Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines

rawpixel via Pixabay
Tonight, I have my writers' group meeting and, this afternoon, I am wondering once again (as I do every month) how and why I managed to wait until the very last minute to prepare for it. As the day ticks away and I check first obligations, and then errands, off my list, I'm becoming acutely aware of that I'm overbooked. Again.

Last month, amid finals and deadlines, I was so overbooked I missed the meeting entirely. I really don't like doing that. Not only does my writing profit from our monthly meetings, but I do as well. Some of my colleagues in this group have been reading my writing -- and I theirs -- for close to two decades. We've become friends, connected by not only the stories we write but the ones we tell as well.

What, you may ask, am I doing with my time? Why the consistent last-minute dash? Well, I'm teaching -- something else I love, and a something that pays the bills. And then there's writing -- blogs, articles and several books in the works. There is, of course, the mundane -- cooking, laundry, keeping the house in something resembling order. Writing and teaching have their mundane facets, too -- invoicing, social media posts, promoting, preparing -- along with professional development, like conferences.

Ah, conferences. I attended the Pennwriters conference last month, and just last night, I signed up for the Catholic Writers Guild Conference -- one I've been looking at for several years and now that it's close to home, decided to (finally) attend.

I was excited about it, too, until I started plotting out the rest of my summer. Finish class. Turn in grades. A few days off. Vacation. A few more days off. Conference. Then...August?

Wait. Wasn't I supposed to be finishing two books this summer? Writing them, that is, not reading them (that's a whole 'nother post, as they say in Central PA).

It was registering for the conference that sent me down this road, or, more accurately, the aftermath of the registration that came when I actually wrote down those dates. Sure, I'd get a lot out of the conference both personally and professionally. But was going worth the lost writing time?

This is a question writers ask themselves ad nauseum. Blogging is a great idea! (But is it worth giving up time spent writing books?) Promoting books is important! (But is it worth the lost writing time?) Critique groups are essential! (But couldn't I use that time to make progress on my book?)

To further complicate matters, writers need a life in order to have something to write about. Forgoing conferences and critique groups and social media connections to closet ourselves in a room to write not only sucks all the joy out of the process (for me, anyway) but robs us of the muse, at least in part. Sure, the ideas and characters we write about are in our heads, but the ideas we get and the characters we meet in real life feed the creativity needed to get those ideas and characters (the first set) out of our heads and onto the page.

So, I'll power through my day, pondering balance and how I managed to squeeze everything but my group preparation into the last week and wondering what I can do better. Aware of the fact that vacation and a conference will swallow up half a month when I'm not teaching and should be writing, I'll block out writing days on my calendar to make sure I don't get to August without making progress.

Will I get my prep done in time for tonight's meeting? Yes (but I might have to outsource dinner). Will I pass up the conference I finally signed up for? No (but I might not attend every session).
Will I stop blogging? No (but I might consider dusting off some old blogs to revise and repost).

Writing, when you're serious about it, is a full-time, multi-faceted job. Luckily, most of its facets are things I like to do, even if I can't always fit them all into a 24-hour period. While there's something freeing about admitting that there's a reason I feel overbooked, that doesn't solve the problem.

But hey. Writers are nothing if not creative.

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