How is a writer’s life like an English muffin? It’s full of nooks and crannies. Pockets of time, some bigger than others, that can be used to hone your craft and advance your writing goals. If you’ve ever had kids, pets, aging parents, or a full-time or part-time job (or all of the above), then you’ve already mastered the art of juggling. And if that’s the case, what’s one more apple or orange? Would you throw away a pocketful of spare change? Of course not! So why not make the most of those seemingly random yet actually regularly occurring bits of free time by writing? It only takes a few minutes to jot down that list of story ideas you’ve been tossing around in your head for weeks. Or document for posterity, and a paying filler market, that hilarious thing your child or pet did last week. Or line-edit a page of your work-in-progress, write a riveting elevator pitch, or plan out that synopsis you’ve been dreading (and putting off) for months.
I started out as an Ivory Tower writer: someone who couldn’t write unless conditions were near-perfect. The apartment had to be quiet, ditto my neighbors and the streets below my third-floor walk-up. Oh, and did I mention that the Muse had to be there as well? Needless to say, I did a lot more planning to write than I did actual writing. Maybe I thought that under less than perfect conditions my writing would be less than perfect, too. But like any other life skill—playing an instrument, learning to cook, painting or sculpting—practice is key. Early on I lacked the confidence and dedication to aggressively pursue my writing goals. I had the time, energy, and ability. But without the courage and commitment to dig in and practice my craft daily, even under the most undesirable conditions, I was still standing at the threshold daydreaming.
Oddly enough, I only began demanding and making time for my writing after family and job commitments left me with little free time. My ‘nooks and crannies’ approach—fitting writing in whenever, wherever—reached its stride at that point, and it has served me well ever since. This past winter I spent a number of days holed up in my mother’s hospital room awaiting those elusive doctors’ rounds. Hospital hours are longer than regular hours, and time passes very slowly—unless, of course, you have a writing project to work on, in which case time moves faster and sometimes even flies. Editing my novel in a chaotic medical setting transported me beyond those dull institutional walls and kept me sane.
If you find yourself needing Ivory Tower conditions to write, try purposefully stepping beyond your comfort zone. Turn the TV on to a squabbling real-life court drama. Or blast your least favorite kind of music. Or allow your kids a short-term free-for-all! Then, tune everything out (barring child emergencies) and just write. Don’t worry about quality. Your initial aim is simply to strengthen your ability to concentrate amid commotion. The more you do it, the easier it will become—and the better your writing will become.
When it comes to writing, minutes matter. Ten minutes here, 20 minutes there, they all add up. Just ask the woman who called me a few years back to discuss an article I’d written on writing church histories. Turns out this amazing woman was providing daily care for two aging parents with dementia. Her goal? To write the history of her own church while sitting with her parents at their many weekly doctor and physical therapy appointments! Now that’s commitment. And if she can do it, so can you.
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- Excerpted from: The Organized Writer: 30 Days to More Time, More Money, and Less Frustration By Julie Hood
- Write More Using Your Kitchen Timer! By Doris J. Niemann
Wendy Hobday Haugh, a freelance writer from upstate New York, writes articles, stories, and poems for children and adults. She recently completed her 7th draft of a middle grade novel, and now begins the lengthy querying process.
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Bravo! I needed to read this article.
This story made a very good point. When the inspiration hits, write. You don’t need a computer to write a quick scene (remember what pencil and paper were used for at one time?). A lot of scenes can then become a story, when you do have time.
I must admit, I have fallen into and out of the same ‘Ivory Tower’ rut this author mentioned. The best thing to do is keep that pad handy, then — write on a shuttle, write while waiting for a client, write while you’re on ‘hold’, etc…
You will break yourself of that need for silence before you can write very fast when you do this.
Preaching to the choir, here, honey. For years I lived on notes. Now, I have full time for writing and it’s paying off.