Engineering Time

When I left my job at FedEx I also left behind an organization that provided plenty of in-person contact with people. I anticipated that this would be the hardest part of being a writer, so I put systems in place to allow for human interaction in a way that supported writing.

I became more active in my local writers group, Memphis Writers and put a few conventions on my must attend list. I participated in NaNoWriMo and from there I met people who eventually became the small intimate writing group that is my absolute base of support. (I love these people.)

I joined several online writers groups so that even when I was on my own I could write with someone else or get my work critiqued.

When home became too stifling for my brain to unfuzz, I went to coffee shops to write. Coffee shops are wonderful for me because I could see people around all the time, hear snippets of their conversations, and generally write while feeling connected. Also, when I am stuck, I take a person across the room and begin a word sketch of them and that helps me get started. In January I added the JCC to the mix because it has people, excellent coffee, a place to write, and workout equipment.

Many people now use Zoom to re-establish connection, but with everyone doing it, the Internet near me overloads, especially on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays during work hours and on Sundays during church service time.

Of course now I do not have the coffee shops, the JCC, or the in-person meetings anymore because we are all self-isolating. The isolation is critical to protect lives, especially the life  of the person I love best, Steve. My husband is incredibly fit and an amazing runner, so most people don’t realize that he is also a fairly severe asthmatic. Keeping the virus away from him is critical.

I’m grateful that I have arranged for many layers of social interaction around writing, including online, but now I need to go a step further.

I realized this morning that engineering a writing environment that gave me social interaction also allowed me to avoid thinking about how to schedule my writing and my life. I’ve acted for the last three years as if I were still working for FedEx and I had to react to project needs and people’s needs. I’ve roughly organized myself around Steve’s schedule, meetings, and other people’s activities.

Now that I am socially isolated, except for runs/walks and rare grocery store visits, I need to face facts. It’s ok to be flexible with my schedule and it’s great to write with people, but I need to put in place a schedule that isn’t dependent on other people. I need to become a bit more like Steve.

The social isolation presents another challenge. Because we agreed to shop no more often than once every two weeks, I make more of our food. I can’t simply slip out for a loaf of bread or a carton of soy milk. I need to make those items now along with others. That takes time. But how much? When do I need to do it? When is the best time to schedule writing? How can I keep myself from online distractions without people working near me?

Starting today I’m going to keep track of what I do each day. I can’t schedule without knowing what a typical week is like. Otherwise, I will end up with a fantasy schedule and when fantasy and reality collide, fantasy goes poof. I’ll talk about the results here.

I hope you are doing well in our time of social isolation and finding new ways to make your life better. It’s a great opportunity to reassess our lives and reset ourselves, to be the engineers of our own lives.

Be well, friends! And stay well.


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