On writing and finding time

Sometimes it all feels like too much:

A full-time job.

Teaching two pole classes a week.

Subbing classes. Taking classes. Preparing for a competition.

Running.

Physical therapy.

The many books I want to read.

A blog that doesn’t write itself.

An unfinished novel that reminds me constantly what an imposter I am.

Twelve months ago, I started a new job: a freelance gig that was supposed to last no longer than two months. But as fall turned to winter turned to spring, and I remained steadily employed, I started to blame my lack of novel progress on my new job: Since becoming a full-time writer, I simply didn’t have time to be an extracurricular writer.

One hour a day, I told myself: Sit down at your computer, open up your Word doc, and write. Just. One. Hour.

I had a clear task ahead of me, so it shouldn’t have been that hard. Five months ago, I made the decision to change my novel from third person to first person (perhaps in a fit of self-sabotage: I was just one chapter shy of a finished first draft). I calculated that, at one hour per day and one chapter per week, I could get through the entire thing in fifteen weeks.

This was in February. Twenty weeks later, the three-year mark of this project has come and gone, and I’ve gotten through just one and a half chapters total. The first-person change, as it turned out, was not as simple as a find-and-replace. I’d begun something I couldn’t see finishing, and instead of making a decision one way or another, I froze. I closed Word, and I stopped coming back to it.

Well, actually, I started a blog—which filled my need for accountability and words-on-the-page, and (more importantly) tamped down the guilt I feel for not writing.

Then, finally, I revisited my novel a couple of week ago. I was inspired after reading If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha, which me realize what change I actually needed to make. (Do you see why I can’t drop reading from my list of weekly commitments?) It was a drastic change—far more laborious than a perspective change. It meant starting over, albeit with a really good outline. It was the first time in a year that I was excited to return to the novel each day. Suddenly, one hour wasn’t enough.

Writing regularly—extracurricularly—means making choices. In that hour slot, I have to give up something else that is important to me—reading or exercise. It means constantly feeling guilty that something is being neglected. But if you’re a writer (or an artist of any kind), you know that there’s no greater guilt than calling yourself a writer when you’re not currently writing.

Writing always feel good. But writing fiction feels cathartic. I want to keep at it, but I feel obligated to put out a blog post. One way or another, it’s hours of unpaid labor, which detracts from the time I could be spending on another form of unpaid labor.

(And don’t get mad at me for phrasing it that way, just because I claim to love writing. Artists deserve compensation for their time and energy, even if they enjoy creating the art.)

Either way, I’ve failed. And obviously, if you’re reading this, you know what choice I’ve made this week.

Find time, they say. As if time is hidden, not already accounted for. This is not the blog post I wanted to write—after all, I’ve barely mentioned pole dance in all 600 words—but it’s time I’ve spend not working on my novel.

It’s the twenty-first of the month, and I’ve gotten a blog post up.

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