Tag Archives: Finding time

ACCOUNTABILITY: A WRITER’S BEST FRIEND

“I have to get back to work. Goodbye.”

That’s what I say if I’m talking to someone, and it’s time to show up in my studio and write. The time is blocked out on my calendar, like any meeting or appointment. I got the idea from a writer friend while sharing our routines – and how we show up to our writer job.

Oh, the tricks I play on myself! But, they work. Well, okay, not always – especially during this pandemic, when my teaching and personal schedule are topsy-turvy, and my self-motivation is wavering. But, I keep trying. While sipping morning coffee, I turn on my studio light and open the curtains, so my office shouts, “I’m ready and waiting”. I set my alarm for writing sessions. I put my cell phone in another room, so I can’t hear the buzz of incoming texts or calls (which are perfect distractions when I’m stuck on a scene that I’ve re-written a dozen times!).

Unfortunately, the demons of distraction and procrastination still like to hang out in my office. Ugh! Good news is, I know my own worst enemies really well. Gradually, I’m learning to negotiate with them, so, my favorite co-worker, accountability, can kick them out and pull up a chair!

Here’s what accountability and I have been up to – and what’s really working:

Setting a timer. I try to follow a rigid routine during my scheduled writing time: For writing, I set a timer for one hour, take a 10-15 minute break, repeat. For research, I set a timer for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Monday accountability group. Every Monday, I do an email check-in with a group of kid-lit writers. We submit our goals for the week and report briefly on progress made the previous week. Wow! Keeps me honest and realistic! In our brief format, we manage to celebrate, challenge, and remind each other to keep plugging away, and that it’s okay to take a break.

Text-writing. Once a week, I have a writing “date” with another children’s writer. We text a few minutes before our start time to share what we’re working on or what we want to accomplish. Usually, we do two 45-minute rounds. Then, we briefly check in. We’re always amazed at how much we get accomplished in such a short time.

SCBWI Rocky Mountain Chapter critique group. Once a month, my SCBWI critique group meets in person. We’re the Story Spinners and we’ve been meeting monthly for 20 years. We email our work in advance, then, when we meet, each writer has 20 minutes for their work to be critiqued. When members don’t submit work, they can use their time to update the group on projects, invite brainstorming or advice on a project, share notes from workshops/classes, or etc. They’ve helped me think through SO many critical bits and pieces, such as how to end a pb or write a hook for a YA synopsis, a book title, an angle for a nonfiction article, and the list goes on. We hold separate meetings, as needed, to critique a member’s full manuscript.

Story Spinners are my rocks! Without their passion, drive, support, professionalism, desire to learn, confidence, nudges, wisdom and wit, I would have given up on my projects a long time ago.

SCBWI British Isles North East critique group. While living short term in England (twice), I met weekly with the same critique group. Through email, we continue to: exchange same genre manuscripts for overall feedback, check in bimonthly on current projects. We’re considering holding FaceTime meetings, as needed. They, too, are my rocks, my support group!

Oops! My alarm is going off. I have to get back to work on revising my YA. Goodbye!

 

Writing is hard, hard, messy work. Going out and doing talks and signing books is all wonderful, but a writer has to return home and go back to work.   

Julia Alvarez, author of AFTERLIFE, BEFORE WE WERE FREE, ALREADY A BUTTERFLY

 

 

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Finding the Time

By Susan Wroble

alarm-clockFor the past two decades or so, I’ve struggled with that all-too-familiar question: How do I find the time to write? I’ve pretty much tried all the tricks: scheduling writing on the calendar, going on retreats, the 15-minutes a day plan, writing at night when the kids went to sleep… They all failed, but that last one was the worst. It turns out I really need my sleep. I got extremely mean and nasty when I didn’t get enough – to the point where even I didn’t like being around me, to say nothing of my husband and kids. In short, in twenty years of struggling to find the time, I never won.

But while I haven’t found the time, I also haven’t given up. I’ve managed to do some “low level” writing – a few stories that I’ve written and filed without submitting, some short articles for on-line magazines. I keep going to SCBWI conferences. I read. I edit for my writing group, the wonderful women of In The Writer’s Web. And I’ve studied this group closely. The ones with children older than mine have been my real inspiration. I’ve watched what has happened when their kids left for college, and their job of active parenting wound down. It has been edifying and heart-warming to watch their craft improve and their writing blossom.

I think that each of us comes to this planet with some lessons we have to learn, some pieces that our soul needs to work on. Everyone is different, but for me, it has felt like one of my pieces was acceptance; acceptance in putting my loved ones first, acceptance that the time for my writing will come, and acceptance that waiting for that time did not mark me as a failure.

Now, with our youngest heading off for college soon, my quest to find the time to write is nearly over. There is not much more I can do to mold our children’s personalities, or teach them more knowledge and skills and techniques in dealing with the world. That time has passed. I may have lost twenty years of skirmishes in the battle to find the time, but I’ve held on.

And in simply holding on, and not giving up on this dream, I feel like I’ve finally won the war.

 

 

image by rg1024 on Openclipart

 

 

 

 

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