What I’m listening to: When September Ends by Green Day
It’s been a rough September.
Dad is ill.
Mom broke her knee.
The stepson, his wife and kids (ages 2 and 3 months) have descended on the house and show no signs of departure (which I normally don’t mind, but it’s been a week and I’m too overwhelmed for it).
I had too many deadlines on the same damn day.
I have plenty of other, non-work stuff getting in the way of all of it.
Let’s just say since the eclipse, I’ve had no rest whatsoever.
It must be going around. Jenn Mattern wrote about Freelance Writing When You Just Don’t Give a Damn a few weeks ago.
I’m right there.
That’s when, as Jenn put it on her blog, you just set your priorities. Jenn, whom you know helped out immensely here on the blog as my shit storm was hitting gale force, mixes it up to make things more interesting when you just don’t want to be writing.
But when you can’t? What then?
Break the day into segments.
Those times I’m here without people around, I find myself checking Facebook, fitting in a few games of Solitaire, doing some online shopping, reading Twitter and the blogs…
Right there is permission to use that time instead to regroup, particularly with a toddler and a baby in the house (and they scream when they want to, so I can’t really schedule that). When three sets of doors are shut between us and the fan isn’t even drowning out the noise, I give myself permission to get up and escape. I still get work done, and almost more of it because when I sit down, I’m much more focused.
Re-evaluate deadlines and workloads.
This week, I had seven things to accomplish. Only, there was no way that was happening. So I opted for five. The other two? I knew I could hold off until Monday because they weren’t due this week — I was just being an overachiever. So I spent the mornings working on the hard stuff (when the kids were most calm) and the afternoons on the smaller, easier projects. A surprising thing happened — tomorrow, I will finish that seventh thing. The time was there after I’d reordered my days.
With one client who’d offered two projects, I knew I couldn’t do both. The tank is nearly empty. So I accepted the one I knew I could get to and said no to the other one. I’d said yes to a friend’s request to be part of a proposal they were putting together. I didn’t regret it, but my weekends were in jeopardy. As it happened, the client rejected the proposal, so saying yes didn’t put my back to the wall this time.
Plan for the unexpected.
My dad’s health is precarious at best. I have to be ready to jump in the car and drive, so I’m working hard to get work done ahead of schedule (hence the trying to cram it all into one week). I could be called at any moment, and I’m ready for it. The work can come along, but the less of it to take, the better. It takes just a little more effort to put yourself in a place where the work will be handled, even in an emergency situation. And there are other writers already on speed dial should I need to drop out for a while.
Get the hell out of Dodge.
The reason I turned down work was simple — I’m finally taking a much-needed vacation. Every single one so far this year (and they’ve been snippets of weeks, not full weeks) has been working time off. So there’s an actual vacation — with a rental property and everything — in my immediate future. No laptops. No client calls. No anything other than a beach, a book, and walking shoes.
Writers, have you ever had to work with constant pulls on your time and focus? How did you handle it?