Six months pregnant may not have been the best time to subscribe to the New Yorker. I was excited, though, and when the first few editions arrived I read them in the evening before bed, and even aloud as Andrew occasionally rubbed my feet. It felt like bliss. Then I had a baby, and my dreams of keeping a contained, almost non-existent magazine pile were dashed.
Having a baby certainly changes the amount of productive time you have in a given day. Also, your definition of productive changes from something like "I put together a presentation for work!" to "I put together a load of laundry... that's washed, but still needs to be transferred to the dryer!"
Some might find this frustrating. And yes, I've had my moments, but in some ways it makes my spare time all the more valuable. I must be extra picky with how to spend my hours. This isn't a new concept to me, though.
As a proud introvert, I've long felt my energy stores dwindle at the expense of small talk, mundane tasks, or non-valuable social activities like loud cocktail hours. It's who I am, and I know it and love it. It means I'm less giving of my time, which may seem selfish to non-introverts or someone who doesn't know me personally, but if I'm not going to get value out of an experience, or if I'm going to be forced into social situations void of meaning, count me out.
So when I have free time nowadays, which mainly consists of brief windows , I act fast. Laundry in the dryer? Folded. Email in my inbox? Answered. Teeth brushed? Check. Blog post drafted? Done.
Sometimes, though, I just take a nap.
Of course, you don't need to have a baby in order to learn this kind of lesson, but it does help.
Finding time to write has required a new strategy, too.
Many people ask me how I do it, and how I've done it. How do you start and finish writing projects and have a full-time job, and have a new baby?
The short answer is, I write in the margins.
I've always loved taking notes. A fresh notebook full of possibilities. My very first notebook was bright pink with blue lined pages and a thick, silver spine. It served as my personal journal for a time, and the place I recorded silly songs and poems I made up on our family vacations. I still have it, actually, buried in a box in storage.
In college I had a notebook for every class, to keep my notes organized.
Today I have a hardback moleskine where I write one sentence a day in an effort to streamline my journaling efforts, and a lovely baby book I discovered, that will last until Henry turns 18.
I also take copious digital notes. The first draft of this post, in fact, was typed in the middle of the night on my cell phone.
You see, I wasn't sitting at my desk with a cup of tea, or outside on a bench in the lovely warm weather. I was awake at four in the morning, pumping milk for my newborn son. This is writing in real life, and sometimes it's the only way to get things done.
Writing in the margins is about taking advantage of small windows of time we have every day and getting some words down, even if they're not very good ones.
So when someone asks me how I do it, I tell them a little adds up to a whole lot. And I tell them, above all else, that they must keep writing, even if it means finding new ways to do so.
At so many points in my life, writing was the first to go. At first, it seems like an easy thing to rid yourself of. But the work of writing is a lifelong vocation, one that never leaves us even when we move from job to job, or have a baby, or endure periods of not writing.
Sometimes, we need a little nudge to get moving again. If this sounds like you, my new e-course might be just the thing. I'll send one encouraging assignment over the span of six days, and by the end of the week, you'll have a clearer sense of focus and renewed enthusiasm for a writing project you've been aching to work on.
What about you? We all fit writing into our lives differently, and I'd love to hear about your own approach. Leave a comment and let me know what's working for you!