Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Ticking Clock

About this time of year, my jaw starts to hurt. I know it's coming and I know what causes it but I can't really do anything about the aching pain that sometimes radiates into my neck.

It's caused by the imminent end of school and the arrival of garden season, which ratchets up my other job to almost full-time status. My jaw starts to ache because I'm grinding my teeth at the sense that I'm falling behind. Pages aren't getting written because I've got other commitments, other responsibilities that I must complete. And, with teenagers in the house--playing music, on the computer, watching TV, hell, just sitting in a room--it's harder to concentrate.

I can write anywhere. When the boys were younger, I'd take the laptop to the pool and soccer and baseball practice. Now, I take it with me to karate and bass lessons. But when my kids are in school all day, I have eight hours of uninterrupted silence that translates into pure writing bliss.

Then summer comes and I'm facing weekly deadlines for work along with self-imposed deadlines for my writing. Along with my aching jaw and sore neck. Why do I stress myself? Because if I don't, I won't attain my ultimate goal--writing fiction full time.

We're lucky that my husband has a full-time job but I need to work. Just as we depend on my garden writing income, we also depend on my royalty checks from EC. But writing isn't just a job for me. I love to write. If I haven't written a few pages, thought about writing, edited my own or someone else's work or read a book, my day isn't complete.

But I'm also Mom. My guys will be going to college in a few short years, leaving home and living their own lives. Contrary to what they may think, I dread that day. I love how they come home from school and head for my office to tell me about their day. I love going to concerts with them, watching karate practice, listening to bass lessons, taking them to movies and watching our favorite shows on TV.

I try not to wish the summer away but when I leave the house at 8:30 a.m. to see two or three gardens, return for a few hours to make phone calls, do interviews and write features, shuttle to karate or bass lesssons and maybe see another garden that night, those blessedly quiet eight hours during the school day seem like Nirvana.

So, I will do what I do every year. I put my head down and bulldoze my way through. I get really good at budgeting time during the summer, something I don't do well any other time of the year. I learn to shut out the noise, the chatter and the music. I learn to take a few minutes from my schedule to talk to my kids then reimmerse myself in my work. My days become a race against a ticking clock.

Some days I win. I get my pages written, see a few gardens, write a feature, do an interview and manage to make dinner, all before karate. Some days...well, some days, there's no pages or no dinner. Some days, there's none of either.

But I probably did get to stop and smell the flowers.


Carla said...

Great post, Steph! I know what you mean. I work full time but in the summer, I work longer hours because my guys are in camp 'til 5 instead of home from school at 3. There's still dinner, laundry, and cleaning to get done, but they start later than during the school year. Something has to give, and usually it's the writing time. (Which, since I'm not pubbed yet, is still considered "Mom's crazy hobby" by the rest of our household.) My only getaway is time at the dining room table with my laptop and the headphones on, volume cranked almost to the point of making my ears bleed. If I can grab 10 solid minutes without hearing "Mom!", I don't need a glass of wine to help me relax.

Four more weeks 'til school lets out, and 5 more weeks 'til camp starts. Lovely.

Judi Fennell said...

I hear you! My kids each have cell phones, which was the best investment! Now they are out and about in the neighborhood and I can keep in touch with them. But time budgeting is tough in the summer, no doubt about it.

Autumn Jordon said...

Ah, Steph. I know what you mean. Mine are grown but they still take time. Enjoy them and take a deep breath.

2009 Golden Heart Finalist

Adele Dubois said...

Terrific post, Steph. Professional women everywhere can relate. All we can do is try our best.

Adele Dubois said...

Terrific post, Steph. Professional women everywhere can relate. All we can do is try our best.

Miriam Newman said...

Yeah, Steph, I know I live my life to the tick-tock of that clock, too. All we can do is try to smell those flowers, even one flower at a time.

Anonymous said...

Steph, I really enjoyed this post. For me summer is bittersweet because my entire day revolves around the girls. But I do have my mornings since they both tend to sleep late and my built in time clock gets me up around 7:30. Getting up early works cause then I can take a nap at the pool (aren't life guards the best!) I have to do more condensed writing but all the running with the girls and travel that we do often broadens my world and helps me with future story lines.

Hope your garden continues to grow, Ruth

~Sia McKye~ said...

School was officially out for the summer this past Friday, Steph.

I have only one teen, lol! But the result is the same, music blaring, or the TV, buddies in and out or the house,fighting for computer time, running him here and there. This is the time I wish I was in a nice suburban neighborhood or at least closer to things than I am. I'm right smack in the heart of the country and it's 7 miles to town.

I have more deadlines to meet this summer so I will need to figure out to balance it all out. I'm working on a better schedule.