Structure pt 2

It’s been two months since I wrote Structure, but am I doing any better with routine?

Well, yes and no.

For the yes: Thanks to a friend, I got a job tutoring local students in English (from home). After an adjustment period and an all-too-predictable crisis of confidence, I’ve found my stride and gotten to correct some pretty interesting essays. My storytelling skills have turned out to be completely applicable, as well as the reminder that young people are simply people who are young. I treat them with the same respect as adults and encourage them to explore their imaginations in their writing assignments.

And now the no. On days I don’t work, I prefer not to set an alarm, and wake up when I wake up. Making my bed and some coffee are my first priorities, then my days usually devolve into some combination of rewatching familiar TV shows and doomscrolling (often at the same time). Sometimes I go to the grocery store and grab fixings for easily made meals, sometimes I wait too long and am obligated to order delivery, and my confidence rises or falls accordingly.

When it slips down too low, I shut down and become a hermit. I return texts late, I miss appointments for naps, I either forget to shower or I spend too long in the bathroom. I become disconnected from time in the worst way; for all my romantic notions about being untethered, I need some firmer grasp of the passing of time in order to get shit done.

Why is it that I can be organized and on top of things when I’m being paid to do it for someone else, but I can’t apply that same skill to my personal life? Am I not the coolest boss I could ever hope to have? How many days off have I already given myself because I didn’t feel up to writing?

Clearly, it’s time to get back to work. My mentorship brought the entire first part of my novel to a much better place, and the gears have been turning in the background with thoughts about part two. My impostor voice is easily silenced by the number of versions of chapters I have gone through already: each one is an attempt in which mistakes were made and lessons were learned. Mistakes are beautiful opportunities.

Work on a novel is slow, and I am motivated by being able to share projects. I have most of a zine ready to go, and time planned out tomorrow to sit at my desk and work. Writing practice, zine work, a reread of part one where I add notes of my own to April’s, and anything else I can accomplish with whatever energy I have. (In an unrelated but relevant note, I’m also going to look into getting my phone fixed; I miss taking pictures.)

I owe this time to myself. The best way I can benefit from my past experience is to take the skills I used working corporate jobs and put them to use for myself. I can make a schedule, a to-do list, and organize tasks by breaking them down into steps. What is a novel if not the result of repeated writing and revision sessions? I’m good at repetitive tasks, especially if I’ve got good music to bob my head to.

Back to work

I meant to come here and catch up sooner; I even brought my laptop down to Vermont in hopes of catching up with my writing life. It’s a bit harder than I remembered to get things organised when starting a new job, and packing up and leaving for a few days means I can’t bring all of my writing stuff with me.

I did manage to critique a piece for my gay writing group, but mostly my evenings were spent going to bed early and listening to the howling mountain wind. Vermont was beautiful, Stratton was lovely; but that wind. I declined to buy earplugs at Jean Coutu before we set off, so that’s on me.

Just before leaving for Vermont, I got to tell another story at Confabulation. Twice. The Shortest Story is an annual event, and having experienced the frenetic energy once, I can’t wait to do it again.

It was awesome to chat with other storytellers and hang out backstage. As always, it’s a pleasure to listen to what everyone shares, and I got to see most everyone else’s performances. There’s no theme, so we got to hear a bit of everything.

A really interesting thing about getting to tell a story twice in one night is that I got the first crowd’s reaction, and figured out what to play up or draw out. It’s easier to relax when you’ve already told your story once and it went well. And I had a drink in the green room during intermission, so by the time I got up to tell my story again, I felt amazing and I think it was better than the first time.

Now, between that and work, I haven’t made much time for writing. I met with both my writing groups this week and received wonderful feedback that asks the sort of questions I’m too close to come up with myself. I’ve scrawled all over the print copies for the eventual revision, but I’m still firm about saving that for later. I still have a lot of ground to cover with the rough draft, and I have to balance that with work now.

I cannot possibly express just how relieved I am to finally be receiving incooooooooome. Unemployment loses its charm extremely quickly.

Changes

This year is turning out to be one of significant changes. I chose to leave my relationship, I chose to move, and finally a third change has been thrust upon me.

Things around the office have been kind of troublesome for the last month or so. I work for the government of Québec, whose premier announced a two-year hiring freeze for provincial employees in the spring. I had been hired on a two-year contract, set to expire this month. I remained hopeful, and began badgering people for information as the date drew nearer, always being met with the response that no one knew anything.

In order for the office I work for to renew my contract, they need authorization from the Conseil du trésor. To that end, they made a detailed report of my tasks and sent them on up, hoping to justify my position based on the essential work that I did. On October 8, nine days before the end of my contract, I was called into a meeting with the vice president and the assistant director of the Régie, where I was told that in absence of a reply from the Conseil du trésor, my contract could not be renewed.

Me in front of the National Assembly, begging the Conseil du trésor to renew my contract

Me in front of the National Assembly, begging the Conseil du trésor to renew my contract

The most difficult part of leaving was saying goodbye to dear coworkers that I have become close to in my short time there. At a farewell lunch with the director, assistant director, their secretary, my boss, and the other technician in my department; I was given a card that had been signed by many of these coworkers. I teared up immediately and put the card away to read later. When I did, I had tears streaming down my face and a heart warmed by their many words of encouragement and kindness.

I have come to see this final change as an opportunity to achieve something greater. I have begun the process of looking for a new job, though at the same time I am taking advantage of my time off to enjoy life and make my home more comfortable. I may not have chosen this change, but I can embrace it.

Managing my time

I had the great fortune to be on vacation for many days during the holiday season this past couple weeks. Now that I find myself in the middle of my first real week back, I notice that I am not blogging as much nor doing as much writing or editing. Curious, that.

I’ve read a lot about people who work to balance a full-time job (or school) with writing and the general sentiment seems to be that saving writing for the end of the day is a bad idea; work or school is invariably mentally and physically draining, leaving us with little left over to put on the page. Also, in the few hours I have at home before I go to sleep, I prefer to spend time with my husband instead of lock myself away to hammer at the keys for an hour or so.

I have given some thought to rising early for the sake of writing. To be honest, the idea of rising early for anything sounds unholy. Then again, I have gotten up earlier than usual and not suffered any terrible consequences; it’s actually easier to get up if I have some special reason to do so. It would be a nice, quiet (dark) time to collect thoughts and put them down. I couldn’t listen to music too loudly, but that’s a small compromise.

I can’t be on vacation all the time, sadly. I have to make the most of the time that I have.

How do you all balance life and writing?