It's official -- I 'm now working four days a week instead of five! At last -- I have one full week day to devote to writing. It may not sound huge, but it is to me. Because of my intense full-time job as social worker, I've always done most of my writing on weekends, trying to squeeze in writing time between the usual errands, fun time with family and friends, and much-needed R&R. It's huge because I recently completed my first novel and I'm itching to get it published -- self published -- and boy, do I have a lot to learn!
Last Wednesday was my very first midweek writing day and I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. I had the day crafted in my mind: Zumba class at 8:15 a.m., then straight to Starbucks for several hours of writing, a break for lunch, and afterwards on to the library or another coffee shop for another chunk of writing time. The perfect writing day.
But that's not how things turned out. I'd barely settled in at my favorite table at Starbucks when a fellow writer who's about to publish his first novel strolled by. Of course he stopped to chat and share his excitement about his publishing date, which is only a few weeks away. Then, as soon as I returned to the blank word document on my computer screen, my husband called. The poor guy had been admitted unexpectedly to the hospital earlier in the week and I'd been running there after work to spend time with him. He knew it was my first "free" Wednesday and he didn't want to bother me, but....if I was planning to visit, could I possibly stop on the way and pick up Chinese?
How could I say no?
Two hours later, as I was leaving the hospital, my cell phone rang. It was a close friend whose husband has Alzheimer's and her life has been sheer hell. We hadn't seen each other in a month. "I have some free time before my doctor's appointment this afternoon," she said. "Do you want to meet for coffee?"
How could I say no?
Fortunately, she had only about half an hour to spare before her appointment, so before long I was on my way to the library. I spread out all my papers, turned on my computer and got right to work. I was so happy -- there I was, at the library on a Wednesday afternoon...writing! I had no time constraints -- I could sit there for hours if I felt like it. Except, of course, it was already 3:00 o'clock and my eyelids were drooping. By 5:30, I couldn't concentrate on anything but what to have for dinner. I decided to pack up, pick up a sandwich on the way home, have a quick dinner, and then spend another hour or two at my desk before bedtime. As I was leaving the library, my cell phone rang. When I saw the phone number on the display, I picked it up immediately. It was a dear friend who had been injured in a car accident several months earlier and was still having back and neck problems. "Where are you?" I asked after I pressed the "talk" button. "I just left the doctor's office," she said. "I'm in agony."
"Do you want me to pick you up," I asked. "You sound terrible." "No, I'm in the car now and I'm on my way home. My back is killing me. I can't wait to get home so I can go back to bed." Her voice was tight and low and I was sure she was fighting back tears. "What do you need? Should I pick up dinner?" I asked, feeling my writing time slipping through my fingers. "Could you?" she asked. "I haven't eaten all day and I need to get home so I can take some more pain medicine."
"Of course," I said, the familiar mantra playing in my head: How could I say no?
So I stopped to pick up chicken kabobs, rice and hummus at my favorite Mediterranean restaurant and then headed straight to her house. I called my husband to let him know I wouldn't be able to get back to the hospital to bring him dinner. "I understand," he said. "You're doing the right thing." Then he sighed.. "Dinner tonight was terrible -- meat loaf. Chicken kabobs sound really good."
I bet they do, I thought. But you're not getting any. (He was feeling better and was almost ready for discharge. He could manage one more hospital meal, I decided.)
I stopped at my friend's house and had dinner with her. It made my heart feel happy to watch her scarf down the food. We spent an hour catching up and then her eyes started to glaze over from the pain meds. I cleared the table and gave her a quick kiss before heading out the door.
By the time I got home, it was eight o'clock. I changed into my sweats, took out my contacts, and nestled into my favorite chair in the living room. My first writing day was over. It hadn't turned out quite the way I thought it would, but....what could I do?
If you have tips on how to protect precious writing time, I'd love to hear from you -- especially if you have any creative suggestions for people like me, who have trouble saying "no" when other things infringe on precious writing time!