Writing at home: strategies not to get sidetracked

This post is for writers who write at home, who are neat-freaks, who can’t have loose ends dangling while they write, who need to have a tidy house before they even sit down, who for some reason can’t go to a library to write, and who don’t want to change how they are (this is anyway generally impossible).

With some reorganization and expenditure of finances for daycare, I have two half days a week cleared up for writing. This in itself is amazing! I have never before had such luxury. After the initial excitement, though, I ended up frustrated most days because I used only a fraction of the time for writing. I would send husband and kid out of the door and then notice all the things that need doing, and I just couldn’t tune out the surrounding disorder and focus on ordering words.

What strategies have I developed? Here they are in a nutshell:

  • Have a to-do list for chores;
  • Have a designated time (other than writing time) to deal with the to-do list so it doesn’t infringe on writing time;
  • Prepare and tidy up the house the day before writing session so I don’t feel compelled to do this first before starting to write;
  • Train tolerance for a few things lying around;

I’m extremely organized and hate not having a plan laid out for when housework would be done (in that respect I’m definitely not a pantser). If that happens, I just do the chore so that I don’t forget it, or I keep it in my mind while it bugs me during writing like a stone in my shoe. A to-do list helps with that. It takes things off my mind and puts them in a safe place where they won’t be forgotten, so I can relax and write. I have also chosen a reasonable number of chores to be done per week (three in my case), so the list doesn’t become another drain on my writing time.

How about a messy place? Well, now when I know that my half day of writing is coming up, I prepare the house for it the evening before. My husband helps because he knows this is important for me. We go to bed with a more or less tidy house. And the few things that don’t get done—well, I am trying to grow a thicker skin.

The thing is, if I manage to tune the messy kitchen out and have a good writing session, then I’m always in such a good mood that the kitchen doesn’t bother me anymore. But half the time, I lose this battle with myself and can’t focus enough to have a good writing session.

Every person has their idiosyncrasies, and I’m convinced that trying to go against your own grain leads to expending energy on a futile cause. What I found is better to focus on is finding ways to live with myself the way I am.

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