Every year I make the same list of resolutions, and this year is no different. Once again, I have resolved to do the following:
- Write more.
- Exercise more.
- Play more music.
- Set my house in order.
My son has an interesting approach to his budget, which I am also going to try to put in place. He basically only tracks money in four categories: household, child care, car and motorcycle, and discretionary. He keeps a cushion at all times in his checking account (i.e., the amount he needs to feel safe), but whatever is left at the end of the month, he drops onto one of his credit-card accounts or adds it to savings. I kind of like that. It’s simple and straightforward, unlike most budgeting systems I have tried in the past. He doesn’t try to track every single expenditure or split bills. For example, if he goes to Walmart and buys a windshield wiper blade in addition to his usual household items, he enters the entire amount into his budgeted “household” account. If he buys a soda at the convenience store when he fills up his tank with gas, that comes out of the car/motorcycle budget, but if he buys a case of soda at the grocery store, that comes out of the household budget. It’s the total amounts he is interested in and the proportions, which makes a lot of sense to me. He also has some complicated system for projecting out and modifying his budgeted amounts based on spending trends over the past three months, but I’m not going to worry about that part.
His overall system for budgeting money also seems like it would help me keep track of how I spend my time. I like the idea of only four categories, even if the “discretionary” category is huge. It helps put things into perspective somehow. Whatever you do (or spend) has to be allotted to one of four categories.
Following my son’s lead, here are my four budgeted money categories:
- Gifts and Charities
- Discretionary (i.e., everything else)
Here are my four budgeted time categories:
- Cooking, cleaning, maintaining home and gardens
- Music and Dance
I did the math and was shocked to find that if I divide my time equally (after subtracting out time at the office and time spent sleeping), I should have 18 hours a week to devote to each of the other categories. If I really did spend 18 hours a week writing or playing music, I’d have quite a few pages at the end of the month and would be able to learn quite a few new tunes. Of course, the discretionary time will be the one I have to watch, and much of the music & dance time will be taken up with traveling to dances (following my son’s rule of not splitting tickets). And right now, while I have a big freelance copyediting project to do, most of the discretionary time will be taken up with that. I probably should make a chart to keep track of my hours. Is that being too, too compulsive?
Okay, forget the chart. But here’s how it might look for just one of my four categories–writing.
Mom and I figured out that if we write even 500 words a day, we will produce enough for three novels (average 60,000 words) by the end of the year, which seems like crazy talk. I’ve heard that people generally overestimate what they can accomplish in a day and underestimate what they can accomplish in a year, which I guess must be right, because who would ever think you could write three novels a year by only writing 500 words a day.
At any rate, we decided that writing three new works really was crazy, but we would each try to revise two existing works and write one new one. When she was doing the math, I kept thinking to myself, “Uh huh. Sure. Whatever, mom.” But now I’m thinking that if I really do write for 18 hours a week, that’s more than enough time to keep up with journals, letter writing, blogs, and our long-term goal of writing/revising books. I can easily write 500 words in about an hour, if I’m writing about something I know about (as opposed to something I need to research).
In the meantime, I am starting a new blog called A Mother’s War, where I plan to record my thoughts and feelings from my son’s deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past ten years, but I have not quite decided whether that will count as revising my book that I wrote during the first year of the Iraq war or if I am wanting to use the blog to see what kind of audience there might be for such a book. I’m thinking the book and the blog should be separate projects, with the blog more like a warm-up for the actual work of revising the book. I already know how to write short 500-word pieces, but I’m not so sure how to write a sustained work of 300 pages.
In addition, mom has started sending writing prompts every day or so, from a book she got for Christmas called My Book of Self. Mom is counting this as her new work, because she was already thinking of writing an autobiography. I had not thought about what new work I might like to write, so again, I’m not sure if this daily writing “counts.” It could be interesting, though, since we’re both writing the prompts together, if we put them together into a mother-daughter compilation. Not sure how that would work, but since we’ll be writing about some of the same topics, the same characters and settings, and using the same prompts, it could be quite provocative. So that may or may not be my new book.
I also want to go through my old poems and journals and prose pieces that are shoved in boxes in the basement, so that will be my second revision project. People used to say I was a good writer, and I won awards for both fiction and poetry while in graduate school, so there is probably something worth salvaging down there, something I could submit for publication. Okay, so here’s my writing plan for the year.
Three main projects
- January-April—Revise books of poems (submit individual poems for publication and enter contests)
- May-August—Revise war journal (post short pieces on blog)
- September-December—Write novel about 13-year-old girl (watch for ideas while writing autobiographical prompts)