That’s right. The title of this blog is straight-up laughter because, if you’re a parent with kids, whether one or two, whether they’re 15 months or 15 years, you know darn well that there IS no schedule when it comes to kids. I mean, if you send your kids to school or daycare or some other similar type of structure, sure those places put a schedule on the kids but when it comes to you, the parent, kids pretty much laugh at this schedule-idea-thing.
And after laughing, they turn and give you a mischievous grin right before your 15-month dives his hand into the trashcan and then you’re sweeping up coffee grinds and potato peels with one hand, and with the other, trying to keep the kid from eating said grinds.
And that’s pretty much what kids do to schedules.
It’s like you’re finally ready to head out the door and someone decides at that moment they need to use the bathroom. Or, they already did and you just got a whiff of the diaper.
This is my life circumstance right now. Yours will be different (especially if you have a 15-year-old… yours will be much different than mine). And within the chaos (because it sometimes feels that way), I’m still pursuing my writing.
And this illusive idea called a schedule.
You see, I know… straight-up-know, that having a schedule is powerful. Powerful when it comes to being productive. It gets you to the chair or easel or whatever it is that you’re pursing. It’s like that extra push when it’s the last thing in the world you feel like doing… but you have a schedule and it’s easy to follow that schedule. Like, it takes a huge piece of the distractions away and following the routine doesn’t require the same amount of dedication and willpower that flying-off-the-cuff can require.
It sounds great. I want one…
Except, again, see life circumstances.
For the past year I’ve been struggling with The Schedule. Struggling because life throws one curveball after another. Struggling because even though my writing makes me a better mother, there were times when I couldn’t write. When I was worried and fearful of Kate and her speech. When Eric decided that me sleeping was a silly idea and proceeded to wake up six times. Every night. For six months.
But I kept going and kept taking a crack at this schedule thing and I finally, finally feel that I’m on the right track. The really funny (ironic?) thing is it doesn’t look like much of a schedule at all. In fact, the ‘schedule’ is this flexible, moving, living thing and it follows one goal, one goal:
Every day. For at least 15 minutes.
It doesn’t matter how tired I feel. It doesn’t matter how much I *don’t* want to do it.
The husband knows this too. He knows how important the writing is. He knows how much better I feel and – this is important here – he knows he needs to help when life circumstances (AKA kids) don’t allow the writing to fit snuggly into my schedule.
My goal is to wake up at 4:30 in the morning, just enough time to drag myself out of bed, make some coffee and get in an hour of writing before the house starts waking up.
That’s the ideal, perfect world.
Some days this totally happens and I’m seriously ready to run a marathon. That time I have to write, recharges my batteries. My energy is clear and shining. I’ve gotten in the alone time I personally need to function.
Of course, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect world when you have kids.
There are days (like today) when even if I’d gotten up at 4:30, the kids wouldn’t have let me write. (Which is when the husband steps in… he takes them for an hour before going to work and I lock myself in the office. Or, if an hour isn’t possible, it’s 30 minutes. Or 10.)
But the very, very important part is that I write.
That is the only piece of The Schedule that must happen. I write. With no kids around. Which is critical (for me) and I’ll explain. I’ve been slowly reading through a book by Jerry Mundis, Break Writer’s Block Now!, and something he wrote really struck me. It had to do with affirmations and changing your focus from the negative to the positive. But it was one affirmation, which I then immediately changed the words to reflect my life and my issue:
It’s safe for me to write.
This was my issue. This is what I’d been struggling with for a year. It felt like every time I’d sit down to write or even read stories… I’d get interrupted. I’d have to turn off the story in my brain and be mom. It never mattered what I wanted; I needed to be mom. The more this happened, the harder and harder it was for me to let go and just dive into a story. It became harder and harder to see my characters and where they wanted to take me next.
My subconscious just… shut down that part of my brain. Shut off the part that was trying to tell a story. It was no longer safe.
That’s when I realized so much of my struggle with writing and telling a story had to do with my subconscious and this constant focus on my kids and our home. But… I still felt the urge and need to tell stories. It was there… but I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) give my subconscious the time it needed to tell those stories. It’d start writing again and putting aside that time, but then life got in the way and the writing, the safety to tell a story, went away again.
And the story stalled.
Even if I kept typing new words the story wasn’t right because I couldn’t go deep enough to myself where those stories lived.
But I keep at it. I keep putting in the time, keep making even those fifteen minutes as a priority… and you know what? The stories are coming back. And even more than that… my schedule, while fluid, really does exist.
I spent several hours this week thinking about productivity, thinking about my goals, and The Schedule. I listened to others on podcasts who talked about using the calendar or following David Allen’s, Getting Things Done (which I’m ordering as soon as I write this blog)… and I realized I can do this. But only if I work at it, only if I prioritize the time that have, and when I have it (because that part there isn’t always in my control). I’m reorganizing my morning routines. I’m saying no to play dates or events that are in the morning, when I’m most productive and focused (unless they’re what I call ‘field trips’ and require an early morning/most of day outing… and I’ve got one or two days set aside for that).
I realized that even me, with my two kids, can have a schedule.
And if I wake up early to get the writing in, and Kate (and Eric too) wakes up before any child or other human should… that’s okay. I have another ‘work block’ I can get the writing in (when Daddy’s watching the kids). Or, when Eric’s napping (electronic devices can be real lifesavers when entertaining 3-year-olds). And worst case? I muster up that fifteen minutes when the kids are in bed and I’ve kissed Daddy on the cheek as he walks in the door, and I hit the computer.
But… all the opportunities are there. In a schedule. I can hardly believe it.
It’s a schedule that works for me, in my life, in this ‘season’ that our family’s in. It’s flexible, because that’s what I need. And already I’m feeling lighter and more in control. I have time too to fit in projects from re-designing my other poor outdated websites and publishing research, to paying bills or making the weekly run to our farmers market. I even know the best time to make the phone calls to friends, who I’ve been neglecting because it just wasn’t ‘the right time to call.’
And the really, really cool part?
The story that I’ve been writing away at, redrafting and restarting since the start of the new year, is finally nearing the end. It’s taken way, way longer than it should have… but I’m also recognizing this just might be my process for this particular world I’m playing in. But hey, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s only, only because I gave my subconscious this time, to help the writing feel safe again.
Safe enough to tell a story.
And it’s this schedule, as flexible and fluid as it is, that’s giving me the chance – and opportunities – to make the writing happen. Not all days will be perfect… I mean, I just spent a two nights camping in a trailer with my little ones, two grandparents, and a dog… let’s just say that the kids and I were lucky, lucky, to get 4 hours of good, solid sleep.
But, I got in the writing in. It wasn’t much that first day, only eleven minutes, but I felt that little dip as my subconscious went down and touched the story-part of me. And the next day? Well, I’d gotten better sleep and just stayed up… after Eric woke me at 3:46 in the morning. But it worked. We even drove back the 3 hours that day, and I still managed to get the writing in… a full hour of it too!!
Hot damn, does that feel good.
It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling and that feeling is carrying over to the other, very important part of my life:
But finding a schedule that fits you, that fits your family and this season that you’re in… if you’ve got young ones that require a lot of attention and care, or older ones who need less of you, or heck, even moved on out of the house… finding a schedule really is key. It’s going to take some adjustments and trial and errors… actually, a lot of those… but every time you’ll get closer. You’ll start pinging on what works and what doesn’t, and somehow, if you keep at it and keep moving forward, you’ll find what works.
Because even us, parent-writers, yes, even we can have a schedule.
Who knew, right?