With the new year has come some thinking about my work day, and I can say with some surety that something has gotten seriously out of whack. I find that I have been waking up with a long list of to-do’s in my head, all of which are either about promotion or administration. There are emails asking about setting up events or pitching articles. There are follow-up emails to those which don’t get acknowledged (most of them). There are emails and meetings about the theatre company, Theatre Delicatessen, which I am involved with. There are arrangements and discussions to be made about my annual trip to Cambodia and the writing workshop I lead at Anjali House. There are emails between me and my students at SOAS, not to mention my one day a week I spend there plus the additional classes I am more and more being asked to take part in. And of course, there is Facebook, Twitter and my beloved blog. Oh, and did I mention my Cambodian language lessons and homework? I know I do a lot, and I love all of it. But let’s face it. There is one rather crucial item not included in all this: writing.

Somehow, I do manage to fit in my writing, but it feels like just that, fit in. And really, the writing should be the very first priority. A favourite poet, George Szirtes, has said that he finds that only 20% of his time is devoted to the actual writing of poetry, so I know that I am not alone in this balancing struggle. But still…it’s so frustrating.

So I’ve come up with a new approach. Actually, in some ways, it’s a giant step backward, and a very simple and obvious one, too. I now have a new notebook, one with paper pages that  you actually write in using a pen or pencil. I keep it by my bedside at night. I carry it around with me during the day. And whenever I think of something I have to do, someone I have to correspond with, some businessy type thing that threatens to jut into my day and clog up my head, I write it down. I don’t act on it. I just list it. Then, each morning, instead of starting the day doing all that non-writing stuff which usually takes me well past lunch when I’m no longer able to do anything creative, I’m going to sit down and write. Or maybe read (which for me, usually leads to writing).

I know I’m most creative in the mornings, so that’s when I’ll do my creative work. I’ll leave the non-creative stuff for the afternoons when the muse has usually gone off to haunt someone else anyway. Simple, eh? Surprisingly, no. I am anal-compulsive enough to want to get through my to-do list efficiently every day. Having things linger on the list for a day or two is a kind of torture for me. It may mean people won’t hear back from me immediately. It may mean I write fewer blogs on a more irratic schedule. But if it means I write more, then the torture of potentially falling behind is worth it.

So wish me luck. I’m in the middle of my first week on this new regime, and so far so good. But if anyone out there has any other suggestions for redressing the balance, please, please, let me know.