A few weeks ago, I found myself back at my old magazine stomping grounds, a sky rise in midtown Manhattan where millions are made (and perhaps lost) every day, where the pace can make your head spin, where an average day could run 14 hours. I had the opportunity to chat about a short stint, just three months. And as much as I’ve been satisfied with my life since I left that world, I had to admit, I missed it. I missed my colleagues (hi Ericka!) and the thrill of the scoop. I missed the satisfaction of seeing the finished product on the page and knowing people would be enjoying it. I also missed the steady paycheck, the health insurance, the movie screenings…
It was weird. More than five years ago, I decided to go freelance — and I still very clearly remember the reasons why. I wanted a saner schedule, more time for my family — and, perhaps most importantly, more time for my writing. But being in that building again, I kept kept imagining where I’d be if I’d never left. Perhaps an editor in the very department I’d be filling in for. The short-term gig seemed idyllic, actually. Regular hours, a decent paycheck, a pace I could easily manage and a topic I found entertaining. But between the start date and the schedule, I knew it would mean a summer of struggling to squeeze in any writing. To be sure, writing fiction is a scarier, less stable path (although many freelance journalists reading this would laugh at that statement). But it’s one I definitely want to pursue.
I’ve long lamented on this site my lack of ability to finish a book. And now, as we wrap up our final semester at The New School, I’m finally coming close. I’ve been making steady progress on my thesis project, and I’m also nearly done with a solid draft of the other work-in-progress. By this summer, if I really focus and take my work seriously — if I treat writing fiction like a job — I could have two finished books. But that’s a big if.
It’s really easy for me to say work gets in the way. Because it does, to a degree. As a wife and a mother in a two-income household, I need to carry my weight. And as far as work goes, my job is pretty fun. But the freelance life brings with it a feast or famine mentality, which makes it hard for me to say no. (And I know others who suffer from the same malady. Yes, I’m calling you out, Dhonielle!) But it’s not the only thing. There’s that kid I’ve got. I’m drowning in guilt over all the time she spends at daycare. So every minute I can spend with her, I will. And there’s my handsome, smartie pant husband, whom I sometimes miss even though I see him every day. Plus, I have great family and friends and classmates whom I enjoy and want to spend time with. All of this before I even start to ponder picking up a book or watching Days of Our Lives.
Where does that leave writing time? Too frequently, at the bottom of the list. But I’ve decided to change that. Bringing myself to turn down that short-term gig was my first step in recommitting to moving writing to the top of the list. As my husband often reminds me, its now or never. I have this brilliant opportunity to really focus on something I’m passionate about in grad school. So few people get that opportunity (or have such supportive spouses and family members). I need to make the most of it. And it doesn’t have to have an expiry date. My commitment to writing doesn’t have to go poof like a pumpkin come our May 17th graduation. That day should only mark the beginning.
So with that in mind, my spring cleaning goal is to start prioritizing my writing. This week, I wrote nearly 20 new pages. I gave work a solid few hours, but spent the rest of my time focusing on writing. I’ve still got half a thesis to finish, and I want it to be a solid start to my novel. That means giving it the time it deserves. That means giving myself the time I deserve.
Photo courtesy marset544/Flickr