Monday, July 23, 2012

Making time to write

When people who don’t know me very well find out that I write books, they ask, “How do you have time for that?” It’s a legitimate question. I’m a full-time middle school teacher, and my husband and I have three children who need our attention, homework assistance, and regular transportation! My life is full and busy, and it would be very, very easy to let the writing slip through the cracks. But I don’t. It’s not always easy, but I make time for it, because it’s important to me.

I’ve had to be creative about finding time to write. Unfortunately, setting aside a regular chunk of time to devote to my writing just doesn’t work for my family’s situation and schedule, so I’ve figured out a few things that do work for me. It’s not an exact science, and I am certainly no expert, but I know the things that have allowed me to keep writing despite all the other responsibilities that require my attention.

Tip 1: Get Mobile

My first recommendation is to make your writing-self mobile. By this I mean it’s super helpful to have some sort of technology that allows you to write wherever, whenever. For me, I’ve found it essential to not be tied down to wherever my desktop computer is! Before I used a laptop computer for mobile-writing, I used an AlphaSmart Word Processor. The AplhaSmart is not as pricey as a laptop, but offers the same type of mobility. An iPad or other table can also serve this same purpose. Being mobile means that I can write on my front porch, my desk at work, in the car on long trips, and a variety of other places. Because sometimes, the only free time I have is in the car!

Tip 2: Make Minutes Count

Learn to write productively in small batches. Productive writing time does not have to be an hour or more. In fact, for me, some of my most productive writing times are only 15 – 20 minutes. I’ve learned to squeeze writing into my lunch break, into the twenty minutes between the kids’ bedtime and mine, or the few minutes I have alone before the kids arrive home from school. When I know I have a few minutes coming up, I have the wheels turning in my head beforehand, thinking about what I want to accomplish. Using small batches of time intentionally, with a little forethought, can make those times super-productive.

Tip 3: Put Pen to Paper

Don’t discount the value of actual pen and paper. I know everyone is writing on a computer these days (me included!), but sometimes nothing replaces an actual piece of paper and a pen. For instance, if you’re shopping at the mall and all of a sudden the perfect bit of dialogue pops into your mind. Or maybe you’re sitting in church or a meeting and suddenly you have the majority of a plot playing out in your head. Those moments are GOLDEN! Don’t lose them because you aren’t at a computer. Write them down! I used to try to carry a journal with me, but it never seemed to stay in my purse, and my kids always wound up using it for doodling in the car, but I always have some scrap piece of paper, even if it’s just an empty envelope from a bill I’ve already paid! I plotted the biggest part of my current release on the back of 3 church bulletins on Sunday morning during church service. I know this is advice that any writer should - and probably does take to heart - but I think for those of us who are balancing demanding day jobs and parenting responsibilities, along with our writing, this bit of advice is particularly important.

Tip 4: Value the Prep Time
It’s extremely important to realize that writing is more than putting words on paper (or the computer screen). While it’s true that adding to the word count is the most concrete way to measure productivity, it’s also vital to recognize the importance of everything else that goes into writing. The research. The brainstorming. The plotting. The stewing. The stressing. It’s all a part of the whole. And without one or more of the parts, the whole would not be complete. In my extremely busy life that sometimes threatens to edge out my writing time, I’ve learned to recognize and value the time I spend doing the things that lead up to putting words on the screen. After all, I can plot while watching a middle school basketball game or scrambling eggs for breakfast!

It boils down to this: We make time for what’s important. And when the writing is important, as it is to all of us, we find ways to carve out time.

Post by Amy Durham

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