Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Return to Writing Books -- with Limits

Is there really too much of a good thing? I think so. At least, it is, in my own experience. Sometimes, too much of a good thing can be good – for example, going above and beyond at work can make someone appear to have a strong work ethic or going the extra mile to help someone shows that person really cares. But sometimes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. In my own experiences, I would overindulge in drinking and it turned me into an alcoholic. I overindulged as a writer and it made me miss out on so much with my kids and my life. I loved too hard with people and it scared them away. I ate a diet too high in sugar and fat (again, because I overindulged in these foods), and it caused me to get sick. And because of the sickness, I am forced to make permanent changes to my diet.

So, yes, there ARE situations in which too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing.

And I’m thinking that it’s time to rein that in. While I do believe in the whole “work hard, play hard” state of mind, I also feel that there is a time to overindulge, and a time when a person shouldn’t.

Which brings me to what I was doing yesterday. I was going over some old documents I had and started to wonder why I had stopped doing certain things. One answer was because I couldn’t figure out how to find time for them, and another was that I let ONE particular thing take up ALL of my time and not allow time for other things. For example, I used to be obsessed with writing books. It was my passion, but also my driving force. I wrote for several hours every day. This meant time away from my kids and time away from enjoying my life. That did eventually stop, but I would love to be writing again. Writing brought me so much joy. It made me happy. But the thing I was constantly worried about was getting obsessed with it again. Like it would take over my life all over again. And I certainly don’t want that to happen, especially now since I have a job where I work four days a week. I have also been enjoying doing things with my kids and just LIVING life in ways I had not before. I just didn’t want to be “chained to my computer” again.

I have been thinking about this for some time, and last night, I realized a way I could write again without it having too much control over my life. 

I LOVE schedules. When I became a mom, the importance of routines was drilled into my head, so I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to have a schedule. I have used a variety of schedules in the past as a parent (one of my drawers has pages of them) and they worked really well in navigating the chaos of raising my kids while at the same time, getting them to school on time, doctor appointments, practices, games, etc., etc. The schedule was not always perfectly followed, but it definitely gave us a guide on what to do when.

Recently, I had created a brand new schedule to reflect certain changes that I wanted to make in my life. This particular schedule does not take place on a work day (work days are unscheduled). It pretty much covers all the things that I want to do and try to get done on my days off from work. I only get 3 free days, and since there is JUST SO MUCH that I want to do in life, I figured one way to make it happen (or work on making it happen) was to put together a schedule. I recently had to revise that schedule, because I realized a couple of things were missing.

The thing I had to cut down time for in order to fit them in? My writing.

I originally assigned 4 hours of writing time, but then I realized that threw a lot of other things off balance. I was spending two hours on exercise/workouts and just one hour working on a project. I didn’t think it was fair to give more time to writing when there was still other things that I wanted to do that I hadn’t made time for.

But even as I cut down on the writing time, I had to check in with myself to make sure I was ok with that. I love to write, so it would naturally follow that I’d spend more time on writing than anything else, right? While that would make sense, that would mean treading dangerous ground for me, given my previous obsession with writing that meant losing control over my time. So I decided that I would have to be okay with limiting the writing time. It was actually the best course of action to take. I can no longer allow myself to overindulge and go crazy with things. It’s time to practice some restraint, and that especially goes with the writing.

Fortunately, I am able to do this. I don’t have a publisher bugging me to turn in my next manuscript (although since it’s been a while, I think my publisher would welcome a new submission!). I don’t have an army of adoring fans demanding I get my next book out there. And there is absolutely NOTHING at stake to get my next book published RIGHT NOW. Nothing! I am under no obligation to keep writing, keep writing and keep writing or to submit one book and another book and another book. I don’t HAVE to be as obsessed with the writing like I used to be, because there are no people demanding more.

There are, however, people demanding my time – my kids, my boss. But that’s a more manageable thing and not something causing stress. And, hey! I signed up for the job! It’s kind of expected for me to be there!

But as far as the writing is concerned, no. Nobody is tearing down my door wanting to know why in the world I am relaxing on the couch watching Law & Order instead of writing my next book. Or complaining about my Facebook post where I talked about exploring somewhere and wanting to know why I chose to spend hours in the outdoors instead of hours at the desk.

And you know what? That is pretty damn awesome. It means I have CONTROL over my time. My time is my own to use. It’s mine to decide what to do with it. And if I only spend an hour working on one of my books, then that’s the way it is. If I take months or even years to write, edit, revise and submit a book, so be it.

And the best part is, it means I CAN write again. I don’t have to be chained to my desk, at the mercy of my muse like I was in the past. I can continue to have a job, do all those things that I want to do with my life, spend time with my kids AND make time to write. All those books that I wrote in the past don’t have to languish on my hard drive, collecting proverbial dust. They can eventually be turned into real books. And that’s going to happen now, because now I have figured out how to fit my writing time into this new life I am living (almost sober for 3 years! WOOT!!). I am currently recovering from surgery and slowly getting my strength back, but once I am fully recovered, I will be back on my schedule and back to work. I will also be back to writing.

The writing WILL happen again. In fact, it already HAS happened again; I have already been working on books and writing other things. And I just wrote this blog post. I just gotta make sure that, from this point forward, the writing won’t be the ONLY thing happening. Life is about change, sure, and I’ll probably have a new schedule this time next year, but I know in my heart that writing is the one constant in my life. Writing is definitely a part of me and something that I want to continue to do. I don’t feel complete without the writing. It’s the one thing I will carry with me no matter what life brings, and the one thing I have learned I can manage more wisely.