Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Carving Out Time

by Hellen Riebold

A year ago next month I gave up a job I really enjoyed in order to concentrate on my writing. The idea was that I would treat the writing like a ‘proper job’ and spend a set number of hours a day locked away at home getting my story finished. I took this decision, with my wonderful, understanding husband’s support, and, for the most part, it has worked really well.
Over this past year I have completed, not one but, two books, one of which we have published while the other is still with agents. I have learnt so much, not just about writing but about publishing and marketing and, most joyously, just how supportive and welcoming the writing community is.
It has been difficult, during the year, to remember I cannot just say yes to all the fun invites to shopping trips and coffee I get from friends and family. I make sure I get up when my husband leaves for work so I don’t sleep the mornings away, although I have to admit to allowing myself breakfast in bed on quite a number of occasions.  I have had to train myself to turn off the TV and retreat into my office to work, after all just how many wrecks of homes can you watch getting new windows, bathrooms and kitchens and then painted magnolia all for less than ten grand? (Really? How?). I have learned to ignore the phone in the mornings, telling myself if I was out at work it would have to wait till I got home and, no matter how much they beg, the dogs have to wait for their walk until I have finished my allotted hours, even if the Sun is shining. But lately one thing has got me beat.
How do you dedicate three hours of every day shut away in your office writing when there are 34 presents to buy, wrap and distribute, 107 cards to write and post, the house to decorate, a tree to buy, the food to organise… Shall I go on? My office is currently home to a selection of bags filled with presents, wrapped and unwrapped, an assortment of tissue paper, bows, scissors, ribbons and gift bags, not to mention the endless unfinished home-made gifts I thought I’d have loads of time to complete.  Now that we are almost there another two complications loom on the horizon too  – Christmas parties and children’s Nativity plays (I really do need to make sure any new friends don’t have children!).
Now I could get stressed and freak out but actually Christmas is my very favourite time of year, I love the silly films, the egg-nog and mulled wine, the delicious food, I even like the endless cookery shows on TV showing you how to make it all from scratch, they tend to make me giggle. I delight in all those Nativities and usually cry at each and every one and as for the Christmas parties, who wouldn’t want to go and watch normally sensible people let their hair down and have fun? No, when it comes to writing, the Christmas compromise is just a step too far so this is what I have decided to do.
Take December off!
I do, after all, have a very understanding boss. I am also realistic enough to know I am not going to winning a Pulitzer prize anytime soon.  So I have decided that if I get any writing done in December that will be a bonus but I am going to put my efforts into Christmas and put my carving skill to use on the turkey. I’ll probably then make a New Year’s resolution to get back into the writing which actually solves two problems doesn’t it? I think they call that a win-win, will let you know if it works.

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