Highly Creative people keep favored routines. For ten days I’m posting about the routines of individual Creators, historical and current. My previous post: Same Routine for 52 Years & No Teaching Job.
Writer, Historian, English Professor, Founder of Peace Hill Press
Where is your favorite place to write? Time of day?
Last year, my father turned an old chicken shed on our farm into a separate timber-framed office for me. Until then, I’d used a little room in our attic. There were points to being the madwoman in the attic, but I had so many books in piles that there was only a narrow path between the door and my desk. My new office is close to the house, but because it’s a separate building, I can’t hear the children thumping and yelling while I’m working.
As far as time of day—I probably do my best work first thing in the morning, and on mornings when I don’t go running, I enjoy going down before sunrise with a cup of coffee and getting right to work. But this is a job for me; I keep to a pretty strict schedule, and when it’s time for me to write, I sit down and get started.
How do you make time for research and writing when you’re also homeschooling your children, teaching at William and Mary, finishing your doctorate, running a family farm and publishing company, and active in your church community? Do you keep office hours? Burn the midnight oil? Make your kids take 4-hour naps?
No, just two-hour naps.
There are four intersecting answers to this question. First: I enjoy my work, and I work at a naturally quick pace. Everyone’s got a different natural tempo; my parents say I was born on fast-forward.
Second: Although I’ve done all of those things at various times, I don’t think I’ve ever done them all simultaneously. When my children were smaller I taught more and wrote less, and didn’t have a publishing company. Now that I’ve got a publishing company and a busier writing career, I’ve taken a teaching leave from William and Mary (I’m a “research associate” right now, which means I can keep my faculty privileges without teaching—I couldn’t function without my year-long-checkout-no-limit-no-overdue-fees faculty card). I’m still active in my church community, but I’ve limited my involvement to one major volunteer role and I’m getting more ruthless about declining every other opportunity. And as for the doctorate—well, I’m thirty-eight, and I’ve just finished my dissertation defense, which is not exactly fast-track. It takes longer when you’re leading a regular grown-up life.
Third: I have a lot of help. My husband has a flexible schedule and does a good part of the home schooling; we divide our work and family responsibilities between us. We both parent, we both work, I do the cooking and he does the grocery shopping. My mother has taught all of the children how to read and continues to work with the younger two. My father manages the farm and is the CEO of the publishing company—I handle the creative end, and he handles the business end. Plus my mother and I share a housekeeper, and I have a personal assistant who comes in once a week to get me organized and do all the random things (from dry cleaning to library runs) that I haven’t gotten around to. No working wife and mother does it all—she hires help, or else decides what to leave undone.
Fourth: I am the Schedule Queen. I have a master family calendar that I keep both in a Daytimer and on my iCal—the iCal also has all my work deadlines on it, so that I don’t schedule a family vacation and a manuscript delivery for the same week. Our days run on a very regular pattern: the kids always know what they’re supposed to be doing, which parent is on kid duty and which is working, and what the next part of the day holds. Unless I’m on vacation, I’m up by 6 AM, go running, shower, and either get to work or start on my day with the kids by 8 AM. We have lunch, regular afternoon alone time/rest time, regular bedtimes. That may sound a little Von Trappish, but it sure lends itself to peace and order. (Also we have one day a week where we all sit around in our bathrobes and eat popcorn for breakfast if we feel like it.)
(Thanks to Mindy Winthrow).