*** Over the weekend I cleaned out an old writing folder from the beginning of the year and came across this article written for a Writer's Group news letter. I found it very timely given the 14 day novel challenge I just finished. ***
I could scream every time someone shells out a half-hearted note of admiration for my writing, then back-slaps me with the must be nice to have the time comment. Hello, have you met me? I’m a working mother of a special needs child. Hubby works twelve hours shifts four days a week and whatever hours are available the other three. We pass in the pre-dawn hours, barely saying hello before changing shift over the little one who when not asleep it tattooed to my leg. Time? There is no such animal.
Most writers, even some of the bigger names one, have day jobs. They don’t have more time to write, they simply know how to make the most of what they have. They master carving a notch of space before breakfast, carry small pads and pens in the car, voice recorders during soccer games, read research during lunch breaks and doctor’s appointments, and write during the hours between bedtime and dawn.
As I speak (or type) I am in the therapist’s office, waiting for my son to finish with his occupational therapist. I use this hour each week as built in writing time. Once the appointment is over, I’m done and ready to spend the evening with my son. Family time is family time, and with the same respect, writing time is writing time.
Over the years I have developed an arsenal of tools to help make the most of my writing time. I’ve listed a few of my tried and true favorites, but the options are endless. Experiment a little and find what revs your creative juices and kicks you muse into high gear.
* Use snippets of time to plot and plan. Plotting can be done peace-mill, so use smaller chunks of free time such as standing in line at the bank, carpool, grocery store, or pumping gas to plot. Save the bigger chunks for serious writing.
*Schedule larger chunks of ‘writing’ time each day/week. Make it known to family and friends this time is for writing. For me, this is an hour after work most weekdays and weekend evenings after my son has gone to bed. This is your time, be assertive about it and don’t waist the opportunities that arise.
*Create a Muse box. The muse can be tricky, always there when life is handing out curve balls hand over fist, void of existence when time reins supreme. A muse box will help you focus faster and get you back into the feel of the story. Inside an old shoe box include:
-pictures of characters, setting, props, ect. Story boards also work well
-Story Playlist, either a burned CD, Ipod, or create a playlist at playlist.com. When in a hurry, pick a radio station from Pandora.com that matches the mood of your story.
-candles scented to match the mood of the story (lately for a YA I’m musing about I’ve burned incense.)
*Story boards. I use corkboard squares affixed to my office wall. Load them with pictures of anything that invokes your imagination. While writing one book, I tagged up paint samples in colors that reminded me of the beach. Fabric scraps, concert tickets, accessories your character might favor. The options here are endless and you can always add to or take away as the story changes.
*Curb the social media. Notice I didn’t say cut out completely. Some social media is healthy. Keeping tags on prospective agents, and publishers, keeping up with trends in the market, getting your name out there to the masses—these are all good uses of your time, just keep time spent surfing to a minimum. I’d go so far as to suggest a timer.
* READ- Reading is the most important tool a writer has. Make sure to set aside some time each day to read.
Pick a suggestion or two and run with it. Find what works for you. No matter what just keep chiseling away at your story, after all Rome wasn’t built in a day, but is 2763 years old and still standing.
Ann Bartle Stewart is the author of two contemporary romance novels, Awenasa Island, now available through Bluewood Publishing, and Brigadoon’s Guarded Hearts, coming soon. She is currently working on her first Young Adult romance. www.annbartlestewart.blogspot.com
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