It’s all very well to say writing must come first, or that it is the most important thing and so must be scheduled in your best and brightest working times and you must reschedule other obligations to fit around it. Sure. Go ahead and say it.
Now that that’s out of your system, let’s think about the lives of people who do not live a ten-minute walk from their offices at schools with low teaching loads (or at least small class sizes), few committees, and the same preps to teach over and over, people who have some combination of partners, children, aged parents, companion animals, health problems of their own or of others to attend to, and other non-academic commitments. Their “best times” may also be the best time to exercise, the best (indeed, only) time to get children fed, dressed, and out the door, the best time to drive to work, the best time to get some sleep, the best time to talk to an aged parent in another time zone, and the best time to schedule classes or committees so as to keep time on campus to two days, or three days, rather than four or five days with the concomitant increase in commute time and expense.
I’m going to channel dear Comrade PhysioProf for a minute here: some of us are FUCKING TIRED. It’s hard to write at night when you want to go to bed. It’s hard to write at dawn when you haven’t had enough sleep. It’s hard to write on Friday when you’ve had four straight days of teaching, meetings, grading, advising, blah, blah, blah. It’s also hard to write when there are five, no, six, no, here comes another, batches of assignments to grade.
Plenty of people will give advice for writing in less-than-optimal times: always keep a document open on your computer, carry paper (notebook, whatever) around with you, scribble on post-it notes about something you’re reading so you can write up the notes later and call it writing.
But I’m going to go heretical again. Maybe there are more important things to do than write. Consider whether you can help yourself more by getting some sleep, or some exercise, or a proper meal. If Friday is your only open day, do you sabotage yourself by staying up late on Thursday “to relax”? Listen, I’m in no position to criticize if you do. When I’ve put in a long day of meetings, or a long day of grading, I totally want to stay up late reading trash in the bathtub, or watching two hours of Downton Abbey, and because I have no self-discipline whatsoever, I usually do that thing. And then I regret it. But may I, tentatively and politely, suggest that you try doing as I say and not as I do? You’re welcome to think of it as being smarter than I am.
On the one hand, I’m encouraging you to relax. On the other, I’m saying think about what is most truly relaxing. If you’re making things worse for yourself tomorrow, maybe you should do something different tonight.
At least try a compromise: take the bath without the novel, and go to bed. Don’t watch the two-hour program on the DVR; watch a half-hour one, and go to bed. Don’t drink the whole bottle of wine; have a glass, and go to bed.
Try a different compromise: if you find an hour that you could use to write, take half of it to go for a walk or do some yoga, and the other half for writing. Or again, buy some time by getting take-out for dinner, and get something healthy that will make you feel better tomorrow (and maybe sneak in some writing time in the car or the waiting area, by heading out to collect the food before you need to).
The writing needs to get done, and it will get done. You also need to get some sleep, eat decent meals, breathe some fresh air, and look after your family, whether it’s young, old, furry, or scaled. Take an hour. Take a day. Take a weekend. Breathe, relax, sleep. Your writing will still be there. Seriously. It’s not a jealous lover that’s going to have a tantrum and leave if you’re up to the eyeballs for a few days. It’s a longterm part of your life. It’ll love you anyway. It’ll save up some funny things to share with you when you come back to it. It may even come and sit on your feet if you give your attention to something else.
No goal posted.
Work on establishing routines; finish up some leftover ancillary tasks connected to the P a-i-r. Re-familiarize myself with what I have on the P conference paper/article-in-progress.
Plan ~15 hours work of research/analysis that the MMP needs; that is, figure out when I can do that (some of it needs the library), schedule it, do at least 3 hours of it this week.
Compile the electronic copies, save to a hard drive, cloud storage, and thumb drive.
500 more words!
Get something, anything, done on the article.
Finish methods chapter. Write two pages.
Write two pages on Tuesday, dang it.
One goal only. Turn the cut-and-paste job on the paper I reverse-outlined (it needs a name…) into an actual rough draft.
Complete grant application. Begin work on conference paper/article.
Use what’s left of this Saturday morning to write some more, and also work on planning the article more. Then try and write for 30 mins a day.
Four solid hours of work. I want to finish chopping up the paper so that I can put it back together.
Finish the rest of the project; 15 minutes writing at least 3 days.
Finish draft of paper.
1. Finish chapter I’m working on now.
2. Significant progress on next chapter (it’s more than 1/2 done).
3. Get chapter descriptions out to the editor.
Begin reading chapter 1 of book needed to research project 1. Set aside at least 30 min every day where I do something I want to do that isn’t work or house work.
Finish chapter 1, finish seminar application, finish course proposals. Go to campus less.