Making it Count

This is the hardest part. Getting there. The sitting down to write. The writing.

desk at workAfter the morning rush – making breakfasts, lunches, fixing hair snafus, finding socks, waking up a rumpled, warm late-sleeping little boy from my bed, and then hurrying out the door for school drop-offs, first the big kid, then the little.

Throughout it all, there is buzzing in the back of my head, a warm recognition of what day it is, that soon, this morning will belong to me. Soon the house will be quiet and I will be alone, except for the cat nudging the computer with her chin, and the birds frequenting the feeder outside my office window.

But first, the logistics of mothering two children. Sometimes there is a struggle, a scuffle or two. Often there are tears, from the little, at our parting. Arms wrapped octopus style around my neck, fingers that are sometimes pried off, one by one.

Me walking to my car in a sad defeated haze, thinking, is this worth it? Am I doing everything wrong? And yet, I know that I’m not. I know that I need these mornings alone as much as my little needs school. On those days especially, I know I must make my alone time count. Every minute.

I didn’t always. There were the hibernation years of early motherhood when I wasn’t writing. My daughter, newly diagnosed with celiac, was often hungry for sweets she was unable to eat, so I’d bake gluten free treats during naps, then fold laundry or do dishes. I’d keep my hands busy, but my mind was restless, itchy.

Things are different now. There is much less baking and even less folded laundry (if that’s even possible).

I’m not winning any housework awards and I must admit to feeling a stubborn knot of pride about this. My kids have clothes that are clean, even if they have to pick through a pile to find them sometimes. They eat off dishes that have been washed. But mundane chores are not a priority. Not ever, to be perfectly honest, but especially not during my writing time.

I protect it, as fiercely as I protect them. Because if I don’t, there is a price to pay. My rising irritation and frustration. Unhappiness. Snappishness. Writing releases something for me, it helps me to both understand and escape myself.

After ushering the kids off to school and returning home, it’s time to begin. I walk briskly by the detritus of the morning rush. There’s pretty much zero chance I’ll stop to fold the laundry, though I may kick a pair of underwear out of my path. The real concern is the internet.

It beckons me with its side roads and back routes, under the guise of research, a promise of just five minutes, the happy ping of outside validation. If I step in, I’m sunk. I might lose an hour, or worse, my confidence.

On the way to my office I grab everything I need because I won’t get up again until my time runs out. Not to reheat my coffee, which I only drink hot, or to retrieve a forgotten water bottle. My computer, breakfast, books, and journals must be at the ready.

I sit down, turn on the computer, and open the blank page. I’ve arrived at the leaping off point. The almost-there place. It could all go wrong with one simple click. Most days I hold steady, keep focused.

Then I begin. The words come or they don’t. But I remain at my desk for three hours, taking breaks only to sip my coffee, flip through a book, or gaze at the birds. I feel grateful for my time, even though it’s short.

In a little over a year, when the little guy starts kindergarten, there will be entire days stretched out in front of me like taffy. I hope the practice I do now will help me take advantage of those luxurious hours. Until then, I am a madwoman, making every minute count.

Do you have solo time to unspool your creativity? How do you keep it safe? Do you?

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24 thoughts on “Making it Count

    • Thank you for this comment, Amanda. I hope you can keep the time safe, though I know it’s hard. Parenting and working is a double challenge. I do always look forward to your words.

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    • Yes, I know you do! It’s hard to keep up, but I always feel better when I do. I imagine that’s how I’d feel if I worked out… but then I wouldn’t write as much 🙂 I may just have to wait for my son to be in school, ha.

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  1. I’m sure you know, when they’re in school there will be other distractions. My kids are grown, I don’t have a job except for freelance assignments and teaching entirely at my own choosing. I have all the writing time I need, yet it slips away so easily. Snappish, yes, that’s me when I can’t keep my butt in that chair. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so beautifully. Now I’m gonna go write. 😉

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    • Ha, yes, Linda, it’s true – and I might adjust the end of the piece to make that clear. Time IS a vacuum, and when it’s not being used, it is always filled. I will have to be as careful with it then as I am now. Thank you so much for reading and for this thoughtful comment.

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  2. Dana, I loved this. I’ve recently started a part time job (accounting, ugh), and I’m having trouble juggling to new schedule with my need to write, It’s so frustrating. Thank you for inspiring me to make it a priority!

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    • Oh, I can imagine how hard it must be to juggle work, family, and writing! Right now I’m not working, except hanging with the little guy when he’s not in school, but if I had to add another job into the mix, I know I’d be struggling. I hope you can find the time, but be gentle with yourself when it’s simply impossible.

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  3. I love this, Dana! Especially the familiar buzz in the back of the mind, I know that feeling well. My husband works from home, and because of time differences he doesn’t really need to be in his office until after noon, so once he’s awake and gets a cup of coffee into him, I disappear upstairs to write for awhile. It’s taken some time to find this routine but it works. The other day I was itching to get up there, the beginnings of a poem beating in my ear. As soon as I judged he’d had enough coffee, I passed off the baby and zoomed! up the stairs. I try hard to keep this space for myself, even when feeling uninspired and like I want to skip it. Because like you say here, I get more easily irritated if I’m not writing something!

    Anyway, all of that is to say that this post really speaks to me!

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    • Oh, that sounds like a wonderful routine! I love that your husband is on board with helping you find time. I really need to get my husband more involved 🙂 I think if I were home the kids would undoubtedly find me, but even for just a half hour it would be worth it. Thanks so much for reading and I’m really glad that this resonated with you!

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  4. It’s amazing that you do it – day after day. I do write every day, but it’s not always for myself. It can be sponsored or personal. Either way, it takes something I don’t always have. Still, I sit. I admire this trait in others, so I thought I’d give it a go.
    Your mornings sound like mine. I do have six hours to myself 3-4 times a week, and boy, are they something spectacular. I don’t clean very well so I finally hired someone to do it. We can barely afford it, but my mental health is for the better because of it!

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    • Well, I don’t write every day, just the 3 mornings when my little guy is in school, and sometimes just 2 since I volunteer at my daughter’s school one morning. But those 2-3 segments of time are all the more precious for their rarity. I hope when I have more time, I don’t squander it. The amount of work you do is astounding! I love that you hired someone to clean your home. I believe it’s a worthy splurge and one of these days we may do the same. Thanks for swinging by! 🙂

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  5. It took me far too long to learn to protect my writing time, even though I was restless and irritable because I wasn’t writing. When children and little and money is tight, it’s hard to justify time spent on something that isn’t bring in much, if any, income. Now I have learned that writing is a very big part of who I am, and I make the time for it, no matter what. But I’m also an empty-nester, so I honestly don’t know how much I’d do differently if I still had young children. I would hope I would still take the time to write, but I can’t say that with any real authority.

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    • Restless and irritable is the perfect description of me when I don’t get my writing time in. But I’m lucky to have the luxury not to HAVE to work, because if I did I know writing would be the first to fall by the wayside. Sometimes it’s just not possible to make it all happen. Sometimes we have to wait for something to give, or loosen. I’m glad you have your time now.

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  6. Ah yes, I get this – the pull between motherhood and writing and how writing helps you be a better mother. And also the draw of the internet! I can lose hours there but the thing is it can be genuinely useful and inspiring – if only there was a way of filtering it. I need to be stricter. Sounds like you’re doing a brilliant job of making the writing time count – I find the more I make it count the better I feel. If I waste writing time I feel worse than if I didn’t have any time to start with! xx

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    • I agree, Maddy, so much of my writing community and support comes from the internet, but it can be such a time suck. I’m trying to be better, but believe me I don’t always make it happen. Though like you say here, I feel badly when I squander what little I have! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

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  7. Oy, the internet has crept into my writing time more and more. Well . . . it didn’t creep in, I let it in. I have to wake up early to make sure I have any time at all because I find my days filled with workouts and social things and “have to” things at the kids’ schools, errands, etc. There is often some down time too, but it’s sporadic. I’m so impressed that you’re taking these three hours in the morning. Seriously, amazing. And inspiring. Thank you.

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  8. I’ve recently started writing after quite a few years off. I’m still trying to work on making it a morning priority. I have two days a week when the kids are in preschool for 2 1/2 hours. I’m realizing that being caught up on laundry and housework is overrated; I am MUCH happier using that time to write.

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  9. OMG this resonates! I am there now: frustrated and irritated because I can’t get a post out. My two are littles so I don’t know when the time to write will come. It’s nice to know someone else has been there. I love you’re habit. I also covet your coffee and your view.

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    • Thank you so much for reading and this comment! Oh, when they are little and underfoot (and on laps, and crawling over your body) it’s hard to imagine any time, believe me, I know. But it will come. Slowly and in drips and then in streams and gushes. Write when you can, even if you’re just jotting down a line or two that comes into your head, or taking notes on your phone. Every word counts. And if you simply can’t, because there was a time when I couldn’t, it will simply hibernate until the time is right.

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