Monday, January 31, 2011

Blizzard of Chaos

Hello, blog - I've missed you so much!

Last week passed by in a blur, a whiz ... an endless, blinding fog. Ever have one of those? When one day runs into the next, the to-do list is neverending and you wake up every morning still exhausted from the day before? Unfortunately, when I have a busy week, social media is the first thing that suffers - which is as it should be, I guess. I can't neglect my family, my work. I shouldn't neglect myself or my sleep, though I often do. I can neglect my house, and that was the other thing that suffered from last week's blizzard of STUFF TO DO.

I read so many blog tips on how to manage time, how to schedule, how to cram 720 minutes worth of work into a 480-minute workday. I need to figure out my own system. That's actually on my to-do list: Organize my schedule. There's something inherently disorganized about that....

I'm looking around the room - that "bonus" space above the garage that in our house functions as my office by day and my family's playroom/media room by night - and the disorganization is so astonishing it's actually kind of impressive. It doesn't matter which direction I look - my desk is ... wow. The floor around me ... wow. Myself ... oh, man, wow.

I'm being all woe-is-me, I know. And a little too hard on myself, which is a particular specialty of mine. But I'm smack in the middle of another career transition, and I really do have to find some time to figure out how to manage my time. Here's the thing: Thursday, I finally made a leap I've been talking about making for a while. It was my last day at the day job I've had for the past two and a half years as a designer at a residential firm. Because of the economy, I never made a full transition into the design field, meaning I never stopped supplementing my design income with freelance writing income. (My background is in journalism and I put myself through grad school by freelancing on the side.) After two years at the design job, I went from salary and partial commission to full-commission, and I simply couldn't make a living at it. I took on more and more writing work to cover the lapse in income, and eventually, the writing work eclipsed the design work. So I flipped the ratio - my full-time work is writing now, and design is a freelance business on the side.

Which is fine. I went to design school knowing I might decide to become a design writer, and that's what I am. I love it. But I didn't really plan for it, so now that I'm smack dab in the middle of it - with a full slate of work (I'm not complaining about that, I promise) - I have to go back and do the planning now. Not the best way to roll.

Adding one more challenge to the game is the fact that I'm still not actually a full-time, work-from-home freelancer. By the time I left the design firm, I'd already reduced my hours to one to two days a week. My last day, like I said, was Thursday. Tomorrow, I start my first day keeping office hours for a freelance writing client who needs office coverage while a full-time person is out on maternity leave. Again, not complaining. Just struggling to keep up.

Despite all that, my week this week is lighter than last. I want to take advantage of the wiggle room to create a schedule that leaves at least a little time for each thing on my plate: newspaper/magazine writing, blogging, design work, magazine queries (something I haven't been doing but want to) and, of course, my WIP. (I've still been trucking away at my manuscript even through the chaos. Honestly, disappearing into that world is probably the best thing for me at times. It's a great escape.)

Who else reading this is a full-time writer, whether it's copywriting, journalism or fiction? Did you struggle with scheduling issues like this at first? Did you transition from another career? If so, how did you make the break? How did you weather the blizzard???

Photo credit Rob!


  1. Congratulations on your career shift, Stacey! I'm still plugging away at part-time freelancing, and it's starting to take its toll. I really want so step it up, and the demands of doing that have suddenly taken up more of my time than I ever imagined. I'm trying to be smarter about taking on projects. I'm hoping FT freelancing is in the cards for me!

  2. Stacey,

    Good luck with the transition. My 2 cents? Discipline, organization, time management and prioritization will be key to going the distance and being successful in times to come. :-)

  3. Hi Sara and Jennifer,
    I'm sorry to post this response so belatedly. Sara, I know what you mean. Even now that I've started freelancing full-time, I'm struggling to figure out how much I can handle. I *hate* turning down projects, so I've taken on more than I can feasibly manage a few times in the past few months. I don't advise it!! It's the reason I've been so hit or miss lately on this blog. I'm starting to get in a groove and figure out what I can and can't do and things are getting better. Good luck figuring out how to juggle your load, and good luck in your quest to freelance full-time! If you ever need advice, I'm happy to share what I've learned doing everything the hard way! Please post any time - I promise I'll respond quicker than this....

    And Jennifer, thank you! Excellent advice - I'm slowly taking it. Prioritization I'm OK with, discipline not so bad, time management ... eh, I'm getting there, and organization, well, therein lies my problem. But I am working on it! I *am* a WIP! ;-)