This morning I realised I’ve written a pitiful 994 words on my novel this entire past month. I can’t say I’m ecstatic about the discovery, and I guess, if I’m to have any chance of completing my story this century, I should probably pull my finger out. After all, nobody’s getting any younger around here.
However I feel I must defend myself to some extent. As well as having two busy toddlers, two dogs, two fish and one kitten to look after, I’ve also survived:
- my partner away for one week
- my mum and dad away for one week
- eight days of part-time work
- eight blog posts
- my first paid editing job
- two junkets to potential wedding venues
- attending a book launch
- twenty-five loads of washing
- thirty vacuums
- eight supermarket trips (with toddlers)
- three drunken escapades
- two local (too local!) bushfires, and
- a toy cull
Interestingly, I’ve also changed approximately 150 nappies, drank over 60 coffees, made close to 20 packed lunches and read two and a half books. I suppose my achievements aren’t bad for one month, when you look at it that way.
But there’s clearly no denying, the priority of my novel has slipped way down the list. I’ve also just noticed that exercise, sex and sleeping didn’t even get a mention. I think I seriously need to look at my use of time. And decide how to prioritise the many tasks I both have, and like, to do.
Priorities are funny things
But priorities are funny things, if you ask me. In fact, I had to look up the definition in the dictionary because I wasn’t actually sure what counted as a priority, let alone how I was supposed to prioritise it.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a priority as ‘something… more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first’. It goes on to say, ‘priorities’ are ‘the things… someone cares about and thinks are important’. To me, the two definitions are extremely different. One is objective, and one is subjective. The first implies an omniscient position towards what’s important and suggests we prioritise things we need to do, whereas the second places the onus on the whim of the subject and seems to encompass both responsibilities and personal interests.
Maybe it all depends on what kind of person you are and what you do with your time. For example, for someone like my partner, who leaves the house and goes to work, it might be easier (dare I say it) to prioritise. While at work, he prioritises work tasks; when he’s home with the girls, their wellbeing and happiness is his top priority; when he’s home without the girls, it’s free time, for himself, and only then, what’s important to him gets a look in. It sounds simple, and I would love to follow suit.
When priorities merge
But for me, it’s more difficult. Work and free time tend to merge. My writing could be considered both a hobby and an obligation; I love writing as a pastime but I also one day hope to be paid for what I enjoy. The housework is an obligation, but I’m not at work, so could it be counted as free time? Similarly with the girls: of course, it’s important, I play with them, ensure they’re happy and that their needs are always met, but sometimes things get in the way, like having to clean the kitchen or make dinner or mop the floor. What is work and what is play here? I enjoy being with them, but it’s also hard work. I have an obligation to look after them, but sometimes they take a back seat.
My partner suggests I involve the girls more in my daily housekeeping tasks, or at least make sure they’re occupied before attempting to clean. In reality, it’s impossible. If I give the girls a duster, they make it dustier; if I give the girls a broom, they make it dirtier. And as soon as the vacuum goes on, despite the most exciting movie or interesting puzzle, my little beauties decide it’s hilarious to either turn the vacuum cleaner on and off, run screaming in front of the sucker, or cry incessantly until I turn it off. Quite amusing in retrospect, but at the time, I’m literally crying.
Prioritising also assumes we actually have the time available in which to prioritise. I was recently reading an interesting method of finding more time to write. It suggested you diarise your blocks of available time and then tackle your tasks in order of importance during that allocated block of time. Unfortunately, what it didn’t explain was how to find those blocks of time and what to do if you actually don’t have any.
Seriously, how the hell am I supposed to write more than 994 words a month, when I don’t even have time to take my nail polish off? I’ve sported the same chipped green for over a month now!
Another way to look at it
Perhaps I should consider what actually is the objective of prioritising my tasks. Is it simply so I can complete my novel as soon as possible? Is it to relieve some of my day-to-day stress – and unfair outbursts – from trying to do so many things at once? Or is it to get the most out of life and enjoy each moment for what it is? Because my girls won’t be toddlers forever. They will one day fly the nest and I will miss them.
One day, I won’t be able to pick them up and swing them over my shoulders, smother them in kisses and tuck them in at night. I won’t be able to play ‘shop teachers’ or watch them write their name for the first time, or hear the word ‘mummy’ ten thousand times a day. I will never again be interrupted from writing this very post, to remove a strawberry soap which has been wedged into our speaker, and then smell it together and laugh at it’s funny shape.
These moments are precious and I need to remember every day, things are temporary and fleeting. Yes, it’s important to take time for yourself sometimes, and ensure you’re doing the best you can to fulfil those inner passions, but perhaps it’s also time to admit maybe now just isn’t the time to accomplish the goals I’ve set myself. Perhaps I’ve been unrealistic in my planning… life flows and I need to flow with it. Maybe I’m just too damn busy to write a novel.
Getting shit done
However, let’s get real here for a second. Yes, I believe wholeheartedly in the above philosophy, and I love my girls with all my being, but seriously, if I did absolutely nothing else except be present when spending time with them, nothing, absolutely nothing, would get done. We wouldn’t eat; we wouldn’t run errands; we’d wallow in filth and most likely have no friends. Not to mention, I’d be even further behind with my novel than I am now and I’d have nothing to talk about except babies, babies, babies. There has to be a solution.
Let’s talk for a moment about multi-tasking. As you’ve probably gathered, from my earlier admission, I cry regularly over the vacuuming and am no bloody good at multi-tasking. How I would love to be the type of mother who’s spotted carrying a baby in one arm, a vacuum in the other, while chatting on the phone and writing with her toes.
But quite honestly, I’m not. I struggle listening to music while driving, I can’t talk while typing, and, most difficult to me of all, I can’t clean with roaming toddlers (at least I can’t without either completely losing my rag or having heart palpitations).
So if I can’t multitask, I’m just going to have to drop something less important off my list. I’m actually pretty sure this is the whole point of prioritising, yet I just can’t seem to find that thing that’s not important enough to warrant doing. I need to go to work, I need to build up my editing business (so I don’t have to go to work), I need to keep my blog going (because I’ve committed to it now), I need to clean, I need to read before I go to sleep, I need to spend quality time with my partner and absolutely must, must, must find a wedding venue soon! I already watch very little television, I haven’t read a magazine in months and for pity’s sake, surely I deserve a glass or two of wine with friends once in a while?! Is there nothing I can drop? Oh what am I going to do?
Trust the time is right
It seems there’s really not a lot I can do. After all this musing and debating, I’ve come full circle. Unless I learn to write while I’m asleep or start taking my laptop to the toilet (now that’s an idea – although there’s no guarantee I’ll be alone!), I’m not going to be able to work more on my book than I do already. Yes, some months are better than others, and this last month has been particularly busy, but I think I’m going to have to accept part five of Jane Bardot might take much longer to complete than anticipated.
I do however know I am going to finish it at some point, and I trust implicitly I’ll find a way to make my dream (of having a published novel) a reality. In no way do I regret starting my novel at this point in my life, because at least I’m doing it, at least I’m no longer making excuses, at least I can say, I’m writing a novel and be proud of it. I trust the time is right for me, despite never actually having the time. It feels right to write, it makes me happy and it fills me with purpose. Nothing good ever came easy, so they say.
So I’ll keep on trucking and I’ll keep on writing, But as for that prioritising, I think I might just wing it.