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Work - Writing Balance (or lack thereof)

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Hi. So, I'm still alive. And I'm still (trying to) write. But something pretty big and important got in the way.

I don't remember if I've talked much about my job on here before, but I'm a secondary school English teacher in Scotland. The school I work at is in an area of multiple deprivation and, as such, over the summer the majority of my pupils got their results brutalised by the middle class prejudice of the SQA. And, obviously, this really bothered me. Because, yes, the kids I teach might come from an area that is considered to be deprived but that doesn't mean they don't deserve the same chance as everyone else after working, in some cases, much harder than their middle class counter-parts.

Their grades got changed back, which is great, but doesn't change the fact that they were changed in the first place. Kids at my school got the message loud and clear: 'we don't think you're good enough because of where you come from.'

My response? I want them to know that there are people who do think they're good enough and the only ways I can make that clear to them are - 1) by actually telling them and 2) by putting everything into the lessons I teach them. Which is what I've been doing. In fact, since the results came out I've been working late most evenings and both days of the weekend to make sure that I am providing my pupils with the most robust education I can give them so that the SQA never boots them up the behind ever again.

The result? Well, writing (and, honestly, most things in my personal life) have taken a back seat. And this is something I need to address and something I need to fix.

The reasons writing has taken a backseat are threefold:

  1. At the end of the day I am absolutely exhausted and can't even keep my eyes open through an episode of Friends.

  2. There isn't much time left at the end of the day

  3. The idea of trying to write 1000 words when I'm feeling like that is extremely overwhelming

The other problem is, even though my priority this last month has been work, my writing goals haven't changed. My dream is still to be a published writer. So I'm going to have to find a way of reconciling the demands of my job with my writing goals.

The Solution (maybe)

I think the solution for me is that I need to be less aggressive with my daily goals. Over the summer 1000 words a day was realistic because I had nothing else to do and nowhere else to be. But that simply isn't the case anymore. I'm at work, I'm back at my flat and I've got friends I've hardly spent time with since early March. 1000 words a day just isn't going to work anymore.

I'm going to pare it right back and work from there. Right now at the gym I'm having to lift a lot less weight because all my strength has disappeared and to save myself from injury I am lifting very light and then gradually working my way up. This approach can also be applied to writing. As such, my new word count goal is a teeny, tiny 200 words per day. That's probably not even half an hour of writing.

Don't think I'm going to keep it like that forever. I'm actually very hopeful that once I've managed 200/day everyday for a week I will be able to start substantially increasing this. But right now I need to know I'm not going to burn myself out. I need to release myself from the pressure of an unachievable goal. So 200 words it is.

The caveat is that I need to take part in some kind of writing event to get down more words at least twice a month. For example, as I write this I'm taking part in the Writer's HQ online writing retreat (I wrote 4500 words and this blog post - yay!). I also recently got sorted into my The Write Cohort group and our group leader is going to host weekly writing sprints on Zoom which I'm looking forward to attending when I can.

Will this work? I've no bloody idea. But I'm determined that I can develop some kind of semblance of a work-life-writing balance AND that I can finish this first draft.

Closing thoughts: pray for me.

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