Saturday morning. I woke to the sound of small feet pattering toward the precipitous drop down the attic stairs, levered myself out of bed, and, clutching a happily-squeaking toddler, stumbled down to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. As the caffeine trickled into my nervous system, I began to catalog the list of things that could be done today. It looks kind of like this:
- Drive a new electrical ground and hook it to both the new and old panelboards.
- Finish the scroll cuts on the toy refrigerator I’m building for my daughter for her birthday (a couple of weeks after Christmas), and glue the front frame of the fridge together.
- Run to Lowe’s to return an extra piece of HVAC ducting and scout for small hand tools I don’t have yet so I can drop hints regarding stocking stuffers.
- Run to Target to return a toy, then to BJs to get credit for the spoiled quart of soymilk we found in the 3-pack.
- Pick up baby wipes somewhere.
- Take apart two wood pallets and build another compost pile enclosure for the back yard.
- Figure out some kind of casserole for dinner.
- Pick up a stocking stuffer or two for my wife.
- Put away my laundry.
- Hang a bit more sheetrock in the upstairs closet.
- Try to prevent the kids from destroying the house with small arms fire and improvised explosive devices.
It’s kind of a lot.
But we’re not done yet, friends. Why? Because I’m a writer. Not only do I have all the usual family and home responsibilities, but I have multiple writing projects in various stages of planning or execution. Let’s see…there’s:
- Two short stories to polish/rewrite for submission to journals.
- Two short stories needing the first draft completed.
- One flash fiction piece needing the first draft completed.
- One novel outline to be completed and more writing on the already-outlined portions.
- Two novels in the brainstorming/pre-planning phase.
- One novella project, recently acquired, in the back-of-the-mind, idea-generation phase.
- One tiny contest deadline coming up just after Christmas.
- Finish reading The Scene Book, since it’s always good to keep developing one’s craft.
- Finish reading As I Lay Dying, since it’s always good to see how literary geniuses played with form and storytelling.
I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Most writers I know have families or significant others or, at the very least, dayjob responsibilities. Makes carving out writing time hard, doesn’t it? (And, sadly, many of us carve out time at the expense of sleep, which ain’t necessarily the healthiest of choices.)
It’s something they don’t tell you when you sign up for this profession: you will never, ever feel as though you’re done. Complete one book? There’s another one waiting in the wings. Sell one short story? Time to resubmit others. You’re never finished, never quite content with what you’ve accomplished thus far. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
So how do I plan on getting through my writerly to-do list? Same way I’ll be getting through my regular to-do list. One thing at a time. One written word at a time, writer-friends.
How about you? How’s your task list looking these days? Any time-management strategies you want to pass along? (‘Cause I could sure use ‘em.)