The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘Time Management

Everyday I wake up thinking how I can best slice my 24-hour pie. A myriad of tasks stream through my mind including how to deepen my main character, amp up the tension of a scene, why there so many calories in lemon olive oil. I jump out of bed convinced that all the “to-dos” in my head will magically become “to-dones” by the end of the day. A fantasy rarely achieved.

But as John Lennon sang: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

The car won’t start. The dog is hacking. An article deadline looms and a key resource hasn’t returned my email. Spin life’s wheel and each day you can substitute “life happenings” pre-empting coveted writing time. Surprisingly, I’m not alone in my struggle.

I read Katrina Kittle’s post Keep the Faucet On: Slow and Steady Fills the Ocean. After commiserating with every writer’s plight, Kittle offers simple, real-world suggestions to those scheduling conflicts/time management issues.

I’m starting by letting go of my belief that a writing schedule must look the same every day. What a relief. Her words of encouragement got me back to the keyboard.

Maybe, with a little pre-planning and realistic expectation, time really is on your side.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

My husband just lost his job. The company he worked for sold to a competitor, and unless the vice president of the larger company 20131226_D800_trishwilkinson_family_5526_chuck_trish_8x12gets hit by a bus, there won’t be a position available under the new ownership. One of the former bosses, who shares in the purchase price of a few hundred-million dollars, called to say a check for a couple months’ salary would arrive in the mail. Somehow management viewed this appropriate compensation for my husband’s ten years of service generating millions in assets as well as adding value to the purchase price. Oh. And as of May 1, COBRA will require $1400 in monthly payments to maintain our Kaiser Health coverage for our family of four.

My initial reaction was to panic. I looked up teaching positions in as many school districts as possible within commuting range, because owning a writing/coaching/editing operation doesn’t include healthcare benefits. Though the idea of reentering the classroom excited me, my stomach knotted, and anxiety dreams woke me up all night long. Don’t get me wrong, I can get behind the National Core Curriculum Standards, but I find it almost impossible to write novels and articles while teaching full time. By the end of a day of working with kids, collaborating with other teachers, assessing student work, and on and on and on, my creativity gets used up. There’s no time to coach other writers or edit their work during the school year either.

Then I remembered one of my favorite writing buddies, a fellow Page-a-Day writer and award-winning columnist, Claire Fadden’s sing-song voice in my head. “Obstacle or opportunity,” she likes to say with a shrug as she looks for ways to use life’s little setbacks to propel her toward her goals.

time-managementSo how can our lack of regular income and health benefits transform into a catalyst toward my goal of becoming a traditionally published YA novelist? My husband and I decided that I would hold off jumping back into the classroom. I’ve got one more school year, this small window, to pour on the energy and get my manuscript published. It’s amazing how a narrow timeframe can make the world seem like an entirely different place.

I’ll keep you posted on how this turns out. In the meantime, tell us about your obstacles that have become opportunities. Believe me, a story like that would be really helpful right now.

Never mistake activity for achievement. —John Wooden

It’s true. I used to confuse motion with action. As long as I was busy in the motion of writing a novel (taking classes, attending workshops, reading how-to books), I thought I was getting closer to my goal. The reality is, while I was in the motion of writing, I wasn’t truly engaged in the action of writing a novel. The possibility of producing an actual book was slim. I liken it to constantly going to the grocery store buying the ingredients for a delicious cake, but never actually baking it.

I was happy — highlighter in hand — with my nose in the latest or time-tested how to write books. I garnered every tip, idea, theory and tidbit imaginable. And I read every writer’s blog. Actually that last one may have been what saved me.  Thanks to a post from James Clear, I learned the folly of my ways.

Don’t get me wrong. It is important to learn about writing. The knowledge I’ve gained through my critique partners is invaluable. But after gathering ideas from other writers, wannabe writers, editors and agents, there comes a time to put all that learning to the test – or in my case – to the page.

I talked a lot about how hard it is to write fiction. Anyone who would listen, heard my lament. It is a much tougher task than writing a magazine article, where the challenge is to uncover the facts and put them into a readable prose.

One my critique partners, Sharon C. Cooper, called me out on my penchant for hovering around the idea of writing a novel . “You’ve taken more classes than any other writer I know,” she lovingly said. “Girl, you need to start writing.” Those words hit home. I got the message. I needed to stop preparing to write and start spending my  time getting words on the page.

Bum glue, butt-in-the-chair, chained-to-the-computer. It all amounts to the same thing. A writer writes. So get writing.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

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.

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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