I was having dinner with a writer friend of mine last week. We were comparing notes on pitching articles, and how we’re carving out time to work while prioritizing parenthood.
At some point the conversation turned to grant applications and dang… wouldn’t it be great to get such-and-such grant, but then you have to take into consideration the odds of actually getting the grants as compared to the amount of time it would take to apply. I sighed and said “it’s the old time calculation.”
She knew exactly what I was talking about. The time calculation. It’s something every writer knows well.
It’s that math we do in our heads, all day, every day. Especially if you’re working on a bigger project that is always hovering in the back ground, waiting for your time.
The calculation goes something like this:
[(My day) – (All the non-writing life stuff) – (Time spent on my novel)] / (Number of other writing projects) = Time I can spend on other projects
Everyone starts with 24.
When it comes to “other writing projects,” right now I have
- my blogs (this one and the LitWeekLA.com)
- freelance articles
- grant writing
So for the average weekday, my calculation, if I’m lucky, ends up looking like this:
(24 – 18 – 2) / 3 = 1.3
So I have about 1.3 hours a day to give to each of my “other writing projects” right now. And that’s assuming no surprise trips to the doctor, no urgent plumbing issues, no old friends who want to meet up for coffee, no accidentally getting sucked into social media.
Is it enough? Somehow, it always is. I make it enough.
Time inevitably gets shifted from one column to another. An hour I had blocked out to work on the novel gets devoted to grant writing. So I get up early to work on the novel for an hour on Saturday before the kids’ soccer games. I bring my laptop to the boy’s taekwondo lesson and try to wrap up a blog post in the LOUDEST possible environment known to humans so that the next day I can have that time to work on the novel some more. Sometimes I order pizza to shift an hour from “non-writing stuff” into “writing stuff.”
This crazy-making time calculation is constantly running in the back of my mind and if I think too much about it, I get super stressed.
Still, doing the calculation does help me to set reasonable expectations for myself. There’s only so much I can do in an hour and twenty minutes. So at the end of the day it helps me to find a little patience for the fact that things aren’t getting done super fast.
Keeping this time calculation in mind also helps me to say no to things that aren’t worth my time, like unpaid writing gigs. Because eff “exposure.” People die from exposure.
What does your time calculation look like?