Time Dis-Mantlement

You know the awesome organizational thingy called “Time Management,” right? You setup your time in blocks, decide the flexibility of each block to get the must-dos, etc. Sometimes, however, even when we’re pretty good at it, there are intervening factors, chaos that dismantles even the best laid plans into ruin. I’ve been a SAHD/WAHD for the past sixteen years. And the best “Time Dis-Mantlement” I’ve experienced in my more organized and effective time managing moments has been: Kids.

Writers work a little differently than other occupations. It’s a rare writer who can sit down and bang out required content in 5-10 minute blocks separated by hour long blocks of meetings, interviews and other things. This is especially true amongst fiction storiers. Some non-fiction types and bloggers can accomplish things in this format a little easier due to the nature of non-fiction writing; less zen more zone. Fiction writing is mostly zen with a little zone during editing.

My own experience is that “gush drafting” (the first raw banging out pages) is that it takes me an average time of 45-90 minutes to emotionally and intellectually get “out” of real life and in to the universe of the project. From there I usually take 4-8 hours to slam out content onto the page. I need more uninterrupted blocks of time doing both parts than I do on the rewrite drafting pass (the draft I’ll take to workshops or my writer’s group after an edit pass). But the 45-90 minutes drop-in timeframe is critical and doesn’t change until I get to the “zone” stage of doing all my editorial passes (grammar/spelling/typo pass, emotional pass, continuity pass, plot pass, theme pass, etc.).

Enter The Offspring.

When they are lil boogers it is easier. Once they take a nap you have at least that drop-in time block available. Connecting the drop-in to the slam out content phase of a gush draft is tougher, but there is always nights after bedtime ensues. BTW, if you have Offpring who neither nap nor sleep at night—you’re a little more screwed.

When they go off to elementary school you might anticipate, ‘Yeah, total bonus awarded, I have time on my hands, rippee!’ Well, no. In my case it turns out because my Offspring weren’t wired “normal,” they needed a magnet school where substantial parent volunteer time several blocks thereof every week was required for enrollment. Okay, so no slam out the content time, but I still stole a few drop-in blocks here and there. *exhale deeply* But then I experienced the drop-in time as primarily scrivenus interruptus. I’d drop-in only to have to stop and go do my volunteer time or have a meeting with so and so preparing outside school for the actual in-class volunteering, meet with the Principal trying to suspend The Boy for various nonsense boys do because they’re male and my Boy has Asperger’s and ADHD-Impulsivity which meant all the dumb boy stuff had a higher shock and awe value to it. Plus, not one male teacher in the magnet school. Even with my hyper-organization OCD benders stuff didn’t happen nearly as often as I expected. For other writers with “normal” Offspring, YMMV.

Finishing a undergrad degree 15 years after a first 4-year aborted undergrad attempt ensures even fewer time blocks available for drop-in and slam out content sessions. Even trying to blog back during Offspringal Elementary schoolage is nigh on impossible. Cue frustration and disappointment and not getting much done— “I have time on my hands” turns into four to six years of ‘aw hell.’

Oh, and don’t forget all the domestic household management and chores that need doing, Mate management (or relationship stuff if she’s not exhausted from working the primary income, which means, yeah, no),  food prep, and eating.

Then there is middle school. Well, if you have normals, maybe you get the, ‘Yeah, total bonus awarded, I have time on my hands, rippee!’ If you don’t you get lots of parent-teacher-counselor-principal conferences fighting over 504 plans and IEPs, doctor’s appointments, orthodonture, finding special middle schools for the Asperger Offspring, dress code violation b.s., I forgot my homework can you bring it, I don’t have lunch, my stomach hurts come get me, Mr. Writer this is the principal, I regret to inform you, texts & emails and so on. Okay well, at least you sneak in some zone oriented editing blocks here and there. But you’re not generating content.

But there are nights still…. yeah, no. Dance or a sport that consumes up to 4 hours a night right after school, onerous homework—despite of all the studies and data that says otherwise—that goes from when they get home from said extra-curricular (or substitute for PE) to 2 or 3 a.m. Perhaps 4 am because the Aspergers Offspring has a meltdown and the school won’t honor the 504 plan affording extra time, yada yada and because the OCD Offspring tears up the entire nights work because all the letter “i”s written on the pages of homework have incorrect spacing between the stem and the dot.

Middle school teachers are a bizarre creature because your kid won’t get into college if they have the wrong color 3-ring binder and use a blue pen instead of pen using pink dye #4 for editing—it’s okay a lot of them are our friends since The Mate is a high school teacher, but even she (don’t tell her I told you) admits her stint in middle school one year was hell because of the “oddball colleagues” and their obsession with unimportant stuff. So from 6th to 8th grade homework and bizarro totalitarian regulation ensures you won’t get much done and you’ll spend your days while they’re in school waging guerilla warfare with their teachers and the school admins. Your time management skills are finely honed but don’t do you much good for your writing career, except blogging and short lil freelance bits here and there between slaying the dragonmaster school principal and the dean of discipline.

Oh, and don’t forget all the domestic household management and chores that need doing, Mate management (or relationship stuff if she’s not exhausted from working the primary income, which means, yeah, no),  food prep, and eating.

Then there’s high school. Awesome! NOW we really get to say, ‘Yeah, total bonus awarded, I have time on my hands, rippee!’

Um, no. High school means The Offspring’s pre-adolescent hormonal hoohah has kicked into full on overdrive. That means stress about college because in 9th grade the school buries your kid under a deluge of ‘every single decision you make now determines your college options and potential. Screw up here and your life is over.’ Plus high schools totally suck at providing vital necessary details and information about rules, regs, and other requirements that are sprung on you at 6 pm the night before something is happening. Add more time blocks devoted to spycraft and intel gathering, learning how to game the attendance lady, the counseling center, the 504 hell all over again. Oh, and retooling your war chest and your fighting skills because high school goes to war on your kid in a whole new way. They’re dirty, they’re mean and they use moles. Forget drop-in time blocks let alone zone-oriented blocks. And that happens right when you need more money from nowhere on demand, not announced in advanced especially when their firewalls are super hard to crack during your spycraft efforts.

Well, at least you still have those night…. yeah, no. Now you’re working a night shift job or doing the non-fiction writing gig at night because of the funding need has just gone up and oh yeah, The Offspring are going to need to pay for college and as a writer, you spent your life under paid under employed and living check to check so, no college fund like the surgeon next door has. If you’re doing zone friendly non-fict at night, yey at least your writing. But it sure won’t be fiction, will it? Uh-uh.

Oh, and don’t forget all the domestic household management and chores that need doing, Mate management (or relationship stuff if she’s not exhausted from working the primary income, which means, yeah, no),  food prep, and eating.

So by their junior year, you’re future-foward and thinking, ‘okay so The Offspring will go off to college and NOW FINALLY yeah, total bonus awarded, I have time on my hands, rippee!’

Um yeah no. Because you have a lower class income, your kid will be going to community college, working (hopefully) and living in your place. Still.

And now you’re working two non-writing paycheck jobs because you need to cover their tuition because a kid working PT minimum wage and taking classes CANNOT pay for tuition, contrary to my Gen-X generation’s experiences 20+ years back when it was a different economy.

Oh, and don’t forget all the domestic household management and chores that need doing, Mate management (or relationship stuff if she’s not exhausted from working the primary income, which means, yeah, no),  food prep, and eating.

I have a buddy my age who was and still is banging out content, selling it, blogs (free and paid), now has a real agent that does what agents are actually supposed to do that nearly all of them don’t (get you work and paid), has a full time talented editor, does book tours, teaches as a guest lecturer at universities, does a speaking circuit, participates as faculty at fancy writers’ conferences and has been making 100% of his income from writing. He has an even longer drop-in time than I do. I wanna be like him.

The difference between my buddy and me? He has no kids.

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