It’s been quite some time since I made the move to having dedicated writing space in my house, a whole room that became my writing studio. There’s a large computer screen that allows me to edit two documents side-by-side with ease, high-speed internet, a door I can close, and a window I can open. How lucky is that?
But things have a way of knocking on that closed door, nudging it open. A ride for my daughter to a job interview? Sure. Breakfast with my son? Yup. Coffee with a friend? Of course. Scheduling house maintenance? Well, that has to be done. The office door gets opened a little wider. I rationalized that, as a writer, I had flexibility. I could work whenever I needed to, weave in the other things that are just part of life, do laundry between drafts. Add on co-editing a journal, justified as working in my field and doing good for other writers. The journal took off, that work expanded into more of my writing space.
And then, one day, I realized it was months since I submitted my own work. It was months since I generated writing that had nothing to do with anyone else’s projects. And my mornings, my best work time, were packed with everything but my own writing. Even the dog got in on it, shoving her nose against my leg to take her outside every hour on the hour.
It was time to get tough – with myself, with my boundaries. Time to remind myself that I am a writer first, just like my husband is a professor and my friends are nurses, technical writers, medical receptionists, public health workers. Time to answer requests for coffee dates with, “afternoons are what works for me”. Time to leave my phone in another room when I write, notifications silenced. Time to leave email till later in the day.
And that’s exactly what I’ve done. The past month has been a reclamation of the importance of my own work. Of letting my voicemail do its job. Of realizing that not every single text has to be answered immediately. Of ignoring Facebook much of the time. Of enjoying my morning coffee while starting a new piece of work.
As someone who was raised to be polite and to respond to people as soon as possible, not responding to messages immediately has been the hardest thing for me to do. Why do we think it’s impolite to ask people to wait when they pop into our lives at any given moment? Why would I think that my time is not as important as anyone else’s? It is.
The lesson here is that, as writers, as artists, as anyone who lives a creative life, our work time matters more than random requests from others, unless it’s a matter of life and death. Everyone is part of a community, yes, and that community generally respects everyone’s work hours – when they have a specific job to go to in a recognizable work space. For creatives, it’s a little trickier when our work spaces look like home, when our work looks like fun or like something unnecessary (i.e., we aren’t suturing wounds or fixing the plugged sink), when our lack of a boss telling us what time to show up looks like freedom. All of us who do this kind of work have heard this a lot – and we still need to look at how we’re using our time every once in a while and assess whether we’re getting what we need.
I’ve reclaimed my weekday mornings as my inviolate work time with no regrets, without apology. It might mean a little less of some other things, and that’s okay. I’m not nearly as frustrated or crabby as I was a month ago, only disappointed that I didn’t do this a whole lot sooner. I’ve generated more new work than I have for a couple of years – a profound realization and stark illustration of how insidious other claims on my time have been.
Keep hold of your creative time. It’s not going to come looking for you if you step out to do something else. Honor it with its own room and show up regularly if this is your chosen path. And keep everyone else’s hands off of it. They’ll understand eventually.
In Case You Were Wondering
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