Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing and Time Management--They Can Be Friends

I'm very fortunate. My full time job is that of a teacher--and not just any kind of teacher. I get to teach elementary Theatre Arts. It's a position that is full of fun, always gets the creativity flowing, and allows me to work with children. I'm blessed that I see all of the 700 students at my school in grades K-5, and that I have a chance to share with them a subject area that I really love.

It's also exhausting, full of behavior problems, and, in some circles, it is a job that goes largely unappreciated. Theatre is something you can't always hold in your hand and show to another person. It's not a worksheet or a test. It can be difficult to explain the purpose of everything you do while engaged in it. Unfortunately, that makes it seem less tangible to other teachers who believe if you can touch it and feel it, then it must be good. There is a certain view that what I do is unimportant and because I don't have to record grades or deal with tons of paperwork, my job has no real value.

It's a frustrating viewpoint, but after twelve years of hearing those snide remarks, I've learned to deal with it--for the most part. Mostly, when I hear those things, it makes me realize that the other person is really unhappy with what they are doing and think you should be unhappy, too. That's just sad.

But no matter how you view it, teaching Theatre is a full time job with its ups and downs like any other job. I'm often asked how I manage to work and crank out novels. Surely, I must be writing stories on my downtime in my classroom? How else could I possibly have the time to write?

 Well, it's called time management.

If you are serious about writing or do any freelance work, then you already know where I'm going with this. In order to be a writer who can get things done and still balance a full time job and a family, you have to manage your time. You have to set a writing schedule that works for you, your family, allows you to get other things done, and also have some fun.

Then you have to stick to it.

It's taken me about six years to figure out how to make it work for me. There's been lots of trial and error along the way. At first, I would get up about four in the morning and spend two hours writing before getting my daughter up and heading to work. Then I would write in the evening for several hours, too.

That sucked. After a full day of kids--some with behavior issues--exhaustion would catch up to me and the writing would not be anywhere near quality. I also wasn't able to really spend time with my family in the evenings.

So I dropped the early morning thing and just worked evenings and some weekends. That was better, but I continued to run into the same problem of being too tired after a work day. At that point, I'd also started to make connections with freelance clients and was starting to get paid to write articles, blog pieces, short stories, etc.

Juggling all of that is a little tough when you're worn out.

As the freelance side of my life started taking off, I realized I needed to look at it as more of a business and set up some rules for myself. I decided to only work on writing Saturday-Tuesday. The other days were off days where my brain could recharge. I set aside specific hours on Saturday and Sunday where I could get the bulk of my work done and then used Monday and Tuesday as "tweaking" days.

That schedule has made a world of difference! I can enjoy my full time job as a teacher, spend time with my family, and still get the writing for pleasure and business done.

It does take discipline. Not to mention drive and determination. However, if you want something bad enough, you'll do what you have to in order to make it happen. It's a commitment and I try to stick to it no matter what. Sure, I have days where things don't get done, and I sometimes have to shift things around in order to meet my obligations.

I never write at work--not even in my off time. Yes, I do check email or my blog stats. What can I say? It's a weakness, I know. But no writing. Daytime work is about theatre and kids. Nighttime is for writing.

If you are struggling with balancing your day job with your writing world, start looking at ways to manage your time better. It might mean having to give up something or asking your spouse for help with the kids, but if writing is something you want to embrace, you can only do that by making time for it.


  1. Hang in there, girlfriend! Teaching the arts is SO important and I wish everyone knew that. What a poor world it would be without music, drama, visual art, dance, and creative writing!

  2. You teach students creativity during the day and model it for them at night. Even if they don't understand that now, one day they will, and it'll make a difference. Lucky kids.

  3. You're appreciated around here! On a regular basis I hear how much both my kids love theater arts. Emily tells me all the time you're her favorite teacher. One day when she takes all her drama out of the house and onto the stage I'll thank you.

  4. Honestly, theatre isn't important. Math and science, now that's important. That's how we have built our technologically advanced society that is so wonderful to live in. Math and science. Skyscrapers, nuclear power plants, and jetliners don't require theater or the arts. Public money shouldn't be spent that way. People should be little cogs that fit into the machine of society to churn out better products more cheaply. When the Earth is just one huge, clean, green, industrial machine churning out products to make our non-existent lives more comfortable then we'll have really have it good. I can't wait.

    -John (the DOD rocket scientist turned social-science-fiction author.)

    "When storytelling goes bad, the result is decadence." - Aristotle.

    P.S. My wife says my irony sometimes goes missed by those who don't know me.

  5. Thanks for all the comments! John, you so crazy! I get the irony....