The laundry needs to be moved to the drier in about three minutes and I haven’t checked Facebook – I should be working on my author platform. I’m also kind of thirsty. Egads! Only sixty-four minutes until the school bus drops off my two older, wonderful, loud, children and I still have three hundred words to go. Uh oh. Twins just ran out the back door. Does the babysitter know? I should check. But, the rule is to stay in my chair during scheduled writing time. Just gotta stay. On one occasion when I NEEDED to pace I stood up, held the chair to my rear, and paced that way. No use having rules if you aren’t going to follow them. Here are six more suggestions:
1) Set out weekly goals. Every Sunday night I drag out the family calendar and plan lacrosse practice, horseback riding, ballet, my husband’s business trips. I also map out my work time. You can use an excel sheet, a daily to-do list, the calendar function in Outlook. Doesn’t matter. Schedule it. “1,000 words today.” “Rough draft of article.” “Write a blog about procrastination…later today.” Note: Once something goes on the calendar IT DOESN’T MOVE.
2) Alternate long and short assignments. Novels are wonderful. They give a writer a chance to develop characters and let complications unfurl. They also take an enormous time commitment. Short assignments are great for earning a sense of accomplishment, receiving immediate feedback if you’re publishing online, and creating a connection with other people. Note: Blogs comments = positive reinforcement.
3) Decide whether your presence is needed or your PRESENCE is needed. Driving the minivan around and waiting on a bench during your child’s recreation doesn’t have to equal iphone games. Instead, I do my freelance editing. I make notes in the margin, but I also let my impressions marinate, suggestions occur. Later, during sit-in-your-seat-do-not-get-up-time I’ll type up comments and make changes to the client’s story. Note: Don’t, however, go to your child’s lacrosse game and bring your laptop. Practice yes, game no. I guarantee you you’ll miss your child’s all-star moment and all the other parents will whisper about you. Loudly.
4) Respect your writing time the way you (should) respect time at the gym. They both keep you healthy. This can be hard, especially for stay-at-home moms/dads. We feel guilty that the editing/writing we do doesn’t pay the bills. And, worse, we sometimes have to hire a babysitter to meet our writing goals. But, if you are reading this and nodding your head, I urge you to set aside that guilt. You’re a writer and if that is how you make sense of this crazy, random, wonderful, mixed-up world, then you have to get the stories and ideas and images out of your head. You’re not being self-indulgent. The crunches you do in the gym are certainly not self-indulgent! The ice cream afterwards might be. Note: dig deep and provide your own validation because no one else will.
5) Coffee and Music. What do you want from me? I’d like to drink green tea, practice yoga, and have lyrical prose flow from my typing fingertips while wearing nothing but an inscrutable smile. I do practice yoga and drink tea, but I also drink coffee and listen to music to get psyched up for conflict-filled writing scenes. Warning: Avoid in excess. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in a situation similar to the pacing-in-chair-situation mentioned in the first paragraph.
6) Know the purpose of your writing You’ll be more committed to writing when you know why you’re doing it. I have a creative nonfiction blog on CaringBridge where I give updates on my daughter’s progress in fighting leukemia and showcase news from cancer-fighting organizations. It’s my way of battling. Also, sometimes, my daughter and I punch empty cereal boxes while shouting that cancer stinks. Depends on the day.
I write for myself at TasteofSherri. Each week I post something I did for myself, a treat or a mini-adventure, or maybe a snippet about my work-in-progress. Note: poking fun at myself means there’s never a shortage of content.
My novel is a dream: a story that I’m excited about that goes on for chapters and chapters and I want other people to read. I don’t expect to get rich and famous. I used to, and would take every rejection personally, and worry that I’d be too old for chat shows of “brilliant writers under thirty-five.” Now my goal is to write something I’d like to read. Note: it’s a heck of a lot more fun this way.
Sherri Cook Woosley earned an M.A. in English from University of Maryland. She’s been a teacher, a fiction contest founder, and a publisher for “The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton Fiction Anthology” in both 2009 and 2010. Her stories and essays have been published in “New Lines from the Old Line State,” Mount Zion Speculative Fiction Review and the MWA’s Pen in Hand (Winter, 2011). Currently Sherri tries to balance being a full-time, four-time, mom with being a part-time blogger and a freelance fiction editor. For more on Sherri, visit her blog or her website.