Time Management–Reflecting on the Before Times and Strategies for The New Era

When I sat down to brainstorm ideas for this article, it was hard not to think of all the B.C.’s invoiced. Before COVID-19, yes, but on a personal level– Before Children.

When I was writing The Frozen Crown, I was working a full time job as well as remodeling an 1850’s farmhouse. (And I mean– remodeling— it needed a lot of work!) At the time I thought I was juggling way too much. I’m not a natural morning-person, so nearly all of that book was written in one-hour snatches of time during my lunch breaks at work. I was sure that this must be the worst way to write a novel, but I was determined. So I took what little time I had and wrote as much and as quickly as I could. It took awhile, but (spoiler alert) I finished the book.

Isn’t it sooo beautiful???

When The Frozen Crown sold to Harper and my edit letter arrived– along with dreaded deadlines– I knew that I’d have to get my act together and carve out more time to work. It meant… I’d have to wake up early (gulp!).

It wasn’t something I was looking forward to, so I decided to do what I could to set the mood. I got one of those giant apple and cinnamon candles, scheduled the coffee maker and made sure all my writing supplies were set up and ready. Not gonna lie, it wasn’t an extravagant amount of incentive, but it was juuusssttt enough to get my butt out of bed and at my computer. Let it be a lesson: seize whatever time you have to work and if you need it, add a little incentive in any form that works for you.

Always write with a furry friend.

But I did mention that that all applied to the before times.

Last January, I had a baby. Then we sold our house and moved to a new city. Then COVID-19 happened. And like so many people, everything about my life changed.

I know that I am not the only person who really, truly struggled with creating anything during this time. My baby went through a three month period where she only slept in two–maybe three— hour stretches. I was a complete zombie of a person. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and cover my head in blankets. But I didn’t have that luxury, not only because I had to now keep another person alive, but because I was on deadline.

One of the many wonderful things about The Frozen Crown is that it is the first book in a duology. Book Two is supposed to be released next fall/winter. It is so, so exciting and I am truly blessed– but I still had to write the book.

Second-book blues is a very real thing. Many authors have to deal not only with deadlines, but with audience expectations. Because I didn’t yet have an audience (my brilliant publisher aside) I dodged a lot of the pressure associated with writing that book. But I still had to, you know, write it.

Unlike The Frozen Crown, I didn’t have years to write Book Two. So with the world a giant garbage fire and a baby keeping me awake at all hours of the day and night, how did I find the time to write?

In short, I didn’t.

At least, not for the first few weeks after my daughter was born. It simply wasn’t possible. Any words that ended up on the page would have been a driveling mess. So I didn’t.

Did I feel guilty? Hell, yes! But I needed a break– needed one thing to ease off my shoulders. So I took it.

When lockdown happened, my family relocated to my in-laws house so we could have more space and help. And thank god for that help! My in-laws were wonderful! From watching Lorelei during the day so I could write, to helping with night feedings so I could sleep, they were absolutely heaven-sent.

Gotta love the country

When lockdown ended and we returned home, I fell back on earlier writing habits. Meaning, I woke up before the baby, and got my butt in the chair during her nap times to get that book written. My mom was also able to come down and babysit a lot during that time, letting me get almost full-day stretches of writing done. It helped me to not only get the book written, but revised enough that I was able to meet my deadline.

The writing experience of book one and book two of The Frozen Crown duology couldn’t have been more different. But I think there could be something to be learned from both. So when you’re struggling to juggle all of life’s responsibilities, it’s time to fall back on the basics. Create good habits, give yourself small incentives to keep you going, and rely on your community for whatever help they can provide.

And, perhaps most importantly, be kind to yourself. If you have nothing left to give, take a break, find your sanity, and come back again later. Writing is awesome… but solid mental health is better.

Cheers!

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Greta Kelly is (probably) not a witch, death or otherwise, but she can still be summoned with offerings of too-beautiful-to-use journals and Butterfingers candy. Though she has travelled across the world, including brief stints living in Germany and Japan, life always kept bringing her back home to the Midwest. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband EJ, daughter Lorelei and a cat who may, or may not, control the weather. Her debut novel, The Frozen Crown, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager.

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