Monday, April 25, 2011

How I Find Time to Write With a Hectic Schedule

Alas, like most aspiring authors, it's required of me to hold a day job to pay those pesky bills.  Fortunately, I've been lucky enough to work with an amazing group of people as a paralegal at a law firm that I'm exceptionally proud of. < Insert witty lawyer joke here>  For me--and I'm sure the same is true with most people--my job doesn't end after I put my forty plus hours in a week.  When I get home, I instantly have to put on so many hats that I feel like I'm literally turning into a mad hatter.  From mother to wife to dry cleaner to housekeeper to accountant to plumber to groundskeeper to chef to ninja (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating slightly on the ninja role in a futile attempt to feel cool), I always feel as though I'm too busy to keep my head on straight let alone write.  So how does one balance such precious little time during the day between their jobs, family and dreams? Well, I'm glad you asked because, if the title hasn't already tipped you off, it's the subject of today's blog--hey, even I'm prone to my slow moments, just look at my Tweets sometime.

The following ideas include techniques I've actually used myself to feed my creative need in between the chaos and hustle and bustle of life.  Others are those that came to me while composing this blog: 

1.  Take notes:  Most of the time, for me anyway, the best ideas arise at the most inopportune of moments (while on the phone with clients, typing letters, driving home, fighting crime, etc.).  In order to accommodate for these sudden sparks of genius (or so I like to think) I've made it a habit of carrying around a writing utensil and something said utensil can be used to write on. For instance, in my proudest moment, I've made use of a tube of lipstick and a utility bill--I wouldn't recommend this.

While I'm at work, I have a year supply of post-it notes at my disposal of which I use to write down sudden ideas that pop into my head to use when I can actually devote time to writing,  When busy at home, I've been known to use the nearest random piece of paper (including my daughter's coloring book pages, napkins, "to do" lists, and, if I'm lucky, a discarded piece of notebook paper). Fortunately, I've been lucky enough not to have to resort to the toilet paper...yet. 

The point is, when you find yourself consumed with absolutely no time to sit down to hammer out an idea, make use of those items available near you (traditional paper, post-its, children's building blocks or smoke signals) to jot down your thought nuggets for further use and exploration later.

2.  Carry a recorder: Most of the attorneys at my firm have recorders ready to roll at a moments notice--Lord knows my boss makes use of his.  Recorders are convenient if you have a sudden idea that you want to rattle off right away.  Doing this saves time as, unless you're the Speedy Gonzales of the keyboard, most of us speak faster than we are able to write. Use your recorder to record random thoughts, plot epiphanies, dialogue, or even complete pages of material.  They're handy, cheap, and can be used darn near anywhere (although I would recommend avoiding the bathroom).

3.  Use your head:  If you absolutely cannot find something to write on, try to find creative ways to remember those ideas you're coming up with.  For me, music is a huge inspiration for my writing.  A few of the "scenes" in my first manuscript were inspired by various pieces of music. Perhaps there's a poem that has helped inspire a story for you, a location, a memory or a certain person.  Equate your ideas with something that is familiar to you.  It will help you retain them until you can actually write them down.

4.  Bring your laptop with you-While writing Enigma Black, I would, on my lunch hour, whip out my handy dandy netbook (oh God that sounded a little too Blues Clusey) and use my one hour of sanctity to crank out sentences, paragraphs and pages.  That's one good thing about netbooks, the little buggers are tiny and very easily portable. If you don't own a laptop but have access to a computer where you work, use a word (or whatever) program to write and then e-mail what you've written to yourself.  Use any break or opportunity you can get to write.  You'll be surprised by how much you'll be able to accomplish if you do.

5.  While the kids are out cold-I used to cherish nap times for more reasons than just the sudden silence that came with them.  I'm big on being productive and capitalizing on opportunities when they arise. Therefore, nap times and Dora times were like Christmas in my house.  Now, getting my daughter to take a nap is like trying to fight a lion with dental floss and I have to make use of random five minute blocks of time when she's occupying herself (and I literally mean five minutes as, if she's quiet for longer than that, I know I'm in for a mess to clean up).

6.   Become nocturnal:  Not surprisingly, I do most of my writing pretty late at night and I drag ass the next morning because of it. Usually,  I'm unable to begin writing hardcore until after 9 or 10 at night.  Most of the time, I'm writing until around midnight or one in the morning.  Thus, I will apologize in advance for my blog posts.  As writers, we need to adapt even if that means burning the midnight oil or writing at the butt crack of dawn--if, of course, it doesn't have any negative impacts on your family or employment.

Okay writers, I gave you mine, now you give me yours.  What are some ways you manage to fit writing in under a hectic schedule?

My next blog will focus on those books that had the biggest impact on my childhood.


Celynne said...

OMG! I think you're me! Only I work in a different field, I write a different genre, my kids are too old for naps and I'm afraid of ninjas. But hey, aside from that... I too use the note to self thingy, bring my laptop to work (my co-workers think I'm a snob because I never join them for coffee, but oh well), and fortunately I've been a creature of the night all my life. I also have a couple other tricks: I set my alarm about ten minutes early and lie in bed thinking about what I'm going to write for the day, and spend the time in the shower planning where I'm going to take my story next. I've trained myself to plot, develop characters and work on dialogue while grocery shopping, and I use my daughter's homework time as writing time. I've also stopped wasting valuable time vacuuming. Ya know, the new cat hair carpet doesn't look that bad!

Heather Kelly said...

Wow--I'm impressed that you burn the midnight oil--I am too drained to do so, but if I did, I would probably get so much more accomplished with my writing.

I've taken to printing out chapters and taking them to the gym, and reviewing (and revising them) while on the treadmill. I can only walk at a fast clip when I do this, and so if I want to run, I have to do it after I've revised. I love killing two birds with one stone, and then I don't feel guilty about choosing between writing and exercising. :)