The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘sacred time

This image from cartoonist Jim Benton perfectly captures the life of a mommy writer

Virginia Woolf famously said “…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction… ”

I’d like to add that if she is a mother, she must also have reliable childcare and superb time management skills.

All you mommy writers know how hard it is to scoop out an hour or two of your already packed day to devote to your fictional families when your real-world family needs so much. I think I’ve gotten the hang of this writing-while-parenting gig, and since I’m often asked “how do you manage to finish your books?” I’m here to share my few not-so-secrets.

1. A or B? This is the simplest and best time management technique I have. Divide your time into two categories: A) things you cannot do while the children are around and B) things you can do while they’re around. If you begin evaluating your day this way, you’ll quickly understand A) means “write” and B) means “everything else.”

A) requires sustained, uninterrupted concentration

B) short bursts of attention

Therefore, when you do have time to yourself and are tempted to divert from writing by tending to dirty dishes, laundry, errand-running etc. remind yourself that you can do those things when the kids are around. It’s best to draw a hard line and keep to the rules. Once you’ve spent a couple hours on your fiction, then you can turn your attention to other matters. At least you will have met your quota of daily pages (and yes, you should have one, only if it’s to produce one single page).

Secondly, keep “office hours” in your household. Whether you prefer to rise early and write until daybreak or you stay up late to greet the witching hour, take 2 hours as office time. Even if you don’t have an office, like me, you can again invoke the hard line and go off-duty after the kids are in bed. If they’re down at 8:30, spend an hour tidying or eating ice cream and reading the paper (or whatever your nightly decompression ritual happens to be). At 9:30, your “office” opens for a brief period of business. Go to the coffee shop, sit on the patio or in the bedroom and write.

This works well with teens too, who don’t want to be bothered with you anyway.

Simple but effective. A & B allow you to focus your attention on the people who most need it without either family compromising the other.

Kirsten Imani Kasai

P.S. Be sure to check out my Ice Song podcast at Suvudu.com! Office hours, girls, office hours.

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The world is urging me to get down and wallow in its mess. World, you are not the boss of me! Have you forgotten who I am? I am she who dreams of sleeping on warm grass, the one who would like to live inside a little mole hole in the earth. The one who used to spend entire weekends in bed with her typewriter and landline, holding court in a tiny studio bedroom. The necessary-phone-call avoider. “Shunner of office parties” and “Disconcertingly often confused by dreams that feel like real-life memories.” Despiser of public linens and soft furniture. Fearful of discount hotel mattresses. Disturbed by sweater pills. Soaker-upper of cracking thunderstorms, inhaler of the coming-snow scent, savorer of tiny glasses of ruby port. Lost in the otherworld. Drowned by fantasies and falsehoods.

Yes, I am those things and more. So when the world, confused by my love of theatrics and cocktail parties, insists that I further engage with it, we hit multiple snags. The modern social-media madness of networking and blogging and thrusting one’s self upon unsuspecting web passersby becomes arduous. The smiles and handshakes clatter like cheap plastic trinkets in a bin. Retreat becomes necessary, no matter how brief. Time to add tinder, stoke the fire and coax the coals to blaze. Each expansion demands retraction. I salve the friction burn with silence. A deep, still water must always return to its natural, glassine state of reflection after the distraction of surface ripples subsides.

Like this … listen …

Part 2

So that’s all I really had to say. But as I’m writing, I am thinking, “Even though I am writing, some may say that this post isn’t about writing. It’s about self-indulgence. Overwriting or, god forbid, purple fricking prose.” But that’s what I have to say today, and it is about writing and the nature of those who write (often introverted, neurotic, dreamy). It’s about needing to shut your actual mouth in order to hear what you have to say. It’s about enjoying all of the untold stories, the flash fiction of daydreams, that we tell ourselves each day in order to mold the jelly of passing time into something tangible and recognizable. It’s about knowing when to speak and when to listen, and then, what to put onto paper.

Kirsten Imani Kasai

In a romanticized world writing is supposed to be an organic, let-it-flow, take-all-the-time-you-need process. Ideally, yes! And oh, how we love it when hours of writing time stretch before us. Hours to luxuriate- or wallow- in constructing one sentence after the next. But many of us don’t have hours a day to devote to writing. Or we might have hours but find ourselves puttering around the house/garden/bookshelves/Internet, chatting with the dog or accepting invitations to coffee from other procrastinating writers, running “essential” errands, only to put on our writing hats with a mere 25 minutes left. Sigh. Guilty as charged.

But last week I remembered a day-saving gem tossed into the discussion at one of our Page a Day group meetings, many moons ago. Trish Wilkinson said that she uses a timer to keep herself on track. At the time I thought, “Oh dear, that sounds way too tick-tick-tick for me.” I tried it once and it was too tick-tick-tick for me. Then I remembered that in this techie age I have options. It’s not all tick-tick-tick when it comes to timers!

Cell phones have a reminder alert option; your ringtone is usually more palatable than a constant tick-tick-brrrrringggg! But my favorite is the iPod timer. My mom gave me her old iPod (she’s much more technologically sophisticated than me and has moved on to the next generation device) and the timer has a lovely selection of chimes. Lately I’m using the marimba chime. Looaddlelooaddlelooaddleahh. Ahhh…  This is a much gentler option for me than brrrringggg!

So if I have two hours to work, I might break it down like this:

30 minutes- Read; reading primes the pump and is as essential in the process as writing practice. Chime!

30 minutes- Journal or other writing practice; writing exercises from my craft book of choice or simply freewriting. Chime!

60 minutes- Writing devoted to my novel or short story. Chime!

The beauty of the timer is that I can read read read or write write write until my gentle marimba wakes me from my world on the page. No need to glance at the clock. Beautiful elixir! If the timer is on I feel like I need to stay on task. If there’s no timer, I find myself entering the lounge of ambiguous Maple Syrup Land- a sticky and tempting place to greed out on time-eating this-and-thats rather than spotlighting my goals for the day.  I feel much better about myself in Marimba Land. Thank you, Trish, for the spark in changing my time-frittering ways.

For extra coziness during these winter months I’ve also taken to lighting three candles during my writing time. One for heart, mind and soul. I know it might sound too New-Age-y or ritualistic for some, but it’s so nurturing. Try it! Of course, I can’t take candles with me when I’m at a cafe to write (maybe I should attempt it to see if anyone stops me…) but when I’m at home the act of lighting candles is one more physical cue that I’m committing this time to writing. And it really is cozy. It makes writing time feel sacred. So far I’ve never thought, “Oh, crumb! Time to light the candles again!” Maybe it’s from birthday candles- it reminds me that time is passing and that time to write is fleeting. It also reminds me of fun. Chime!

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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