The Bee in My Bonnet

Freelance writing. Blog writing. Novel writing. Oh my.

For those of you wearing more than one writing hat, how in the hell do you manage?

I’ve been thinking – obsessing, really – a lot this summer about this question, alternating between dogged optimism that I will find space in my brain and in my schedule for all of my writing to thrive, and despair that I will never achieve a rhythm that allows me to devote sufficient attention to more than one area at a time.

My three-headed hydra of a problem, which I’ve chronicled before:

  • I’m scared of diving in as deep as I need to in order to succeed.
  • I am not nearly as strict with my available time as I need to be.
  • I don’t know how to define success.

Is success obtaining more freelance work in the corporate space, which would pay more bills? Or finding outlets for more personal essays, which won’t pay for much but would potentially provide platforms – other than my blog – to write about the subjects that most interest me?  Or is success about getting back to weekly blogging? Or making progress on my novel? Is success all of those things and if so, how do I prioritize? And if it’s all of those things, am I spreading myself too thin? Or do I aim for incremental progress over the course of a few months in one or two areas?

Oy. I’ve exhausted myself just typing that paragraph.

Cayuga 2
Just breathe!

The good news is that with about four months left to go in 2015, I have already earned about the same amount of money freelancing this year than I did during all of last year. Mind you, the total is still extremely modest. I’m not yet earning a living from the work, but at least my income is heading in the right direction. To maintain momentum, I know exactly what I need to do. I must be proactive about seeking new remunerated projects. I also need to determine how much additional money I need to earn to lessen my anxiety about our family’s finances. Yet I’m in a privileged position because money isn’t my only consideration.

The trouble is deciding how proactive I should be in pursuing new clients, given the difficulties I’ve had focusing on my personal writing. As the paid work has picked up, I have not maintained my weekly blogging schedule. Over the past several months, I have posted new content approximately every two weeks, causing me more than a little consternation. I love my blog and blogging should be an enjoyable practice for me, not a source of stress.

And let’s not even talk about my YA “novel.” In quotes because said work of fiction is more like a long series of stream of consciousness ramblings than a coherent, engaging narrative. I haven’t looked at it in more than a year.

So what’s a flummoxed, finding-her-way writer to do?

I do know that I can’t ignore my family. Well, I can (and some days I’d really, really love to), but that would result in all sorts of bad karma I’m not willing to seriously contemplate. When school starts in a few weeks, I will have approximately 5.5 hours per day, five days a week to get shit done. I know I should devote most of those hours to my writing. The challenge is in the organization. If I were a night owl or a rooster, I’d commit to a few additional hours per day, but I’m not, so I won’t. If I can occasionally manage to squeeze in a few extra hours, I’ll consider it bonus time.

I’ve resolved that between now and the girls’ first day back to school on September 8, I will create a realistic schedule that allows and encourages me to spend time working on all three branches of my writing tree – freelancing, blogging and novel writing – on a weekly basis.  Things to keep in mind:

  • I’ve learned the hard way that blocking out vague “writing” time in my calendar is not enough.
  • I will need to refrain from getting sucked into the social media vortex during my dedicated writing hours.
  • I will need to allot time – separate and apart from my writing time – to promote my blog on social media and pursue new freelance work.


Fellow writers, what tips and tools do you recommend for juggling the different aspects of your writing lives and how have you managed your time to fit everything in?

27 thoughts on “The Bee in My Bonnet”

  1. Good luck! Six years into the freelancing / trying-to-write-my-own-book thing and I’m still struggling with my schedule. I think the problem is I need 20 hour days. Or less sleep. But my body won’t let me do the latter.

    1. Heather – I so hear you. As much as I don’t miss the structure and constraints of an office job, there’s something to be said for NOT having flexibility! I need to be more disciplined and I do not work well if I don’t sleep well…Good luck with your own writing endeavors – I hope to hear about your completed novel one day!

  2. Good luck! My balance tilts and crashes every few days. For me, when I’m working on a book, I need to concentrate on that about three hours a day or I can’t keep the momentum going. I can’t work on books and short stories at the same time (though I have friends who can bounce back and forth between projects), so I let myself write a predetermined–in my head–amount of scenes or chapters, then I can take a break to write a short story (and I dole out how many days I can use for that) before going back to the book. But everyone’s different. Hope you find your groove.

    1. Thanks so much, Judith. I can relate to the image of tilting and crashing – and like you, I prefer to focus on one project before turning to another, but I don’t always succeed. Good luck with your writing!

  3. I think the problem is that unless you’re like the writer friends of mine who do one book (or more) a year per contract, you cannot have a regular life with regular income and regular work schedules. I’ve had years where I was reviewing for half a dozen newspapers and magazines and doing radio and trying to publish books, and then years with no review work and years working on three books. Most writers’ lives change radically from year to year unless they have a regular publisher and do a series. Now that I’ve been invited to teach as a guest at Michigan State University and can share everything I’ve learned in the past few decades, my writing schedule (hah!) has changed once again. I embrace the change. Life is impermanence. Writers plans and the Muses laugh…… That’s why I love blogging for The Huffington Post or my own blog. I can work that in wherever, like the other night when a skunk must have gotten a cat at 4AM somewhere in our neighborhood and the stench and screeching were unbelievable…..

    1. I think you’re right, Lev. In addition to getting into a rhythm – which I desperately need for my own sanity – I also need to embrace those opportunities to write that are NOT planned (we had neighborhood skunk visit last night around 11 pm and it was pretty awful – unlike you, it did not inspire me to write, however!). Best of luck w/ the teaching gig – it sounds like fun! What’s the topic of your class?

      1. This semester I’m teaching two fierce social critics who have a strong connection and more in common than people realize: Sinclair Lewis and Edith Wharton. Both have seen their reputations decline drastically since their deaths. I’ve also taught creative writing, Jewish-American Literature, and Crime Fiction. But as for rhythms, you’ll eventually find it or it will find you. I’ve been publishing for 30+ years, and it all came together slowly.

  4. I think we all struggle with this, thanks for putting it out there so we know we’re not alone! You hit the nail on the head too about social media being a time suck! I’ve been working on scheduling that time as well because otherwise it can become neverending!

    1. Hi there – it’s such a time suck, isn’t it? Just today, I had to make a very conscious effort to ignore FB and Twitter in order to get a couple of hours of freelance work in – and had to remind myself about three times to keep away from it. It worked…this time, but constant mental reminders are not a recipe for long-term success! Good luck with your own efforts – I hope you get to where you want to be.

  5. Couldn’t help but notice that 2 out of the 3 things on your “to do” list mention social media. Just saying. It’s brutal. This whole balancing act is brutal. Family, writing, social media, blogging… O_o

    1. Blogging is easy compared to journalism. Seriously. When I wrote for a handful of newspapers, I was constantly reading and on deadline and coping with editors. Blogging is a snap compared to that. And much easier than doing a regular radio show (and less stressful!) which has also been part of my career.

      But I think everyone who writes and has family also needs something in their life that isn’t either one of those things, something that gives them joy, whether you call it a hobby or not. I take voice lessons and they are a godsend. That half hour a week, plus whatever time I practice at home, is a zone of pure delight and fun. Something I hope never to write about, either. 🙂

    2. Yes, Sarah – it’s pretty ridiculous, actually – especially the speed with which the social media has caught up to me. Honestly, it’s certainly part of my problem – I’ve recently done a much better job limiting it during vacations and on weekends, and no longer feel like I’m “missing out” when I’m absent from the web. Baby steps in the right direction!

  6. First off, thanks for making time for me on Twitter. Next, let me point out you are young and energetic and passionate about your creativity and your family. These traits will take you far. Further, there’s a famous saying about giving tasks to busy people … And last, the one you don’t want to hear and I don’t blame you: Life is a series of choices and priorities, but with balance anything is possible. May you get there and have a sweet time doing so. 😀

  7. I agree with Jann – your energy and passion will drive your creativity to find a solution and a form of balance that works uniquely for you. I’ll add that we do tend to worry about ‘missed opportunities’, trying to insure were are there for all of them. If we miss an opportunity, and it was something that was meant to be, it will come again. Enjoy the journey. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Kate. When I was a little kid I always had to be in the room lest I miss something important (or off-limits) the adults were saying. As much as I’ve mellowed over the ensuing decades, there’s still a piece of me that hates missing out – and I consciously have to beat back that little voice in my head…

  8. I also do freelance writing and editing and even social media. I have been sending my novel out this summer (have been working on it slowly since the dawn of time) so now it’s the waiting game. But for me, I find I’m happier when I make good use of my morning time, which means I have to get to bed early. Never easy! Plus there’s laundry lol. Mine has been sitting in the washer for two days. Thanks for writing on this topic!!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Amy. I used to be like you – intent on making good use of the mornings. My ability to do so, however, has been limited by my kids and our dog – too much to do for them in the early hours of the day! I’ve been known to let the laundry slide, too – there are simply not enough hours in the day. Best of luck with your novel – I hope you find a home for it!

      1. I think I made myself sound too wonderful lol. I probably should’ve added that life was much easier this summer — I didn’t have to drive the kids to school so the mornings were mine. But now that Sept is arriving… It’s never easy! 😉

        1. Ha! I find it very easy to come up with all sorts of lame excuses to procrastinate – even when it comes to writing, which I love. Indeed the start of school will make it easier to attempt a schedule – I’m looking forward to it!

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