Like most work-at-home writers, I have all the time in the world in theory, but in practice, very little of it is protected.
The six hours between 9:15 and 3:15, Monday to Friday, are the child-free hours. I spend quite a lot of those hours writing fiction, these days, for which I'm very grateful. (When I had a very demanding day job and an infant, my "writing day" was a 2 a.m. breastfeeding session, writing story notes one-handed on my phone.) For years, my creative writing was shunted to very late nights or very early mornings. I learned that while I can write very late into the night, I will never be an early morning writer. It doesn't seem to matter how much sleep I get the night before; my brain doesn't work properly until mid-morning.
My kid is old enough now that I can write a bit while he's home, too, but if I have a thorny plot issue to work out, it's nice to have some quiet daytime hours for that.
Family appointments and errands do eat into those weekday hours quite a bit, as do my editing and teaching gigs and the occasional non-fiction piece.
Our house has a little sunroom, where I've set up a treadmill desk. I try to spend at least half an hour of each work day walking on the treadmill, while I respond to emails or check social media, or proofread for clients.
Heavy-duty fiction writing usually happens in the adjacent chaise longue.
All my non-fiction books are in that room, so my research materials are close to hand.
Sometimes, for a change of scenery and to force myself to save the housework for after the kid gets home, I'll go to one of my favourite coffee shops or the library. Writing buddies keep me accountable on a nearly hourly basis by email or in online chatrooms, and sometimes we'll write together for a few hours at the library or in one of our homes. I live in the country, though, so my typical writing day is a solitary one (if you don't count the cat). I'm such an extreme introvert that I never find myself yearning to be with people, but it's good for me to get out and talk to non-family humans every so often.
One of my major challenges these days is balancing various projects. This week, for example, I'm finishing up a big piece of interactive fiction for Choice of Games, and I'm keen to get that cleaned up and over to my editor there, but editorial feedback has also arrived for my first novel, which is coming out in a few months, so I've got to get those revisions done too. I've got a few pieces of short fiction on the go, and I'm itching to start a new novella. I've found that I can easily balance one big thing (a novel draft, a game draft) with a bunch of little things such as short stories and essays. If I have more than one big thing going at once, though, I have to separate them into chunks that are big enough to allow me to work up momentum, but discrete enough that I can set them aside for a few days to work on the other thing.
Every so often, I'll look up from an email from an editor or my agent, or the draft of one of my many projects, and stare at the snow falling on my very own woods. And I'll realize that I'm living the life I've always wanted.
Kate Heartfield’s debut novel Armed in Her Fashion (CZP) is out now. Her interactive novel The Road to Canterbury is now available from Choice of Games. Tor.com Publishing will publish two time-travel novellas by Kate, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives in late 2018. Her fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies including Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, and Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World. Kate is a former opinion editor at the Ottawa Citizen and lives on the rural edge of Ottawa. Her website is heartfieldfiction.com and she is on Twitter as @kateheartfield.
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