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Division of labor

One of the challenges of writing, at least for me, is how to divide my time, my attention, and my energy. Holding down a job as an elementary school teacher (and finding it difficult to imagine ever giving up this job), my time spent writing is limited. Oftentimes, several aspects of my writing career pull me from opposite directions, and as a result, I can end up feeling guilty and frustrated over some neglected element of my work.

Take this past week for example.

I’m currently working on my second novel. A couple of months ago I sent the first half of the book to my agent in order to solicit her impressions of my progress so far, and she responded with five or six pages of notes. Suggestions for revisions, for the most part, with just enough praise to keep me going.

She really knows what she’s doing when it comes to this stuff.

Initially, I decided to put these notes aside, finish the book, and then go back and revise.  But as I plodded forward, I realized that some of Taryn’s suggestions might impact the decisions that I was about to make in terms of plot and character. I was also anxious to begin applying some of her suggestions to the text (I enjoy the revision process a great deal), so without much thought, I began dedicating a little time each day to revising the manuscript from the beginning. And each day that little bit of time grew and grew.

At the same time, I continued my work on the latest chapter, finding the progress that I was making exciting and fun. Whenever things are moving along smoothly, I hate to stop writing for fear that I may prematurely sputter out. Before long, I found myself working on the manuscript from both ends, jumping back and forth like a jack rabbit, revising one minute and writing new content the next. I wondered if it was a good idea to be revising the first half of the book while advancing the second half of the story, but both the writing and the revision process held too much of an allure for me to quit.

At this time, I was also supposed to be proofreading the latest version of Something Missing, which had arrived a couple of weeks earlier from my editor. While this was probably the most important of my current tasks, I allowed it to linger a bit, assuming that I could just breeze through proofreading in a night or two. Late last week, I attempted to execute this plan but discovered that there were edits to be made on every third page or so, necessitating a slower and more careful read on my part. It’s now four days later, and I’m still not done, and this evening I was forced to email my editor and warn her that the manuscript might be a day or two late in arriving.

But every minute that I spend reading Something Missing is a minute spent away from the new manuscript, which is still clamoring for attention at both ends.

What’s a writer to do?

And these are not my only projects at the moment. There is this blog, of course, which I would like to write for every day if I had time, as well as a blog where I write to my unborn child every day. Then there is the Op-Ed piece on my refusal to wear a necktie ever again just waiting to be finished and a couple more that should’ve been started already. And if I really had some time, I have a couple of children’s books that I could be wrapping up as well as a poetry contest that I had hopes of entering.

As I said, it’s difficult finding ways to divide my time among my many writing interests.

Fortunately, I have a solution that I have always been able to fall back on in times like these:

Sleep less.

It’s not always easy, but it helps.