How To Turn Wishes Into Words -- What's Your Plan?

It was so wonderful to read all of your wishes in response to my birthday post for She Writes, where I shared my hopes for the my upcoming writing year.  I especially appreciated the encouragement and support you offered me and one another (and loved your idea, @RYCJ, of checking in with ten of the other writers on the thread mid-year to see how they are doing!), cause guess what?  I'm gonna need it!  It's been nine days since I declared my wishes for the upcoming writing year, and, you guessed it -- I haven't written a damn thing.  

Part of it is that She Writes still dominates my days, and my two little boys dominate the rest of my time.  But I know that's not a good enough excuse.  I have to get more hardcore about carving out writing hours and making them absolutely untouchable.  I have to find a place to work that shields me from distractions and good a way to manage my other obligations -- to She Writes, and to my kids -- that doesn't prevent me from doing the work I love most.  (The first thing I'm going to do is re-read the posts Rebecca Rodskog, coach and time management expert, did when working with our Passion Project winner Monique Fields -- and potentially hire her!)

So: HOW?  How do you do it?  In 250 words or less -- so that I can get through the comment thread in order to learn from all of you -- how do you schedule, protect and defend your writing time?  When do you work?  What kinds of rules do you set up for yourself, if any?  (I visited a cool writers space in NY the other day, The Brooklyn Writers Space, and couldn't help laughing at all the flyers for various tools that make it IMPOSSIBLE for writers to access the internet even if they desperately want to.) How do you balance your writing with the other pressing tasks of life, like taking care of others, take care of yourself, and, of course, earning a gosh-darned living?

I'd love to know.  And I promise: I will use what is written here to map out my day tomorrow.  It's a banner day -- not one single sodding meeting or phone call on the books.  

I plan to make the most of it.

(Photo credit: Dimitri N.)

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Comment by Anna Marie Valden on August 14, 2012 at 9:41pm

I'm 50 and raised three daughters to adulthood so during those years I wrote in carpool lines. My fourth daughter has special needs so I will forever have a child at home. I've learned that I must seek help. I have a list of people, my village, that range from my other daughters to a hired nanny to give me blocks of time. I use to say do the dishes then you can sit and write, now I say write 25-50 pages then you can do the dishes. I meditate even if it's a few minutes a day, it helps my patience and my focus. I keep a detailed list of what I need to accomplish and when. That way I don't get on the internet and turn into a mindless computer zombie, I work more productively. Good luck, my fellow writer.

Comment by Wendy Brown-Baez on July 28, 2011 at 6:15pm

I once believed that I couldn't write unless I had a block of time. I thought it would be too hard to interrupt the flow. And for the most part, I was fortunate...I worked as a nanny so in-between families or when my family didn't need me because the mom was on maternity leave, I wrote. (I also went into debt, but that's another story).  But when I got my next nanny position, I realized I wasn't going to have a break for quite a while and I decided I would find 15 minutes a day, no matter what. I knew I could do one spontaneous free associative writing as taught by Natalie Goldberg in 15 minutes. My routine was to put the kids down for a nap, then clean up the kitchen from lunch and put away toys and straighten up. I knew every day they would nap for at least 1/2 hour (often 1 1/2 hours) so I decided as soon as their little heads hit the pillow, I would write. Then clean up. I didn't care if the writing was not my best and would need lots of revision. To my surprise, I was able to complete a 300 page novel this way...and it didn't need so much revision. My brain began to accept this as my writing practice/rythmn and to be able to continue on from the last page.



Comment by Kathryn Edgecombe on July 20, 2011 at 6:30am
I like the idea to avoid going on line instead of writing.  That seems to be what I am doing this morning.  Usually I spend a couple of minutes reading something about art and then comment on my reaction to it in a journal which seems to prime my pump and I am ready to again focus on my book.  Although I like writing late into the night I do find that maybe it is better for me to start my day with my writing.  When I do that I am often tempted to continue writing for a longer period of time.  Since I am now 64 I do not have the restrictions that plagued the rest of my 'writing career'.  It is also important to listen to what our subconscious mind has brought forward for us to work on - I am always amazed at the work that part of my brain is able to do when I am not paying attention.  Often it is as if the piece is fully ( or almost so) formed and I am surprised that I had wanted to say a particular thing until I see it on the page.  That is when writing is the most fun for me.  And I realize I want to write and write on this page and I think instead I will get back to work on my book as I haven't visited it for a few days.  Been away and distracted.
Comment by Angie Spoto on July 19, 2011 at 1:40pm
Great ideas Jackie, thanks!
Comment by Jackie Lee on July 19, 2011 at 12:46pm

I'm 40, have a 5 year old, and run two blogs and am currently working on my first book. It can be tough to get all the writing done but here's a few things that work for me. 


1. Identify your "best" most creative time. Set that time aside and use it to write. 

2. My kiddo has now learned that writing = work... she's lucky enough to have a mom who works from home, but mom still works. We set up something for her to do during that time, crafts, movie, projects whatever... and she does her "work" while I do mine. 

3. Don't think you have to do it ALL today... for my book I'm giving myself 500 words a day ~ just so I can get it done. As I get into it I may up that number, but for right now it is creating momentum to be able to get that amount done. 

4. Write for real. Marion Roach Smith talks about writing with intent, and not doing "exercises" when you barely have enough time to write in a day... when you write, write for real. That definitely works for me.

5. Set aside even 10 minutes for quiet reflective time... that seems to be the time I really start putting the words together in my head. That time makes the actual writing time much easier... this also works while doing dishes, washing a kiddo's hair, or doing laundry. :)


Hope that helps. Glad to be here. 


Comment by Diane Hendricks on July 19, 2011 at 9:13am

I'm over 50 but always had the desire to one day write a book' I have no idea how to get started' any advice out there on where to start? Or can share their experience in writing first book? I'm anxious these days to write (:


Comment by Fi Phillips on July 19, 2011 at 3:23am
This is a hard one. My normal writing slot is filled with children over the summer holidays. I write for a living and I write for myself so really I need a double slot.  I once blogged about the August Monster eating my writing time and it doesn't get any better each year. Until school starts in September, I will be writing in the evening (after the children have gone to bed). After that, I'll get back to my morning writing rota. I do have one rule that serves me very well though. I write for at least 20 minutes a day - doesn't matter if it's complete waffle. 20 minutes keeps my writing muscle fit.
Comment by Sandra Miller on July 18, 2011 at 7:40am
My heart goes out to you and others like us; I am married and a mother and step-mother of 2 boys so I know how difficult it can be to crave out time to write. I also work a full-time job, which requires me to maintain a certification. Writing gives me so much joy, and for me not to write is like having that joy taken away from me. So it's no wonder my first project was the book: "Balancing Blessings and Obtaining Order."

My advice to you is to carry a notebook everywhere you go, whenever an idea comes to you take time to quickly jot it down. Just because you live a busy life does not mean ideas are only going to come to you when you're sitting in front of your computer and ready to write. My second advice is to find contentment with where you are now in your life; you are gaining life experience that will someday add value to your writing.
Comment by MCatherine on July 16, 2011 at 2:03pm

Any chance setting a timer for two hours a day that will be dedicated to your own wish list?

When I was going through cancer treatment I used the timer to allow myself 10 mintues for crying, punching pillows and writing in my Journal, which I subsequently sent to Paris with no return address...too bad might have been a good resource for future blog posts! Ahhhhh the 20x20 clarity of hindsight!

Nelle Douville Comment by Nelle Douville on July 15, 2011 at 9:13pm
It is easier now because I'm unemployed, and in any case, my parenting days are in the past (27 and 19.) When I was working, it was a one hour commute (each way) work, return home and settle in to write. The time I put in is directly proportional to my emotional involvement in the story subject. No outlines for writing or doing daily tasks for me, it is all by instinct.


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