Balancing my writing and personal lives is a constant struggle for me. I promise myself I will use an afternoon off, or an evening alone to “get some writing done,” as if inspiration is a switch that can be turned on and off. It is true that I have several long-term projects in various stages laying around at all times, and even a half hour of filing would be a constructive way to spend my time, even though it doesn’t feel very “poety.”
I think I scare myself by making too many plans for large chunks of time. We all have something else to do with those minutes, things that somehow seem to take precedence, but don’t hold up when I apply my Hundred Year yardstick (“What will really matter in a hundred years?”). Ultimately, I end spending no more than an hour or two doing what I intended to spend the whole day doing, if that, and beat myself up for “wasting” time on anything else.
I have finally accepted that the structure of my days is not going to change in the near future. I need a 9 to 5 job not only to keep myself afloat financially, but to give my days a framework. Freelancing left me with too much leeway, and perhaps I need a little imposed distraction to make me appreciate time away from work (sad but true). Luckily, my current position is overall a pleasant endeavor, and I don’t come home wounded and depressed as I had in the past.
One thing I have learned over the years is that I work best, words flow best, in the morning, before I’m bombarded with sunlight and radio and all the other sensory stimuli that seem to cloud my early visions. Therefore, I have begun a routine at 6:00 a.m., the time my alarm clock is set for anyway. I get myself out of bed (perhaps after the weather report. Weather has been a big issue lately, and I gain some false sense of control and security by listening to the daily guess at what’s ahead), go to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee which I may or may not finish, and head back upstairs to my desk.
After all that, I may only get twenty minutes to get something done, maybe half an hour. It depends on whether I plan a shower before work, packed my lunch or picked out my clothes the night before, or even on the blasted weather itself. But in that twenty minutes, I can put down a first draft of a poem, type out a few first drafts I’ve accumulated, or even do some revising. I have several years worth of feedback from my faithful Goat Hill Poets salon that I’ve yet to consider in the revision process. It’s twenty minutes more a day than I’ve been spending, and I’ve quickly seen work begin to pile up. I’m even inspired to sometimes grab twenty minutes in the evening to file or get submissions together.