Lately, I’ve been struggling. Working forty hours a week and spending at least that much time on my writing career is exhausting. Worthwhile, but exhausting. I could eat, breathe, and sleep writing but with the rest of my life on top of it, I’m overwhelmed. On weekends when I don’t have anything else planned, I hole up in the office and spend ten to twelve hours writing. I come home from work and write. I write in the car if we’re going anywhere further than half an hour and I write at work. I average five, maybe six, hours of sleep a night. This pace doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything else.
I’m hardly unusual, few writers are able to support themselves solely on their writing income. Many have children, are single parents, have no spouse, or have a partner far less helpful and supportive than mine. Some days I have to remind myself of that because it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and anxiety. Still, no matter how good I have it, there are days it’s overwhelming. There are days I feel like I’m drowning in life and every day I’m just paddling to keep my head afloat. There’s always more I could write, more promotion I could do, fewer breaks I could take. I applied for a part-time job that would have just barely paid enough for me to take make up the difference with my writing income. I didn’t get it.
Last summer, there was some restructuring done in my department and I was bumped from working 72 hours a pay period to 80. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say, I didn’t have a good relationship with my manager at the time and I didn’t want the hours. I was told I didn’t have any choice. This spring there was more restructuring and now my department reports to a whole different set of managers. The current ones are both reasonable and likeable and I’m slowly beginning to trust that I can go to them for help if I need it.
So a few weeks ago I spoke to one of my managers and asked if it was possible for me to cut back my hours. She thought about it for a brief moment and said, “Of course, I am sure we can make that work.” I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall and it wasn’t until yesterday when I signed the HR paperwork that I finally believed it would truly happen. I felt limp with relief, like all of the stress had gone right out of me.
Starting in July, I’ll have every other Friday off. Objectively, is it a lot? No. But an extra 16 hours a month to devote to my writing feels huge. Will I still be overworked and overwhelmed and juggling too much? Yes. But I’m going to enjoy it. I am going to make the most of that opportunity and push even harder. So maybe someday I can put in my two weeks notice and support myself with my writing.
Is it a pipe dream? Maybe. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.