January 17, 2017

How Do Writers Find Time To Write?

One of the main things a writer needs to know is not based on knowledge, it's based on action.

What action?

How to fit writing into your schedule.

No big deal, some of you are saying, but a lot of writers know what I'm talking about. Finding time to write is not easy especially when it's not your primary form of employment or you have others dependent on you.


Over the past ten years, I managed to fit writing into my schedule until last year.

What happened last year?

My empty nest filled back up with two young children, my grandchildren. Between the obligations of school, medical needs, legal issues, homework, and the desperate need to increase our income, writing took a back seat...over and over again.

I tried making to-do lists, but the needs of a nine and five year old took precedence. My sanity took precedence. The continual battle of setting up custody and lining up insurance and dealing with social workers and teachers and making sure everyone had clothes that fit and a semi-balanced meal in their bellies really took it's toll.

When training opportunities surfaced, I jumped at them. I scheduled work in every gap I could find and kept trying to find time to write. It wasn't there. Then another setback—my self-care bottomed out. I quit my exercise program because I couldn't afford it, and the lovely, balanced meals my husband and I enjoyed didn't appeal to the grandchildren.

On top of all of this , every single time I had a full day blocked out for writing, some one got sick. Which often meant I caught what they had and lost multiple days to illness.


How am I changing this pattern?

I approached 2017 determined to take back control. Yes, the legal issues are no longer taking up time, but there's still school, homework, gymnastics, sick kids, and the need to pay the bills.

As clients began asking about my schedule for next year, I picked up my calendar and made some specific decisions. I reserved specific days of the week for writing. The other days are reserved for clients and training needs. If a client wants to book a writing day, I will book it but I must switch it with a training day in order to keep the balance between the two. In addition, I have three blocks of time set aside for exercise...I'm still working on the balanced meal issue.

Is it perfect?

As often happens, my plans hit a snag last week. Snow.

School got cancelled on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday brought a two hour delay, but one of the kids was sick and couldn't go. Plus, school was out on Friday for a Teacher Workday, and this past Monday was the MLK holiday.

Have I given up?

NO!

Today I'm back on track and moving forward. I will not let a minor slip up in the schedule ruin my plans. When I teach time management, many of my trainees claim planning never works because something goes wrong. My answer? If you have a plan, you can figure out how to adapt to the issue rather than trying to get it all done without thinking it through. Last year, I didn't think it through. This year I won't make that mistake. Yes, I lost a week, but my plan is still here, and I'm adapting it to meet the needs of this week.

What about you? Do you have a scheduled time for writing? How do you make sure you have time?


January 11, 2017

4 Tips For New Writers

Members of our chapter at an open-mic
It happens every January. My inbox fills up with inquiries about our local writing chapter of SCWA (South Carolina Writers' Association). I've been the leader of the Greenville chapter for several years, so the sudden spurt of interest is nothing new. People start the new year with many resolutions, one of which is: "I'm going to write a book."

After a month or two, the ones who really mean it are still around while the others disappear back into their lives of "someday I want to write a book."

What do I have to say to these would-be writers?

 

Writing a book takes time and dedication.

I don't know how many people have told me: "I have an idea for a book and one day I'm going to write it." They say it like writing a book doesn't take hard work and skill. They are wrong. To make this offhand statement to someone who is actually writing is like saying to a surgeon, "Someday, I want to operate on someone." I'm not trying to frighten or offend people. There are many people who are writing, but it's not something that you sit down and do one day without any preparation.

 

Take it seriously.

There are writing guidelines. Most of the people who write and don't take the time to learn how to write are writing a very rough first draft. First drafts are nothing to sneer at, though. At least you've accomplished something, but you need to polish it a lot before you proclaim it finished.

 

Seek out writing groups and workshops.

Writing is not a solitary endeavor. Although, this might appeal to some, no one creates in a vacuum. At some point, you must interact with other writers. It will keep you motivated and you will learn about techniques and guidelines and publishing, and agents and ... Get the picture? The best way to stay focused and learn is to find other people with the same writing goals. Writing groups, conferences, and workshops are perfect places to find these people.

Get your BIC.

BIC stands for "butt in chair." It's a common term used by writers who understand the only way you will ever succeed in writing is to sit down and write. If you don't do this, you will never write.


What do I expect from the people who contacted me this year?

Of those people who contacted me with questions, a few showed up at our meeting this week. This is a big step, but what will make the difference is whether they keep showing up at meetings. We have a great group of motivated, published, and award-winning writers that they can learn from. Not only that, but those who did show up brought a new perspective to the writing of our present members. We want their perspectives, so I hope they will return!

What advice would you give to a person who wants to write a book?

January 3, 2017

Kurt Vonnegut Wisdom: My New Year's Gift to Writers

As the days of 2017 span out before us, I wanted to share a short clip from Kurt Vonnegut on the shape of stories. It is instructive and humorous. In fact, many of you may have seen this clip before. It's not like it's unknown. The video is worth watching, even if it's not your first time. So, this is my gift to you as we begin to focus on our writing plans for the new year.


Kurt Vonnegut, The Shape of Stories