How I Manage the Problems That Come With Being a Rural WriterJan 15, 2023
It has long been my goal to turn my writing into a career. I’m not sure where I got the idea that working from home would be easy just because I live in the country. I honestly thought I would have hours to devote to composing content.
The enchanting idea of being a rural writer with a generous amount of time and flexibility for writing is just an illusion.
I have attached a certain amount of romanticism to being a writer. And because I’m a born and bred country girl, I believed the ideal place for being a writer was in the countryside.
For many years, I imagined the solitude, the quiet mornings, the soft voices of nature in all its various forms. I would have all the beautiful inspiration and delicious time I needed to pen the next great novel, viral blog post, or catchy content.
I pictured myself watching the sunrise from my deck, a fresh, hot cup of coffee in one hand and pen in the other. I would dreamily scribble down my thoughts inspired by the gentle rustle of leaves, twittering birds, and the purring of my old cat rubbing against my leg.
But the reality looks very different. Mornings are quiet, that is true. But sitting out on the deck to work is a gamble. It’s either too dark or too bright or too hot. The wind is likely to kick up and then there are those rainy days forcing me indoors.
Miss Kitty is more likely to lay a dead critter at my feet than purr contentedly in my lap. And I will have to interrupt my work while I scramble around to get the bird or snake or vole off the deck before one of my dogs turn it into his breakfast.
Working inside isn’t so bad.
Reality over illusion
I did learn quickly, regardless of where I did my work, I still wasn’t very productive. Not like I dreamed about being. It seems no matter how hard I tried, I could never develop and stick to a writing schedule. It was discouraging and demoralizing.
I tried using advice from other work-from-home writers and freelancers. I read blog posts and books on productivity and organization and procrastination. Most of the advice was very similar, but just didn’t or wouldn’t work for me. And because of that, I was beginning to feel like a failure.
I didn’t want to drop my dream of a writing career and I refused to consider giving up my rural lifestyle. To make it work, I needed to let go of my illusion of being a rural writer and create a plan to fit my reality.
Living far out in the country does not guarantee I will have an abundance of time to create, nor does it guarantee I can develop a consistent schedule for writing. It isn’t that simple. But I can develop a system that works best for me.
4 things that interfere with productivity
There are many things throughout the day with the potential to interrupt my writing time. This is true for any writer or person trying to work from home. But I do live in a very rural location. I have some unique things to consider. In my case, I lump them into 4 basic categories: technology, people, work, and nature.
I discovered early on when living a rural lifestyle, technology can be the most important and one of the least flexible influences on when and how I create. Everyone assumes that high-speed internet is available anywhere and everywhere. Not so. In my case, I feel lucky to access satellite internet. It does the job, but it has its quirks.
For instance, there are times of the day in which the speed is very slow. In the evening, it is almost impossible to watch a video, access Facebook, or work on my website. On stormy days, my internet may be intermittent because of wind and rain. I knocked the snow off the satellite more than once over the winter trying to improve access to the web.
Knowing this, I now plan any writing or creating that requires internet access for the times of day when I have the most reliable service. And if necessary, I go into work extra early to finish up any pressing business. I do not do any of my writing work during my regular work hours. That’s a no-no, even if I did have any spare time on my hands.
Sometimes this goes against my “inspired” moments. So the majority of my writing begins as a word document. I access the working document without the need for internet access.
If, and when, I have computer issues, options for services are very limited in my little town. There is one local person, very capable of making the repairs I need. However, he is only open four days a week and he is busy, busy.
One time my computer was down for ten days. I know lots of people use their phones during times like this. I don’t have cell service at my house. And in all honesty, the small screen would have me pulling my hair out. So, to keep from going bald, I have a back-up plan for those “waiting for repairs” interruptions to my writing schedule.
People can also be a huge disruption to my day. This is not unique to writers working from home no matter where you live. Some of us are better at managing this than others.
For me, this has been the most difficult part of working from home. No matter how I try to plan around the people in my life, they can and will be a constant interference to my productivity.
I have a terrible habit of dropping everything to “be there” for them. Country living has its own little mini-culture of lending a hand when it’s needed. You just don’t say no to a neighbor whose cows are out on the road.
I know, deep down, I am part of the problem. Learning to say no is a hard habit to break. And to be honest, sometimes I use people as a way of procrastinating.
I am learning to prioritize realistically. If my husband needs a tractor part or the insurance agent calls about a form or a student asks for a third copy of an assignment he lost, I don’t just jump up immediately and take care of it.
Which leads me into the third category of disruption — work responsibilities. Many writers, bloggers, and freelancers have “day” jobs. Especially those of us just starting out, we often need to supplement our incomes with full or part-time work for an employer. This is not unique.
What adds to my problem with scheduling writing time is that I teach. My job doesn’t end when I leave the building. I do have summers off (about 9 weeks). But during the school year, I leave my house at 6:30 am and return around 4:45 unless I have a meeting. My school days are crazy, hectic so no writing between those hours. I am forced to write around my “working” life.
If you live rurally, you have a home and most likely livestock, gardens, yards, outbuildings, water systems, pets, equipment, and/or a combination of those things to maintain. This would not be such a problem if you did not have to work around the weather, the seasons, and the unpredictable nature of animals.
For example, it is very hot here in the summer. Mowing, weeding, and harvesting need to be done early in the morning or very late in the evening. If you breed any livestock, spring is a busy season with the birth of babies while harvesting fruits and vegetables and putting up hay can go well into the fall.
And I’ve already explained to you the “seasonal’ nature of my internet service. It’s not like I can dash down to the local coffee shop and jump on their wifi to do my composing when the weather isn’t cooperating. No coffee shop, no hot spots.
How Do You Find Time To Create?
First of all, it’s so important to acknowledge that having a generous, constant, and convenient time to write is a myth for the majority of writers, and especially for rural writers. But you can make the best of it by redefining your idea of a writing schedule.
Here are a few things to consider:
1. Block out the days and times that you know you will not have available to write. I like to use a hard copy of a big calendar. Include the hours you work outside the home, appointments, those hard and fast times.
2. Highlight the remaining days and times which work best for you. When your internet connection is strongest for example, early in the morning, or during your lunch hour.
3. Set an amount of time you will write daily such as two hours a day, instead of specific times like from 6 am to 8 am.
4. Be flexible about changing your plan or schedule each day if you need to. When the dog throws up on the carpet, you are going to need to stop writing and get out your Bissell.
5. Learn to say “no” when you must and ask for “help” when you can. It was so hard to get my husband to cook dinner once in a while. Until I accepted that frozen pizza with sliced tomatoes is a passable meal.
6. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and then stay ahead of the game. I lumped these together because if I was a little behind on a project and then something came up I didn’t plan for, like an injured horse, I’m likely to get even further behind. The definition of stress, right there.
7. Don’t give in to frustration and procrastination. I’ll admit, easier to say than do. But the more I practice “not giving in,” the better I am getting at moving beyond it.
The reward of creative scheduling
If you stay aware of the potential disruptions, provide flexible times for being your creative self, and don’t let distractions be your excuse for procrastinating, you can move beyond frustration, love your environment and learn to take advantage of those incredible moments of simple, quiet, thought-inducing solitude.
Living in the country definitely can provide you with inspiration. You can find the time to write, as well. But it’s not always going to be on your dream schedule. It’s most likely not going to be on a regular schedule at all.
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