Keeping all the Balls in the Air

I went back to work a few weeks ago after six months off. I’d been comfortable in my old job after 20 years and performing its required tasks was no big deal. But I had some concerns about starting a new job with a new research focus and protocols to learn while still keeping my writing going and managing my family and household. How was I going to keep all the balls in the air?

In the end, that worry wasn’t warranted because it was amazing how fast things fell back into place and old habits took root again. So how do I manage to maintain a regular writing schedule when I’m working 40 hours a week in the lab?

  • Have a set schedule: I’m a creature of habit and I find a regular schedule is not only comforting but makes my life easier.
  • Make writing a priority: The last few weeks have been a little upheaved because Ann and I were finishing up a thriller proposal, but I’m working hard at trying to set aside a good two hour block every week night to work on my writing, whether it’s blogging, editing a chapter or writing fresh material. I also squeeze in time before work and during my lunch break for things like email and my regular blog reading. Then on the week-ends I take advantage of those longer blocks of time to really get in the zone and drive my word count up.
  • Give up your social life: It drives my poor husband nuts, but I’m a homebody, so this one wasn’t a real hardship. Especially now that I’m back in the lab and it feels like I’m constantly surrounded by people, I don’t mind coming home and just hanging out with my family. I often work with at least one of my daughters on their laptop nearby, so it’s never an entirely solitary endeavour.
  • Kiss TV goodbye: It’s fun and it’s entertaining, but it’s also a time suck. So I’m trying not to pick up any new TV shows and I’m trying to only use any time watching TV as my downtime after a long day.
  • Plan obsessively: This one has always come naturally for me, and I think it’s part of my ‘set schedule’ habit, but I always plan things out ahead of time. For instance, I write up the week’s menus while I’m making my shopping list. I shop only once a week and make sure I buy everything I need then to eliminate repeated shopping trips.
  • Give yourself a break on the dusting: I’d love it if my house was cleaned weekly, but that’s simply not going to happen. So I do my best to try to keep things relatively organized, but I feel free to ignore a little dust. Unless someone is coming over, then you’ll see me cleaning!
  • Remember you need downtime: Don’t forget that you need time to unwind and recharge. And if the best you can do is an hour at the end of the day, then that’s better than working until nearly midnight and then starting all over again at 6 a.m. the next day.

For those of you who also work full time and write, how do you manage to keep all of your balls in the air?

Last week I was tagged by both Marisa Cleveland and Kate Serine for the ‘look’ meme. You’re supposed to search your WIP for the first instance of the word ‘look’ and paste the surrounding material into your blog. So, Marisa and Kate, here you go!

From Chapter One of A Flame in the Wind of Death:

Matt frowned as a muffled ring came from the suit jacket draped over the back of his chair. “Sorry, I need to see who it is.” He reached into his jacket pocket to pull out his phone.

Leigh’s senses instantly went on alert when he suddenly froze. “What?”

“I think I have to take this.”

Unease filled her at the edge in his voice. “Is it one of your students?”

He looked up from the illuminated screen. “No, it’s the Massachusetts State Police.”

“For you?” The words burst out, easily cutting through the buzz of conversation around them. Leigh purposely lowered her voice when several heads turned in their direction. “For you?” she repeated in a stage whisper.

“Apparently. Trust me; I’m as baffled as you.” He answered the call. “Lowell.”


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons