Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Burning the Midnight Oil

Are you a workaholic? In other words, how do you get it all done? And how many articles do you work on at one time.

Hee! I loved this question. It's so funny: I have people say to me all the time, "I have no idea how you juggle so many things - motherhood, magazines, books, etc," and let me tell you, I really don't juggle that much. The moms I really admire are the ones who trudge off to an office every day. Seriously, my job is a BREEZE compared to them. I roll out of bed, pretty much work in my pajamas, schedule my day however I feel, and take on however much work I want or can. So many women work a lot harder than I do or are away from their families a lot more than I am, and honestly, they're the ones whose work ethic I admire.

All of that said - how do I get it done? I'm hyperly organized. I've mentioned my to-do lists before, but I think if you're juggling a lot of different aspects of your life, they're essential. Not only do they help remind me of what I have to get done, they also motivate me. There are very few things more fulfilling than axing something off your list. Really! I'm not lame! Try it, and you'll see.

The other thing I have working for me is that as I've gained experience, I've also gained efficiency. Which is to say that I pretty much know how long a story, an interview, an outline, etc, will take me. Whereas a few years ago, I might have lingered on the phone with an expert, asking unnecessary questions or interviewed too many authors for a piece or struggled to find the required research for a story, all of that is cake to me now. Which cuts down on a lot of the needless busywork. I don't know if there are strategic ways to become more efficient, however. With me, it simply came with experience, much in the same way that I assume that anyone who has done a job for a long time becomes more skilled and better at it over the years. So, while I might write more stories these days, I actually probably work fewer hours.

How many stories do I work on at once? It all depends on the month: how motivated I was to pitch, how many editors came to me with ideas, etc. I'd say though, that I usually have about 4-6 going on simultaneously, as well as or including a few revisions. Here's a look at how Nov is breaking down for me (as of now):

-Nov 9th: deadline for Redbook
-Nov 10th: deadline for William Morrow (my publisher)
-Nov 14th: deadline for Prevention
-Nov 15th: deadline for Hallmark
-Nov 17th: deadline for First for Women
-Nov 24th: deadline for American Baby

I'm also waiting on a few revisions which I'm hoping will get back to me before my due date! I've asked my editors to push them through, so fingers crossed...

Generally, I like to aim for about a deadline a week for a new story, which gives me wiggle room for revisions that get handed back to me; if I have to, I can research, draft and write a piece in the span of just a few days (though I try to work much further ahead), so the one-a-week rule really works well, gives me some cushion and doesn't make me too crazy. In fact, I just counted how many stories I've written this year, and it's almost eerie: I'm at 47...and aren't we just about in the 47th week of the year? Or somewhere pretty close? Keeping in mind that I took about a month off over the summer to work on my second novel (which I've since abandoned) and spent several weeks in Feb and March working on revisions on TDLF, I'd say that I'm pretty on target.

So...that's how I get it all done. Oh, and I'm not going to lie: I have excellent childcare. Even though I work from home, I DO consider myself a working mom...and just as you wouldn't expect a lawyer to work with her child running around in her office, you shouldn't expect me to either. So I make no apologies for that. I have help Mon-Thurs, and then chill with my son on Fridays, which works out well for everyone involved. I get to do what I love and still have some quality time with him. Everyone wins. I realize, of course, that not everyone has this luxury, but if you're serious about a writing career and have little ones, I suggest that you treat yourself as you would in any other profession - ask your mom, a neighbor, your best friend, whomever - to look after your kids for several hours a day or a week and focus on your writing. If you don't, I really don't see how you'll ever find the time or the mental energy to raise your game.

So how do you guys balance your work schedules and home lives? And how do you know when you're working too much or crossing that dangerous line into workaholic-syndrome?


Sara Hantz said...

Lists, lists lists...... that's how I work. I also have the luxury of my children not being so demanding in quite the same way as when they're young.

Now I'm working in our motel - a conscious decision because I wanted to devote more time to my writing - I find I do less writing than when I was working full-time lecturing, and coming home in the evening/weekends and doing motel stuff. Go figure!!

My day still starts early - I'm delivering newspapers at 6am - and I'm on call all day, but the amount of work involved in the admin of the motel is less than when I was working full time.

But somehow the writing, and my committee duties get done - and I still manage to watch all my favourite TV progs.

I don't think I've answered your question.......

Kristen King, Inkthinker said...

Oh, my. I'm definitely a workaholic, and whatever the opposite of "hyperly organized" is, well, that's me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an utter disaster, but somehow I can never get away from the piles and holding on to stuff I don't need (which is a big contributing factor to the piles). I think if I had more open space on my desk on a consistent basis, I probably wouldn't feel like I always have so much to do and actually let myself take a break sometimes. Hmm, I should work on that.