I’m pretty sure my parents thought I was doing homework most evenings when I sat on my top bunk, face in book or notebook. I think. If they were on to my daily charade, they never said anything about it.
As a teen, I often procrastinated on my homework, plunging headfirst into a historical fiction novel or crafting adventures with my wretched handwriting. There was something so exciting and irresistible about reading and writing that I struggled to close my novel or prioritize my upcoming history test over my latest story.
I miss those days. Not that I would encourage kids to procrastinate the way I did. I just miss the fact that I encountered fewer obstacles to the good books and uninterrupted writing of my youth.
Even as I write this blog, I feel the tug of the many responsibilities associated with being an instructional designer and education professor for CSU Global. Our classes operate on 8-week schedules, and our curriculum projects are allotted 10 weeks for completion. Life shouldn’t be that complicated without children, right? If only that were true. If only nobody expected me to be pianist or chapter secretary or scholarship committee chair.
These days one of my greatest distractions is my health. At a glance, I look fine. But watch me try to find something that I can actually eat on a restaurant menu, and you might detect that something isn’t quite right. You see, last spring I learned that I have endometriosis. In a way, I can’t complain. My pain was not bad enough for me to realize anything was wrong. In fact, I thought my pain was normal until my husband and I went through a loss, secondary infertility, and another early loss. For a number of months, I found myself distracted by an unpaid surgery bill, and while the anxiety would subside for weeks at a time, a periodic letter or bill would remind me of the tenuous state of this rather daunting medical bill, sending me into panic mode, often for days at a time.
I have to remind myself that life is equally distracting for much of humanity, and the truth is that I have been blessed with a wonderful life, even if it feels a bit chaotic to me at times.
So what do I do amidst the chaos? How do I find that space I had as a teenager to read and write? After all, I genuinely believe that writing is a calling.
While I’m not an expert, I’ve begun to realize a few things that are helping me to make gradual (very gradual) progress.
- I need to identify the distractions and tackle them head on. Sometimes this means working rather intensely on a task that needs to be completed because of a hard and fast deadline. In other cases, it means finding ways to calm myself down when I feel anxiety or stress starting to disrupt my productivity. Taking a walk, making a phone call, or watching an episode of Castle are a few of my own tricks, though you know best what works for you.
- I need to set goals. My critique groups have been instrumental in this regard, as I know I need to bring something to share, and I don’t want to be embarrassed or miss out on the opportunity to improve my writing and grow as a writer. I’ve also tried entering a couple of contests and submitting an article to a magazine for consideration. And of course the blog pushes me to write on a weekly basis.
- I need a support group. My critique groups are a valuable part of this, as they offer constructive support, but my family and friends are also important, as they love me and care about my dreams of writing for children and youth. (Thank you!!)
- I need to be organized. This is a tough one for me. Although I have some weird OCD tendencies, such as my bedtime routine or my need to have Chapstick on hand at all times, I am not a linear thinker. Not in the slightest. Ugh. But somehow, I have scatter-brained my way through several college degrees and a dissertation. Talk about defying nature! This gives me hope as I stare at the chunks of writing that I hope to grow into a novel. While I was able to use a simple plot triangle to develop an early draft of my chapter book, I am experimenting with notecards and a historical timeline to begin organizing my historical fiction YA novel. My goal is to create something that will allow me to transfer these chunks into Scrivener in a sequence that will not make history buffs cringe.
I have to chuckle as I look over these lessons. Here they are, written out for the world to see. No more excuses for me! Happy reading and writing, all!