Friday, April 22, 2011

Finding Moments with the Muse: 6 Ways the Pros Find Time to Write

0610 listThe statistics are in. We work longer and harder now than we ever did before. Two-income households, the difficulty of balancing work and family life, information overload and more all suck time away from our writing. But guess what?  The best-selling pros faced the exact same time crunch as you do now, and here’s how they worked around it.

Write early in the morning
Drag yourself out of bed a half hour early everyday and write.  This will give you three hours and thirty minutes of writing time a week.  Many famous authors have taken this approach.

Anthony Trollope woke up everyday at 5:20am before beginning his full-time job at the post office, and wrote 250 words every 15 minutes.  He regularly produced over 40 pages a week.

After her husband died, Mary Higgins Clark wrote from 5 to 7am, before her 5 children woke up for school.

Write at night
If your energy level is high enough, try staying up a little later each night after everyone else has settled down for the night.  This was the preferred method of Dostoyevsky.

Colleen McCullough worked as a Research Assistant during the day, and wrote two drafts of The Thorn Birds in 3 months, averaging 50 pages a night.

Write during coffee breaks
When your co-workers are taking their coffee or smoke breaks, stay at your desk, or find some place where you can write in a notebook.  If you get two 15-minute breaks a day, use one of them to gain an extra hour and 15 minutes of writing time a week.

John Grisham used this approach while working as a lawyer.  Whenever he had a few minutes, he would write.  He wrote during court recesses, while waiting for client meetings, or whenever he could squeeze it in.

Write when the kids nap
J.K. Rowling often let her baby sleep while she wrote about Harry, Ron Weasley and friends at a local coffee shop.  Try to flex to the baby’s schedule or write a couple of times a week during the kid’s “quiet time.” 

Or do what Anne Tyler, the author of The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons, did and write while your kids are at school. Tyler wrote from 9am to 3:30pm every day.

Go into the office early or leave a little bit later and write
I try to do this a couple of days a week, and it seems to work well. Not that I am any sort of a famous writer or anything, but taking 15 minutes at the beginning of my work day really does help get some writing done.

Use a tape recorder and dictate your work during a commute
Barbara Cartland, one of the most prolific novelists of all time, dictated most of her novels using a tape recorder.  They probably were not dictated during a commute, more than likely they were dictated lounging on an elegant divan, with a couple of foo-foo dogs on her lap… but you get the picture.

Schedule writing office hours during a weekend or day off
I get up early on weekends.  An hour later than when I would normally wake up for an average work day, but when it is still quiet around the house.  Two books: The Weekend Novelist and The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery by Robert Ray explore how to write using the weekend hours to produce a novel in one year. 

These ideas, combined with a few unique ones of your own, should help you find at least 3 to 5 hours each week to get that writing project done.  What are some of your tips and tricks for finding time to write?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

8 Ways Reorganizing Your Writing Space Benefits You

Sorry for my absence from posting here last week.  I was busy cleaning and reorganizing my office.  Yes, the office. It probably hasn't been cleaned and organized thoroughly.. .well ever.  I spent at least 15 hours last week emptying, sorting, purging, rearranging, sweeping, vacuuming, recycling and discovering things that have been missing for years.  And I haven't even BEGUN to deal with my Brazil-sized rain-forest-worth of paper yet...

Also, there needs to be some examination in the near future about WHY I decided to do this right now...
World’s Messiest Office Cubicle Discovered in Colorado
Not my desk, but this gives you the idea of what I'm dealing with
Here are 8 ways that reorganizing your writing workspace can benefit you:
  1. Change your perspective on your work -- For so long now, I've been limited by the way I set up my desk.  My monitor was smashed up against the wall and I was not able to position it as I would like, and it wasted a lot of space. The light was also poor in the area, not horribly so, but bad enough.  After turning the desk around 90 degrees, it freed up where I could place the monitor and allowed plenty of desk space to fit my laptop and the old 20" CRT monitor as well as some additional workspace. A better layout makes it more appealing to work there and probably will encourage me to spend more time there.
  2. Free up space -- I have this affliction.  I don't like to throw out things that are "still good." That is things that will be useful for someone at some point, not in a freaky Hoarder kind of way, just in a I hate to waste money kind of way.  Case in point, a sealed package of thank you cards for "my daughters baby shower gift."  My baby daughter just turned 16 and is driving.  I don't think I'll be sending them out anytime soon, but they took up space in my desk drawer because I saw them as being still useful.
  3. Limit choices -- I had a complete desk drawer full of pens, pencils, markers, dry-erase markers that was difficult to open it was so packed. I also had 4 pen/pencil holder cups on my desk. I never have to buy another writing instrument again... ever.  That is if I liked ball-point pens or pencils, (which I don't) so I kept a few of each type of instrument and packed the rest up to donate to the schools in the area.
  4. Make it easier to find stuff -- When you organize in piles, it is quite easy to lose important stuff under the gun.  When looking for one thing, I often pile other things on top of more things... which often results in other important stuff getting buried.
  5. Find untold caches of office supplies -- Buried in my desk drawers and in several other areas of the office were Post-It Notes and index cards of all sizes and colors.  When I have a hard time finding these things, I just bought more. Now I have enough Post-Its and index cards to last me for the next 3 years... 
  6. Get rid of stuff that's not relevant to your work -- Some organization tip I read stated to keep the items you use most frequently in the easiest to reach storage area in your work space. Here are some of the things that I pulled out of my upper left-hand desk drawer: two decks of playing cards, old customs forms that are no longer used by the post office, a broken Sony Digital camera (I've had 2 cameras since then), 3 AC adapters for unknown electronic devices, 5 plastic kid's meal toys that I kept on my desk for some reason at one point, a 160GB external hard drive (not currently in use) a large velour bag of dice from my Dungeons & Dragons role-playing days (I haven't played in almost 20 years), manuals from my bosses OfficeJet from 10 years ago (the printer died at least 4 years ago and was trashed), several Cleveland Indians Topps baseball cards from 1986 (none of them good players or memorable to anyone other than a Cleveland Indians fan), and the usual crap mentioned above: Post-Its in a rainbow of colors, pens, push pins (loose - OUCH!), binder clips, index cards, envelopes, etc.)  Just imagine what I pulled out of the bigger drawers!

    Also, my desk had a credenza which provided 3 more drawers of junk space, as well as additional square footage on the desktop.  The drawback: It wasn't working for me, the height of it was about 6 inches shorter than the desk which made the space hard to use (I had to bend over to write on it, so it just became more area to pile up more clutter). I removed it and consolidated all of the crap in those drawers into the 3 remaining drawers. Guess what? It has been almost a week and I don't miss any of it!  It wasn't relevant, so I removed it! 
  7. Provide plenty of goods  -- For the church youth mission trip indoor "yard sale" in May.
  8. Create a better view of the door -- Never sit with your back to a door. Ever.
Next: Stay tuned for my attack on "paper mountain."

    Friday, April 01, 2011

    Most Brilliant Product Ever Invented? Or the End of Civilization?

    Either this is the most brilliant consumer product ever imagined and manufactured, or a sign that the end of civilization as we know it is near.  April Fool's joke?  I'm not so sure... it looks like PopCap games, the makers of addictive games like Bejeweled and Bookworm, have diversified into interactive microwave ovens. These allow you to play games on it while you wait for your Quaker Instant Oatmeal to cook. 

    Are we so pathetic that we need to be entertained while nuking our Ham 'n Cheese Hot Pockets?  Hmmm, come to think of it... yes... It would be sort of cool to have one...