Since the birth of our son there have been times in the last four months that I’m not even sure what month it is, let alone day of the week. For the first time in my life, I feel an acute awareness of the finite number of hours in a day. Because as they say: time is the only thing (besides real estate) we can’t make more of.
When undergoing major life changes and trying to keep up with your writing, deadlines become even more important. A missed deadline can often be like a multi-car collision on the motorway sending everything else on the docket careening into a free fall.
Take for example the book I was trying to finish earlier this year on hip hop dance. Much to my delight, I managed to get the manuscript in before my delivery date and nothing from the editor on revisions as I headed into the maternity ward. Then on one of the afternoons that I woke from the new mother haze to reconnect with the outside world online, I found an email requesting additional changes. The new deadline: 30 days to make the revisions and resubmit. Juggling my work, social, and family life meant that this request seemed insurmountable.
First I took small steps. I took an hour one day to review the sections the editor suggested rewriting in order to see what I was up against. The following revision sessions were spread out over the course of ensuing weeks. I developed a rhythm. Each time I sat down to write, I wouldn’t get up unless I had written at least 1,000 words. Since I had been working on this particular project for a number of years, this was easier to do now than when I started because I wasn’t spending hours on research. I still had a problem: not enough hours in the day or night to get to the end.
The deadline came and went, and unfortunately, I didn’t make it. I had to now enlist the willing support of my husband – who was also trying to complete a major project, his university degree via an online course. Unused to asking for help, I was humbled to admit I needed two hours on a Saturday afternoon to get another part of the work done on the manuscript. And so it went. Finally, two weeks past the deadline, I hit the SEND button, emailing the revised manuscript back to the editor.
It may seem odd that I’m confessing I didn’t manage to make my own rule: meeting deadlines. I share this story to demonstrate the other rule I’m now living by: don’t let missed deadlines be a reason not to chip away at your projects so that you can get them in when they are finished. The missed hours of sleep and afternoons at the desk will be worth it when you are holding your book, article, or showing off your online piece to the praise of friends or family and, of course, your next editor or agent.
Life is always a constant juggle (she says typing this entry while rocking the baby with her left hand). We have to decide what is most important to us, realizing this can change at various stages. If writing is one of your cornerstones, then decide before the major change, to keep at it. And you will find minutes, hours or, if you’re lucky enough, days to squeeze it in. It may feel for a time that you are back in the late-night cram sessions of university days. Then as now, you’ll feel the value of the goal you’re pursuing.
Share with us what techniques you’ve found most successful for juggling it all. Best of luck and let us know how you fare on your journey.
Mohana (Reading & Writing Development Director)