The Writers Circle: Writing When Busy

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

NaNoWriMo asks participants to write with a reckless abandon for the month, squeezing in time for 1667 words per day for 30 days. Similarly, when on a deadline, we often are asked to churn out books and stories in a shorter amount of time than we’d like. Usually these stretches of time seem to hit when there are a lot of other things going on in life, too.  How do you squeeze in extra time for writing during NaNoWriMo or during any deadline-driven period without neglecting the family, the day job or your own eating, bathing and sleeping needs?

Let’s discuss this in the comments or on the forums and see what our community thinks.

Writing at the End of Time

shari_post_galaxyI, the writer, engage in both boringly ordinary and sublimely spectacular moments. Same as those who don’t write. I work for financial compensation and volunteer on behalf of others. I hose down the house and muck up the garden, maintain my aged mode of transportation and renovate our humble abode, bungee jump off bridges and plunge into new experiences, practice a new language and exercise my health routine, spelunk into caverns and hike mountain peaks, sip aged wine and taste new olive oil, celebrate with family and tolerate acquaintances, curse and pray. Same as everybody, I live. (OK, maybe I’ve never bungee jumped off anything, but I’ve hopped off curbs. As for my health routine, well, I routinely think about it.)

After all that living, I, the writer, scratch my brain, crank my imagination, and extend my fingers to write. My daily life shows up in the funhouse mirror of stories. Annoying challenges reflect in the bizarre twists of fantasies. Nagging questions appear as labyrinthine mysteries. How I function in the here and now influences the exceptional world crafted by my pen, bidden by my mind. (And I always say it’s all entirely made up. Well then there’s the bungee jumping…)

I, the writer, make time. Like some nebula nursery gathering clouds of dust and gas to become new stars, I birth time to write. Stolen from housework or bill paying, filched from shopping or TV watching, borrowed from sleep, I make time each day to write. The books I read, those I write, my own blogs, and blogs of other writers get my attention on a regular basis because I make time to participate in the writing world. Whatever the debate about who may call themselves a writer or a wanna be, no one who doesn’t write can claim they do.

Writing is what I do for myself, my indulgence and my passion. It’s the raw nerve that jolts at the touch of a dandelion seed floating past my brow. I write about how that feels so you can experience it without the bruise from the fluff. (See what I take for you, dear Reader?) Writing lets me fulfill my childhood potential, kindling the blaze of glory that the young Sharon Lynne Bonin promised one day to become. Writing reminds me that, bedraggled as I am, I still have the chops to produce something of merit in my life, a legacy to leave my kids, and a story for others to savor. This is true because I live as well as write. I experience as well as observe, act and imagine.

Sometimes life catches up and runs roughshod over my plans. (Best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. Thank you, Robert Burns. I am certainly the wee beastie in a panic as the plow roars my way.) Snuffs opportunities. Routs the resources. Demands more of my percentages than I’ve ever had to post in that imploding red column. So when all that living converged in one big ball of everything happening all at once last month, I found myself as lost as if I’d been swallowed by a black hole. The swirling galaxy wasn’t all bad; it was just logjammed. Star jammed! New family member (adorable and brilliant grandchild,) new job (much good fortune,) more responsibilities (a chance to grow), old obligations resurfacing (blegh)! How the hell do I find time – make time – to write when I can barely find time to eat and sleep? (Of course the sleeping has been much curtailed; the eating – not so much.) Sometimes the only thing I can do is exactly what I did this past month. I ground everything that I normally do to a complete halt and dealt with my new world order. I took off a month of writing because it was the only flexible time I had.

Starting back up has been more difficult than I imagined. I’m trying to build a relationship with an infant who lives 1000 miles away and maintain the relationship with his parents. Over 600 emails throb in boldface in my inbox, most of them blog posts from other writers, and I’ll eventually read all. I’m less prepared for the new job than I expected but excited to grow into it, and hope my employers will be patient while I learn what I should know. I’ve missed a month of articles I should have written for my personal blog and worry that my followers, feeling abandoned, have abandoned me. Three books each need another revision, and I need lots of time for this before I can begin the process that will see them to publication.

Welcome to my expanding solar system. Please hang tight while I figure out the orbital coordinates. Hello old world, hello new.

Be well, friends.

Birth/Rebirth

I wrote a short essay more than two years ago about the birth of my first son and how he abruptly took up space in this world that was previously untaken, how he suddenly just was, there, in our lives, an extension of us: my wife, his mother, me, father. We all were new people then.  We waited intently without knowing how to wait. We couldn’t comprehend the coming augment, the duty, the trust in ourselves to be good at something we’ve never done—we were dashed with a below-surface fear that was a consistent murmur, soft but palatable, wondering if our self-assurance was deserved. There was a smog of feelings, tumbling over each other, each portion of seesaw confidence and skepticism lobbying for top position. We entered blind but with desire and conviction and concerned ourselves with “let’s do well today” in hopes that it would lead us properly into the next day and then the following.

Parenting is revealing itself to share much with the process of writing: feeling a little like you’re in water, floating away from land and trying to decide which direction to swim. (Fortunately with writing, you get a lot of do-overs.) Once something becomes part of your daily life, part of your being, you figure out how it fits, when, and where. For us writers, with all the other worldly tasks and responsibilities we have, figuring out the “when” becomes paramount.  William Carlos Williams, a doctor as well as a writer, would draft poems on a prescription pad in between seeing patients. You find the time. And then you have to be disciplined to use it, even if you’re given only five minutes. I’m not very good at this. Many may not be. Which is why we have to be forgiving of ourselves while we continue to be ambitious. There will be other short, favorable sections of time. Utilize those. Mostly, you have to be adaptable to the evolving change. To be a good writer you must be aware of the world you live in and learn consistently from it. A writer friend of mine, Michael Klein, once said to me, “I do not yet know how to live in the world. But I’m alive.” It’s all constantly morphing and will seemingly stay ever elusive, just out of grasp, though, at the same time, a great motivation for us, reaching, trying to figure it all out.

Parenting is causing me to be a better observer, a better witness. And as academics and intellectuals, as we writers are (or should be), the new, the fresh, the able-to-be-explored are gifts. A friend told me of a story she once heard about Eudora Welty, who called a friend that was, too, a writer–I can never remember who this friend was–and told him to come over. When he arrived, she said that she had a gift for him. They went behind her house where there were patients from the nearby mental institution crossing a shallow river with their belongings and mattresses, other contents of the building, to a new facility on the other shorefront. The gift was the event and it unnerved Welty that the other writer never used it. (Put this in your reservoir of writing prompts, by the way.) The story is anecdotal but shows how in order to write stories we always should be looking for stories. Our bestowal allows us to see these stories, to sweep away the dirt and see the contours to make them our stories. Being a parent has refreshed this for me. It’s made me pay attention more, always, to new things (and there are always new things.) The thing is, you don’t need to be a parent to glean the benefits of parental rewards that crossover to writerly elements.  It’s good to just know that our lives are continuously being supplemented, amplified, and this is widening the canvas, adding more blank lines to our notebook.

6 Ways to Find Time for Everything

icon-34048_640Writers tend toward the Energizer Bunny approach to living. We do everything from writing to researching to marketing, sales, and media because we have no choice. No matter it doesn’t all fit in a day. We must get it done because no one else will.

I constantly hear how I do too much (usually from someone at a restaurant or relaxing in the teachers lounge between classes). My friends don’t know how I teach full time, webmaster five blogs, write non-fiction tech books as well as my thriller series (which I haven’t touched in a while), pen weekly/monthly columns for at least five blogs and ezines, write reviews/etc for clients–and market my 110 books/ebooks (no one has a publisher anymore who does that job).

I do get it done and I decided to analyze how that is and share it with you. I realize there are steps I take that make it work:

  • If one of my writing activities is no longer working for me, I stop doing it. I’ve written columns for a variety of ezines and blogs. I’m always happy to do one, but more than that, maybe not. I have to see the benefit to my craft. If it’s not there, no matter how much I personally like the people involved, I have to cut the cord and move on. Does that sound harsh? Maybe, but I’m a one-woman show and there’s only twenty-four hours in a day.
  • I don’t waste time. If there’s ten minutes free between dinner and my favorite TV show, I draft an article, edit one, review a scene in my WIP. The point is, I use that time. It’s amazing how it all mounts up. I had a thirty-two lesson textbook that I edited pretty much one lesson at a time. First I went through the whole book to be sure consistency was there, and then I reviewed the lessons.
  • I give myself deadlines. It’s tempting to review and re-review an article to be sure it’s perfect, but I trust myself. I know how long it usually takes to write a piece. I budget that much time and don’t obsess over tweaking.
  • I delegate everything not in my core skillset. Sometimes it’s to my husband. Often, it’s to people I pay for their expertise. I don’t want to become expert at Adobe InDesign (Photoshop is enough of a learning curve) or CSS/HTML for websites, so I trust them to get their job done while I concentrate on the pieces I do better.
  • I don’t feel obligated to do things. Where I used to force myself to stay in touch with peripheral friends or attend events I didn’t want to because a friend of a friend wanted me to, I don’t anymore. I weigh them and decide if it works for me. You’d be surprised how much time that frees up.
  • Here’s one I haven’t done yet: Quit my day job. This is a desperation move, but I could consider it. Is it time to take a chance? Does what I get from my Day Job make up for what I don’t accomplish with my passion (writing)? Jury’s still out on that.

There you have it–my six point plan. How do you do it?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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