What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Prompt Author: Leo Babauta)
My first thought when I read this was infanticide. After all, eliminate is rather a strong word. But Jake is the sweet fruit of my loins and without him, well, I wouldn’t have a little pixie to make me laugh every day and shout things at me like “Gubbins!” and “It’s NOT funny Mummy”. I am a full-time stay at home mother by choice after all. He has two short mornings a week at nursery but otherwise, being a mother is what I do each day. I want to be a mother, but I am also a writer – in the sense that I not only want to write but need to write or else.
And I am actually writing more now, as a full-time mother, than I ever have at any time in my life. Unexpectedly, having the added pressure of a real lack of time (it was only after becoming a parent that I realised how much time I actually used to have which I effectively squandered) has been the push I’ve needed to make me realise how essential writing is to me and to be
These days, I write blog posts, emails, diary entries, freewriting and other writing, inwardly referred to as my “real writing.” Not all in one day of course, not by a long shot. Sometimes weeks go by when I write nothing but the odd blog post or email (and facebook status updates – now that IS something I can eliminate, though I've just joined Twitter specifically for reverb10, something I've resisted for ages because I didn't need anything else from the interwebs to distract me), and I am always wishing that I could find some way to redress the balance. Participating in projects like this does help though.
So this is what I want to reflect on for this prompt.
Thinking in terms of elimination seems a bit negative. In some respects, anything can be seen as a contribution to my writing. Living contributes to it, though as someone who has been writing (and reading) for most of my life, I also know that for “living” to truly contribute to and inform my writing, I also need to actually write about it.
So here’s what I think I need to actively contribute to my writing & my writing process and how I think I can find a way of doing these things:
- Daily diary writing – capturing moments & details, reflecting on events while they are still immediate and fresh. Having a word limit helps both in terms of time and in terms of honing in on what is most essential or memorable about each day. I had been doing this in the form of daily 100 word diary entries. I only stopped fairly recently. I think it’s time to reinstate them but perhaps increase the word limit slightly to 250.
- Freewriting - I have Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones to remind me why this is important. This is also mentioned as morning pages in The Artist’s Way and by Dorothea Brande in her book On Becoming A Writer. Suffice it to say it’s a crucial part of the writing / creative process and one I have neglected for far too long.
- Collecting ideas – having a scrapbook / notebook to write ideas down, collect articles of interest, etc. I try to do this as and when I can. Sometimes, things just get forgotten.
- Reading – I do this as and when I can. Surprisingly, I’ve also managed to read a lot more than I was led to expect that parents with a toddler can.
My blog posts are written on the hoof whenever I can grab the time to do them. This usually means bits of time here and there throughout my day, when Jake will happily play by himself for a bit, or during his naps, if he actually decides to have one, or while my partner occupies him in the evenings.
I can write my daily diary entries in the same way.
But for freewriting (which I do by hand) and other writing, my “real writing”, I need alone time that I can rely on, when I know I won’t be interrupted. This is why I have done so little of this type of writing in comparison.
At the moment, I am managing to do this on the mornings that Jake’s at nursery, and sometimes at the weekend. Interruptions to this routine of sorts is difficult. If Jake misses a morning at nursery or we go away for the weekend (like we just have), I find it hard to get back on track again.
But this is a good opportunity for me to see where more time can be carved out of my day. I’ve often talked in the past of going out one evening a week specifically for writing. Recently I’ve been reluctant to do this because it gets cold and dark so early, but setting this habit up could help to alleviate a lot of the angst I feel about not writing enough.
I could also simply sleep less and stay up later than I usually would, once Jake has gone to bed. Even an hour one or two nights a week would be beneficial. I would have to work around my partner on this though, as the time after Jake goes to bed is the only time he gets to himself. It would also be the only time we’d have to spend alone together.
Another thing I can do is use my weekend time better. Most Saturdays, my partner takes Jake out for a few hours so I have a morning to myself before my afternoon yoga class. I have to admit that I squander this time. I potter about far too much, spend too much time on the internet and doing chores that can wait. This would be another opportunity to take myself out with my laptop so that I know I have a solid two hours, for example, to write before my yoga class.
Now all I need is someone to be accountable to, someone who’s gonna give me a hard time if I weasel my way out of doing it. Volunteers, anyone?
The other consideration, and it’s a big one, is my partner’s need for time too. He works full time then comes home in the evenings and takes on most of the childcare for the rest of the day. And he also does so at weekends. It is the only time he has with Jake, but he’s also doing it so I can have a break.
Since he’s also participating in reverb10, it will be interesting to see what he says.
(Yes, this is a long post. When I decided to take part in reverb10, I knew I wanted to reflect properly on each prompt, otherwise what’s the point. So there you have it. Thanks if you’ve gotten this far.)