February has been an up-an-down month, if you hadn’t already guessed, and it’s this kind of sudden change (“Life Events”, as your friendly HR department refers to them) that can throw any decent writing routine completely off course.
Finally, however, I think I’ve found a way to keep writing during this vaguely temporary period of unemployment.
I basically didn’t write during my first two weeks of unemployment. After taking my son to daycare in the mornings, I’d spend my days poring over Indeed.com’s job boards, refining my resume, submitting applications, and speaking with recruiters and references alike.
I couldn’t really think about anything else. When my wife would come home with Nugget in the evenings, we’d have dinner, spend time together, and maybe do some cleaning or organizing. Then, around 9 or 10pm, I’d force myself into my office, on this computer, to try to write something for The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy first draft.
But then this nagging voice in my head would start running through employment options, and I’d feel like I should be doing more. So I’d start browsing Indeed.com again, ignoring my draft. I even submitted one or two applications after 11pm, just because it was on my mind. And then I’d go to bed, still stressed.
I’d also been thinking a lot–probably too much–about my former job, but its significance in my mind has faded with each passing day.
Finally, I figured out what the problem was: I didn’t have a routine–not a real one, anyway.
Sure, I’d wake up early to take my son to daycare, but after that, I was just going through the job application motions, waiting for emails, responding to calls or LinkedIn messages, and submitting more applications, with no real order to any of it. I needed a change.
Setting A New Writing Routine
When your life routine changes, your writing routine also necessarily changes. Writing at night after my son was asleep stopped working for me once I was laid off. The weight of the day was too heavy, and I either needed to continue grinding towards a new job, or to just shut down and rest.
It took me until the third week to realize I needed to change it up.
Changing the mindset
I didn’t initially plan for an extended unemployment period–and I’m still not–but that doesn’t mean I should abandon all sense of purpose throughout my day until a new opportunity comes along.
I decided to use a part of my time off to write, while still focusing on the job hunt.
Setting a new routine
I tried out a new schedule:
- Take Nugget to daycare
- Come home, eat breakfast, and mentally prepare for my day until about 9am
- Take the dog out for a walk–this also helps in the mental preparation. Fresh air is good for the mind.
- Write my first draft for an hour or two.
- Have lunch
- Return to my office, but instead focus on my job search until my wife got home.
After that, we would go about our normal evening routine of eating dinner, cleaning up, and spending time with Nugget and each other. If I didn’t get a chance to write or apply for jobs after that, it was no big deal, because I’d already accomplished some of both during the day.
Actually sticking to the new routine
I’ve done alright at sticking to this routine this week. I’ve written more over the last five days than in the previous two weeks.
This routine will obviously shift again once I’ve found a new job, but for now, it’s working for me.
What’s your writing routine? What disruptions to it have made you come up with a whole new routine?
2 thoughts on “A Writing Routine Requires A Life Routine”
Job hunting is a nasty distraction. Guilt eats up valuable minutes of writing time BUT just remember…many of our best ideas (both writing and life reinvention) happen because we took a break from worrying over it all. You never know when a useful insight might happen, but you will notice your sanity improves with “safe” writing time.
Very true. The longer I go during the day without being productive in some form, the more the guilt builds up. Getting ahead of it early is the key to my sanity 🙂