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Friday, May 29, 2009

A Writer Rambles

With the number of half written blog posts, short stories, and essays in my head and on my hard drive, I could fill a library. I guess I’ve been struggling a bit with the finish line, at least when it comes to some of the more personal writing projects I continue to work on (or dream about working on). On the stuff that comes in with deadlines, I do just fine. I can write an article to specification on just about any topic. At least, that seems to be the case once I sit myself down at the keyboard. My head isn’t always convinced that I can do the job, but when I know I have to get the task done, I manage to do it.

Unfortunately, I think this has resulted in a lot of “*itching & moaning” on my part. Or perhaps (hopefully) it is just the hubby who hears it that way. He came home yesterday and pulled up this article from a blog by J.D. Roth. He’s convinced that I need to separate my work and life space a little more clearly. I was resistant to the idea at first (I’m doing what I love, I’m finding a path where my work and life aren’t so separate, I thought this is what I wanted), but the more I think about it, the more it kind of makes sense.

I recently went through a couple of weeks where the work load was very low and it felt like a vacation. I barely touched the computer (well, except to see if any jobs had shown up) and I had myself a sort of great re-connection time with the kids, full days where I just hung out with them and worked on projects we always talk about working on but rarely get to. It kind of pulled us out of our rut. Shook up the activity in the house a little and it felt good. The kids really noticed, as well, and they all commented on it.

So I can see that there is a downside to having my work station in the corner of the bedroom. It’s always there, and there are times when I do find myself struggling to pull myself away, or I find myself struggling to make myself sit there and get the job done when there are more interesting (and fun) things going on in the house. I think the biggest change since going from mom who writes for fun and occasional publication on the side to mom who works from home writing is that those fun projects—the ones that make me feel passionate about writing and rewriting and finding just the right word—are continually put on the backburner.

One of the comments on the article I linked to above really spoke to me:
“That lack of boundaries between work and life is why several of my attempts at working as a freelancer failed. It does become difficult to draw those boundaries, and then you start to hate the work you love.”

I don’t think this is me. I’m not hating the work I love, but there are days when I can feel hate (maybe disdain is a better word) sneaking up on me. As much as there are days when I would love to go back to being the mom who writes for fun, this is not the reality that works for me right now. This is the next best thing; I’m sure of it. And maybe hubby is correct that I could use a few more boundaries in my life.

I think I’m getting stuck at this place, a quote by Stephen King from his book, On Writing.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life is a support-system for art. It’s not the other way around.”

Perhaps I’ve been hanging on to this idea too literally, or perhaps it is simply the fact that I am not currently focused on artful writing, that kind of straight-from-the-gut creativity and making sense of the world or creating worlds through words. As much as I enjoy the process of putting pencil to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, and seeing where my mind takes me, the bulk of my writing is a tool right now. It’s a tool for making ends meet, for cushioning our budget, and getting braces for those three kids who might be needing them, one after the other, just down the road. (The cost of braces – something we just didn’t consider when planning our closely spaced family.)

I’m not being artistic so much as I am helping other people with words. It’s an act of creativity that does bring satisfaction, but it’s not novel writing. To some extent, I am just punching the clock. But it is a clock of my own making and it affords me a much greater range of flexibility which is very important to me at this point.

Yes, there are days when I longingly look at the classifieds and wonder if it might not be easier to stock shelves at the local grocery store or answer phones for a busy office…

…but then I remember that they would not let me take the day off to go play with friends whenever I felt like it or let me squeeze in “my work time” before 8am or after 8pm when it suited me. I like that I can get my work done before my kids are even out of bed. I like that I can turn down a job or designate a different due date if it doesn’t fit with my needs. I like that if I complete a job quickly, I don’t have to hang around for another four hours just to finish my shift.

Somehow, I’m building the life I’ve always envisioned. There are so many things I wish I had known before… about writing, about living, about putting it all together in a way that sustains you on both a physical and an emotional level, but I’m getting there. I’m learning and I’m adding to my arsenal. I’m writing.

There is a balance to be achieved, day to day, obviously, but from a more long-term perspective, as well. I think, just like with growing kids in the house, there has to be recognition that what works changes over time. Right now, I think I do need to better define my boundaries. One day maybe I’ll be in the place to put that desk in the corner of the room again.

I’m not stuck doing this anyone else’s way. I can do it my own way. I can do it the way it works best for me right now. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’ll get there.

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