Thursday, April 7, 2011

Finding Time to Write? -- writing tip

Question from the e-mail: I have a life, I'm the mother of teenagers, How can I ever find time to write?

Answer: I can't promise success, but will be happy to share my method.

When I first started to write, I was juggling a full-time job with teens, and college classes. Back then, I asked the same question of Alice Orr, who said, "Do it Anyway!" Believe it or not, that was a big help and made me sit down and think....

Part of my problem was feeling guilty. I believed I should not take time to write "away" from my family, when work and study demands were so stringent to begin with. So I tried to find time that wouldn't do that and ended up writing from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. (when everyone else got up) two times a week. This worked out well with my schedule as a newspaper reporter. I could write news copy tired, but I surely had to be fresh for fiction. And most of my novel Killraven, was written during the years I was a reporter on a daily newspaper with a 2-story a day quota.

The time worked well for me, because no one rapped on my door to ask me where the peanut butter was. Interruptions are the death of inspiration. Yes, I know, all the advice-givers and instruction books say to "write every day, even if it's only half an hour." But sometimes that's just not possible. Tuesday and Thursday mornings were possible then, in my busy life.

The "How to" books all say to “write every day” but that may not always be possible. Some writers, me for instance, can’t work in short bits of time. If I wrote 30 minutes a day, I’d never get anything done, as it takes me 30 minutes to figure out where I left off and what I want to do next and then to “think” myself into the kind of deep-concentration where the piece will flow.

Some writers can work 10 minutes at a time. I had a student who wrote on her laptop while she waited to pick up her kids at soccer practice. That’s great if you can do it. Works fine for those writers who work from a detailed outline. Others of us need a couple of hours at least. But if you did write 30 minutes a day, that’s still only 3.5 hours a week. For some of us every Saturday morning, or a couple of nights from 8 to 10 p.m. instead of TV, would give us more writing time than that proverbial half hour every day that the writing gurus advise. The trick is to set up a schedule that fits your life and then stick to it. If Saturday morning is your best writing time, and someone calls about a picnic, a golf game, or a shopping spree — you just have to say, “Sorry, I have a previous appointment.” Sometimes it helps to write it on your calendar, so it’s already there when you check for dates.

If you choose the wee, silent hours, as I did, then be careful not to do it too often. Even when things are going really well and you can hardly bear to stop, don't throw two many extra days in there, because if you do it every day you will soon find yourself falling asleep at your desk.

Each of us has talent, ability, time, and duty. Figure out your best time, find a practical compromise, and make a regular commitment to your work. First thing you know you will be feeling guilty about not writing. And that's the mark of a true professional.

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