with Meaghan Strimas
HLR: How do you schedule time to write?
JB: After six years of working for a non-profit magazine, I got laid off earlier this year (2014) and so I no longer work in an office; I work from home. This means I have the luxury of sitting at my desk from 9 am till 5 pm, almost every day. Some evenings, too, after my son goes to sleep. I start writing around 2 pm. Until 2 pm, it’s catching up on emails, following arguments on Facebook, letting the cat inside, letting the cat outside, snacking, worrying about $, pitching stories to write for $$.
(Before I got laid off, I wrote after 9 pm, after everyone would go to bed.)
HLR: What obstacles (real and imagined) make it a challenge for you to find time to write, and how have you dealt with them?
JB: A real obstacle, and the biggest challenge, is having to make money. I spend a lot of time being paralyzed about not making money. During that time, I talk to myself in a voice that is a mutation of my mother’s voice combined with a monster voice from a cartoon, and my own bitchvoice that I used to use with telemarketers (before I worked as a telemarketer myself and learned to empathize). This voice is constantly asking why I think writing about fictional characters (I primarily write fiction now) is a job, and if it is a job, then why don’t I get a paycheque from it, eh? Eh?
So, in order to feel less guilty and to shut that voice up and – most importantly – to be able to pay for things, I freelance and pitch and freelance and pitch, etc.
Another on-and-off challenge is dealing with mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety. I always try to write “through” the grey times but sometimes it’s impossible.
HLR: Do you find you work better when your schedule is clear, or when you are pressed to find time?
JB: I work best when I’m pressed for time, but I love a clear schedule. In order to manage any kind of schedule, I write a To-Do list every morning where I account for every hour of my day.
Jowita Bydlowska wrote a bestselling memoir called Drunk Mom (Doubleday Canada, 2013, HarperCollins Australia 2013, Penguin USA 2014). She has been published in a number of magazines — from The Times (UK) Magazine to Elle to Salon. Her next book, GUY, is coming out in 2016 with Buckrider Books in Canada. She is currently working on two novels. Or three. Jowita lives in Toronto, Ontario.