Tag Archives: working from home

Rejigging my routine

I’ve been really rubbish at taking my own advice this week.

The first draft of my next novel is still oh-so-nearly ready to go, but I have not yet taken the plunge. I have managed to set up a new project in Scrivener – the word count target is there, and the slightly cursory deadline of the end of April. Essentially those are both contrived by how much I know I should be able to write in a day: 1500 words. And if I could do that – if every day I could sit down and just write – then in three months time I would have a novel.

Except to do that I actually need to carve out some time in my day for writing.

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People are always really impressed when I tell them I wrote two novels before my son was eighteen months old. But do you know what? That was easy. Sure I was sleep deprived, but he napped twice a day! And other than keeping this blog ticking over during novel number two I didn’t really have all that much else to do.

It’s different now.

I sat down yesterday afternoon to write. I told myself I had to make a start – it didn’t matter if it was rubbish, I just needed to get some words on the page. But they just wouldn’t come! I had the setting and the characters, I knew vaguely what was supposed to be going on in the scene – but there was just so much going on in my head that I just couldn’t focus. More than that, I just couldn’t hear what it was my characters wanted to say.

My mind kept shifting to my to do list, fretting about the press release I have to write for the Town Council, the GCSE specification I need to appraise for Ofqual, the increasing numbers of unread emails in my inbox. And in the midst of all that, my characters stayed silent.

If there is going to be a novel number three, I need to accept that things are going to have to be different this time round.

I’m really lucky that Arthur still has one nap a day – though the fact he’s finally shifted from the sling to the sofa makes it more tempting to use the time for things less static than writing! And even when I am at the computer there are so many other things I need to be getting on with. My life has taken on a new and interesting shape over the past year or so. Vague ideas I had when I first went on maternity leave – like getting more involved in my community and taking on some education consultancy work – have come to fruition. Alongside that my increasing interest in Unschooling, and general reluctance to rush Arthur into formal education, means that he’s still with me most of the time.

So I’m going to need to find some more time, somewhere.

I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to write in the evenings. I might yet be able to do that, but if my brain is starting to sag by mid-afternoon I’m not sure how much creativity it’s going to be able to muster after dark. Besides I do need to fit in spending time with my husband at some point…

So I think, despite this testing my own perception of my abilities to the limit, I’m going to have to do my writing in the mornings.

I am saying this here mainly so you lot can hold me accountable. Ordinarily, I am pretty useless in the mornings. But I figure with Leigh getting up for work at 6am and Arthur tending to sleep till 7.30 there is chunk of time crying out to be used more effectively.

It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m beginning to think it might not be impossible. And to be honest, it’s either that or something else is going to have to give. And I haven’t worked out quite what that might be yet…

So pre-dawn writing sessions here we come. Wish me luck!

 

Writing Bubble

5/52

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

We’ve settled into a lovely afternoon routine these past few weeks. After lunch we’ve been going up to my study, lighting a fire and some candles, and sharing a story before Arthur settles down on the sofa for his afternoon nap whilst I get on with some work.

More often than not when he wakes up I’m still in the midst of things, so he’ll potter around – playing or drawing or watching something on his iPad.

He’d been watching ‘Under the Sea‘ moments before I took this pic, sat in front of the fire as he cross-referenced with his ‘First Big Book of the Ocean‘. Clearly his concentration wavered though, and I turned around to find him sitting on his little desk, looking simultaneously so grown up and so tiny.

He does that rather a lot these days.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Just need to stay focused…

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I started this year with such grand plans. Not resolutions, exactly – I only really made one of those. But so many different things I wanted to do. I was raring to go, in fact – after two weeks of not doing anything particularly constructive over Christmas I couldn’t wait to start ticking some tasks off my mental to do list.

As well as my goals around my novel and blogging, I really need to find some time to get our increasingly messy house in order. And then there’s Arthur – as he gets older I’m starting to feel like I want to structure our days together a little bit more closely. He’s with me pretty much all the time, and whilst we do get out to a few excellent groups over the course of the week I want to ensure I’m giving him the opportunities for a whole range of different types of play, not just the ones that are easiest for me to facilitate. I’ve got lots of ideas for all of this – I know pretty much exactly what I want to do in fact, at least in my head.

But actually, in reality, it’s felt a bit like the universe has been conspiring against me getting very much done.

Arthur’s sleep is still all over the place since he’s moved out of his cot, and this has coincided with a particularly busy period for my husband (he has his finals at medical school this year, so the academic pressure is being ramped up alongside an increasingly challenging schedule of hospital shifts). I am, to put it plainly, knackered. And that does not do much for my productivity.

There also seems to be lots going on in Arthur’s ever-growing social life. I’d sort of forgotten that following him turning two at the end of December we would have a very busy few weeks of birthdays with NCT and baby group friends. This is all great fun of course – but does add in a whole other layer of things to organise!

I’ve found myself collapsing on the sofa after seemingly endless days barely able to recall what I’d managed to achieve since I’d got up that morning whilst listening to the whirr of things I still needed to do and wondering when my mind would ever be still enough to focus on them – let alone make a proper start on editing that novel…

And then it struck me. I didn’t need to keep all this stuff trapped inside my head. I needed in fact to write it down, to make some lists, to see it all there plain and simple so I could begin to tackle it. I needed to get a diary.

I’m not entirely sure why I stopped using a diary – a paper one at least. In the ten years I was teaching I would never go anywhere without my planner. Every thought and task relating to my professional life would be documented in there somewhere – and it was an important ritual at the beginning of each week to go through and get my goals clear in my head. I kept a separate diary for my personal tasks – a pocket moleskine one for years, with space for notes. This gradually transitioned onto my phone, and once I was on maternity leave that electronic method became the only one I used.

That seemed ok, for a while. Especially once Arthur arrived so much of what I had to do was so ‘in the moment’ that it seemed a waste of any precious spare seconds to write it down. Things have got increasingly complicated since those early days, but I’ve generally managed to muddle through, hanging the thoughts and tasks in my head onto our simple routines and frantically making the occasional list when it all got too much.

But I’ve realised that the time has come when I need more structure. There are so many balls I’m trying to juggle now that if I try to do it by the power of my mind alone then I’m going to start dropping them. So last weekend I ordered a diary. A moleskine, for old-time’s sake, but one which encapsulates what I loved about my teacher planner alongside the conventional day by day approach. It’s called a ‘professional taskmaster’ (even the name makes me feel more organised), and it’s pretty awesome.

When it arrived on Tuesday I sat down and filled in our plans for the week ahead, spread clearly over two A4 pages. Then on the next two, in the bullet pointed spaces for ‘actions and projects’, I decided on my non-negotiables for the week. There were quite a lot of them, but seeing them there in black and white made it all seem possible.

And as the week’s gone on I’ve been taking great pleasure in ticking off the things I have achieved. I’d forgotten quite how satisfying simple,everyday lists are. I’m still playing catch-up a little, and I’m still exhausted, but I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to reflecting back on my week on Sunday, celebrating what I’ve done and setting out what needs to happen next.

None of this is rocket science I realise, but they are things that somehow I had forgotten in all the changes I have lived through in the past couple of years. And I’m hoping, as I fall back into the routines left over from a very different life, they might just help me to keep the one I’m living now more focused.

 

mumturnedmom