They say if you need something done, give it to a busy person.
There are, I think, two types of “busy person”. One is the type who makes sure they stay busy; they always have three things on the go, they move around a lot during the day, they have a house covered in post-its and five DIY tasks to do this weekend and a bunch of social activities on the calendar. You ask them to do something, and they’ll effortlessly slot it into their day, and get it done within the week.
The other type goes days without showering because it seems like a waste of time to do anything except the One Big Thing on their to-do list. Everything that isn’t immediate and essential goes in the “I don’t have the time” basket, and if they actually do things in said basket they feel guilty about it the whole time because there are more important things looming in their brain. Everything else just feels like procrastination.
I, if you hadn’t guessed, am the second type. I fixate on one task, do it 12 hours a day, and when it’s finished I drink gin and play video games to celebrate my freedom. Sometimes there’s something invigorating about the fixation; I like pouring everything into a project, feeling like my brain is on fire. But when the task is done, I slack off; after all, I did the task – I earned that slacking-off time.
So it’s been hard for me to make room in my head for writing as well as postgrad. The thing is, when I do manage to add a few hundred words to The Monstrosity, or bang out the draft of a poem, or even make a submission (I know, right? wow) then I feel great. I feel successful. I’m managing to do more than one important thing, make progress towards more than one major goal. Here I am, doing Writer Stuff at the end of a busy day like a Real Person who Achieves Things.
But most of the time, I don’t manage to do those things, and that feels less great. I’m neglecting my blog, my writing, and my goals.
At the beginning of the year, I looked at my budget and thought “wow, I really need to make some money this year”. I have a lot of family support, which is an amazing privilege, and government student loans for living costs, but going further and further into debt every week isn’t my idea of a good time. But back in February, I thought “actually, this is good. This will be motivation. I’ll hussle my arse off and make enough money writing every week to cover the cost of my commute at least. How hard could it be?”
Turns out: pretty hard. I feel like I spend all my time reading. No, I mean school reading, not leisure reading. There is always more to read, if not for seminars then for essays or my dissertation. I haven’t slept properly in months and I am exhausted. And exercise? What exercise? I manage to fit in about one workout a week. If I find myself with time at the end of the day I just want to relax and do something easy, like watch planner videos on YouTube or play Dragon Age or something.
How do other writers juggle study and writing? When do they make this time to write? Even commuting I’m usually either doing readings or I’m half-asleep. And I’m suffering for it. I need to write poetry. The lack of it is wearing me down.
This Monday, I handed in the final essay of the semester. There is still a lot of work to do over the winter break, but I think most of the Honours cohort just plans to sleep for the next week and honestly, I’m with them. But part of me hopes I can get my shit together enough over the next few weeks to make a real dent in some blog drafts, write a few poems, send them off to a few magazines. I’m still sure I can do this… I just need to plan my time better and then stick to that plan.
Wish me luck.