By Voirey Linger
Advice on how to be a proper writer drifts around the publishing world like so much flotsam. Wherever you turn, there is another tidbit of advice telling you what you’re doing wrong and how to do it right. While not all advice is valid, a lot of it carries a kernel of truth that has eroded into something different over the years.
One of those first tidbits of wisdom that drifted my way was, “Treat your writing like a job.” This was usually accompanied by admonitions to work hard, take writing seriously, and dedicate yourself to the writing process. Work, work, work! Onward, mighty writing warrior!
But I realized something else pretty quickly. When you have a job, you also don’t work. You have a set number of hours to work, have days off, and have vacation, sick, and emergency time. You have time to recharge, refresh, connect with friends and family and just take it easy. There are times you may need to tap into that special downtime for a project or deadline, but generally speaking, part of having a job is having time away from that job.
I suspect that being a single mom forced me to take my non-writing time into more careful consideration than if I had been married. The kids depended on having access to me and I needed to be more available than I would have been in a two-parent household. There was no asking their dad to help or take them out to the park. It was all me, all the time.
All of this meant that the first career decision I made after the one to write was to not write on weekends or in the hours between the end of school and the boys’ bedtime. That was family time and I held it sacred.
But there was a second benefit to keeping those hours free, one I didn’t realize until later. In addition to keeping me plugged in to my family, stepping away from my book helped me keep my momentum going. I didn’t get burned out or lost in my book, and I didn’t hit the point where I was so consumed that it took over my every waking moment. I was able to think about the book when I had quiet moments, but there was no pressure to produce, so that consideration helped the plot grow in a natural, completely organic way.
My boys are hitting adulthood and don’t need me as much now as they did then. I could easily use my evenings and weekends to write. But I won’t. I’ve grown to value my downtime too much.