Writing Wednesday: Making hard choices about priorities

Wow, this week is so turning out to be zero steps forward and five steps backwards. What happened to my relatively content child who, when sleepy, was usually happy to be placed in his crib with his stuffed rabbit? Who is this little being who refuses to be put down, who wants to be walked and sung to sleep instead? Who wakes up jumpy ten minutes into a nap? Who stays awake long past his bedtime and seems perpetually hungry? And why did his father decide that this was the perfect week to take a two-day trip up to remote villages in the north??

It’s Wednesday though, so here goes with a few thoughts about the process of writing my other baby – the book – while baby number one squeaks, mumbles, and sighs his way through what will hopefully be at least a 45 minute nap.

When I started writing the memoir more than three years ago, I had a choice to make. I could continue as I had been – working full time as Director of Training for the Headington Institute and writing only on planes, in the evenings, and on the weekend – or I could make a change that would allow me to more evenly balance my passion for my job, my passion for writing, and my burgeoning relationship with Mike.

In the end I decided to take the leap and drop down to working only four days a week at the Institute.

I took a 20% pay cut to be able to claim Fridays as my own every week, but it turned out to be worth every penny that I didn’t earn. Being able to invest at least one full day a week in my writing meant that I made progress on the book without stealing too much time from Mike. It also meant that I was happier to show up at the office, 100% focused, Monday through Thursday.

I have never regretted this decision, despite the fact that I haven’t yet made a cent on this book and possibly never will. I was an all-around happier person during the two years this system was in place, and how do you put a price tag on that?

Now, of course, things have changed. We live in Laos. I’m not juggling a full time day job and a life-job (for I suspect that’s what writing is for me, a good old-fashioned vocation). I am, however, juggling that vocation, a baby, and consulting work. Not to mention a marriage. Oh, and friends. I am coming to suspect that finding time to devote to writing will always be an exercise in making some tough choices about what to prioritize.

One tough choice I face daily at the moment is usually whether I should sacrifice some extra sleep to spend these quiet windows of baby-nap-time with my laptop. Another one is whether I should say yes to consulting work that would mean that even those nap times would need to be invested elsewhere.

What about you? How do you prioritize your writing? How do you make and guard the time to create? How do you defend that to yourself even if it doesn’t seem to make financial sense?  

Want to read more about making tough choices around priorities and creating the life you want to lead? Head on over to Alexis Grant’s excellent blog. And, finally, here’s the quote of the week:

One hasn’t become a writer until one has distilled writing into a habit, and that habit has been forced into an obsession. Writing has to be an obsession. It has to be something as organic, physiological and psychological as speaking or sleeping or eating.
(Niyi Osundare)

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4 responses to “Writing Wednesday: Making hard choices about priorities

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Lisa 🙂 You’re an awesome juggler! What I think is interesting about this is that what we’re juggling is constantly changing. Right now, I’m thinking I want exercise to be a priority… and how do I get there? I’m repositioning daily.

    • It’s so true – having a balanced life is not a static thing, it’s trying to balance while you’re in forward motion and that means constant repositioning at some level. Hope this week’s gone well.

  2. It became much easier for me to have regular writing time after I became a mom. There was no more procrastinating — I wrote almost every moment when it was possible. Which wasn’t a lot so I was more likely to grab it. As far as justifying it to myself — well, I’m still working on that. 😉

    • Yeah, I think it’s going to help my focus too. It has so far. Though I have to wonder whether there’s not a trade off because the sleep deprivation means that even when I’m trying hard to work I’m just not getting as much done, nor as good a quality.

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