For the last few weeks, I’ve been finding ways into mindfulness to help me focus on the revision of my poetry collection. It isn’t easy. I’ve been talking about offense up until now, what I should do to make sure that I reach that place of emotional quiet. However, I’ve found for years that I have to play defense as well.
I have a fairly demanding career outside of my writing life as I think most people do. Like most people, my hours are not limited to eight hours or even those hours when I am physically at work. I’ve written about why I don’t carry a cell phone, but I’ll repeat it here. I am a community college professor of English, and I simply don’t come across many grammar emergencies. However, I know myself well enough that I know I’d give my number away and be constantly dealing with the trivialities of other people’s lives. Those things matter of course, but the thing is that the trivialities of my life matter as well, and it’s important that I allow myself to deal with them and not other people’s.
I think it’s a good idea for all writers to have professional goals, and to think of themselves as professionals. If we don’t do that, we become hobbyists. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s too easy to prioritize things ahead of our hobbies. If writing is a career, then it and we get the time that we deserve. After all, I love my teaching career, love my students. It is too easy to stack up everything in my life after them. It’s all right for me to love teaching, but I can also love writing as well and just as much and make sure that I make time for that. There are a lot of movies and television shows out there that suggest the teaching profession is a kind of priesthood, and unless teachers sacrifice themselves to it at the expense of everything else in their lives, then they are bad people. Not only is it not possible to do that over a fifty-year career, that kind of thinking is insane.
The biggest time suck outside of the classroom is the time I spend online. I can waste a day wandering here and there answering emails and chatting with students and generally having a good time until I am unfulfilled in my writing life. Of the various things that I do outside of the classroom, this is the one thing that I lose the most time to. This goes beyond simply playing online, which is another problem.
I’ve taken to setting a timer for the time that I’m online, both professionally and personally. In general, I can get through all of my students’ emails in a half hour, so that’s what I set my timer to. If it’s going to take a significantly long time to discuss online, I set up an appointment with them during my office hours. Anyone with that complex a question needs personal time anyway.
There is something about your writing time that people always want to chip away it. I do it to myself and others do it to me. But its important, and mindfulness is not only making sure that you do certain things, but making sure you don’t do other things.