even get up earlier the next day. When faced with the option of missing 1 day of writing versus not writing at all, the answer takes very little brainpower.
4. Eye on the Prize
Success is much easier to come by if you know what you’re working toward. Set your goal. This can be anything from 500 words a night, to publication by the end of the month. Distractions will inevitably begin to blur your path, making it less obvious where you’re headed, leading to moments of frustration and defeat. Don’t lose sight. This is what life does. It tests your dedication to a cause. Why? Who knows. But these small ripples shouldn’t break you.
Just remember, if you want something bad enough, you’ll get it. Might not come easy, and you might be subject to a bit of hell along the way, but don’t give up on it.