Monday, November 1, 2010

Just Give Me 15 Minutes!

Contrary to what many of you might imagine, a career in letters is not without its drawbacks--chief among them the unpleasant fact that one is frequently called upon to actually sit down and write.
--Fran Lobowitz, Metropolitan Life

Truthfully, I don't know who Fran Lobowitz is. She's correct, of course, but I'm in a bit of a panic. Just looking for employment has diminished my writing time to almost nothing. What will trying to write be like when I'm actually working a job, juggling relationships and responsibilities?

I've given this some thought.

Finding time to write will take much more than discipline. (I've requested a seat-belted desk chair for Christmas in case I'm wrong.) And a schedule can corral just so many minutes. A housekeeper is out of the question, given I'll earn less than she would in an hour. No, this will be much, much harder than creating a new schedule and delegating house chores.

I have to change my thinking.

Ouch! Yes, this smacks a little.

I've always equated quality writing time with oceans of unclaimed minutes of stillness. I do believe really good fiction requires more time, but not necessarily in wide swaths of time, just the kind of time that allows for tons of rewriting counted in years.

Let's consider the worst case scenario: I only find 15 minutes to write each day. Can I still be a novelist?

Let's do an experiment. I'm going to hop on over to Word and write for 15 minutes to see what I can accomplish.

I'll be right back...

I'll never look at 15 minutes the same again. I wrote 450 words or 1/222th of a novel! At that rate, I'll have a rough draft in 222 days. This is encouraging because I'm pretty sure I can find an hour a day. I waste an hour a day, easily. How much better to claim that hour as a prize and not a limitation.

This is going to be an adjustment.

For those of you who aren't Paris Hilton, how do you find the time to write? What adjustments in your expectations have you had to make? Do you negotiate with your family? Is it more productive to write very early before work, or do after-work hours work best? How do you do it? Help!


Wendy Paine Miller said...

I can very much relate to thinking I needed long, uninterrupted blocks of time. More and more I've had to give that up and just get the words down.

This requires me to get harder on myself when I edit, but it's rewarding to have a rough to work w/ at all.

Thanks for your words on FB.

~ Wendy

Latayne C Scott said...

Over at VibrantNation, where writers are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, I've directed people to read your encouraging article, Patti! Thanks so much.

Jan Cline said...

Shamefully, I have to admit to having almost all the time I want to write. Im on disability and not working a "real" job. But when I was working, it was quiet evenings that I treasured - and yes, even if only for 15-30 minutes. For many though, it's not time, it's organization, inspiration and determination. I tend to get caught up in other things and the drama of life. Im trying very hard to focus these days and be a better steward of my time.

I am organizing a writers conference in my city and I have to remind myself to put that away and get back to the reason Im planning the conference anyway - for writers! That's what I am - a writer with time that many of you only dream of. It's a management issue - and it's still a struggle either way for some.

Patti Hill said...

Good morning to all! Thanks for stopping by.

Wendy: I agree with you. Self-editing will be more challenging, but at least we have something to edit. And that's a good thing.

Latayne: Aren't you one of those writers. Exciting to hear updates on your writing adventure. Go, Latayne!

Jan: Organization IS under appreciated. As artists we rage against the linear sequential, but having a list and office hours gets me to my desk most days. And once I'm at my desk, I'm a crazy woman.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I always think I need these long quiet hours of uninterrupted writing time. The truth is, I go to class, I go to work, I go home and finish up whatever homework I didn't get done throughout the day, I eat, I watch TV, I sleep. And somewhere in there I take a shower. Or, just wait 'til morning.

Truth is, there's plenty of time for me to work on school and writing at work, because we're super slow, if I just discipline myself. The problem is disciplining myself. Maybe write a post about motivation and discipline. That would be great!

Hilarey said...

Every year my kids spend a week+ with my parents. In theory, I am supposed to write like crazy. I never get as much done as when I have a tight schedule. I usually clean or garden, or do nothing.
Not counting extremes, I think I appreciate and utilize "less time" better than unlimited time.
Routine seems to be the best thing for me.

Patti Hill said...

Lauren: One post about motivation and discipline coming up. Anyone? Anyone?

Hilarey: How true! I especially relate to the productivity of routine. Who knows? Maybe this job will be the best thing ever for my writing.

Ellen Staley said...

I'm one of those who signed up for NaNoWriMo. I'm also one of those with almost unlimited time on my hands, for now. And I may be one of those looking for a job within the next two months. After the past week spent almost solidly on restructuring my novel, I just hope I've kept Bonnie's instruction in play, yeah, I hope my bones are strong. But I look forward to getting back to the actual writing. If I don't meet the word count, no problem. I just want to write on this project unless/until God shows me He has other plans. And if my time does shrink to a finite amount most days, then Patti's words are an encouragement that that amount, no matter how small, will still be sufficient.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Mornings off are huge, because I do my best everything in the morning. When I work a weekday job, I like to keep my Saturday morning free for inspiration and my Sunday morning the same by finding a place of worship on Saturday night.
But, what do I need to write? Food in my stomach, shelter, a bit-of worry free time, and a computer or pencil and paper. For me, this means I MUST have a job to be able to provide for myself the things I need in order to write. And it is better if the job is NOT a writing job. Who can survive will all their hopeful eggs in one basket?

Patti Hill said...

Ellen: You sound like all of changes! I love your open-hearted attitude. I'm sure you're doing a great job on your manuscript.

Cherry: Great practical tips! I'm best in the morning too. In fact, if I'm having a hard time breaking through with a story, I get up at 4am. No one's calling or emailing then. And I have a new idea. I keep hearing about BIG authors who have cabins in the woods. No cell phone coverage. No Internet. No email. I'm going to make my room a cabin in the woods by disconnecting my Internet cable and taking the phone out. I'll have a computer in another bedroom for Internet work. It's silly, but I need to separate the two functions. I'll let you know how that goes.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

My writing is done in a little note book while I: walk the dog, cook dinner, drive (red lights become a blessing, so do line-ups at grocery stores or passport offices), eat or clean. It is beside me at night to catch the midnight visions and in the bathroom (delightful visions there too...) My mind forms the words and then I snatch the between times to pencil them in. Once a week I try to take an afternoon to type and the first edit/rewrite happens.

Megan Sayer said...

Henrietta my writing life sounds very much like yours. Strangely enough, I find the creative process easier when I'm mulling it over while playing with the kids, cleaning or cooking, and the words come unbidden longhand in an exercise book, whereas sitting at the computer tends to produce more intellectual, academic results.
The discipline for me is to NOT think about writing when I need to be engaging with the kids...when you've got 6 hours to fill in going to the park or playing lego it's so easy to find your mind wandering to that tricky bit of dialogue or why that character is responding like that...

PatriciaW said...

I had to get over looking for uninterrupted blocks of time. Even as I'm typing this, my three boys are watching TV, arguing over what game they will play, and eating snacks, all of which require some of my attention.

The biggest issue is consistency. There are days of major fatigue after ferrying kids and working a full day in the office. I find it hard to work on my wip until after they are in bed, and I've had to learn to take the time immediately following when they retire for the day so that I'm not futzing around and finding myself ready to write after midnight. But evenings are better for me than mornings, no matter what time I start. This is one more thing you'll have to decipher.

I give myself 30 min. Sometimes I write longer, sometimes shorter. One thing that helps is ACFW's NovelTrack sessions, where there is group support from a lot of part-time writers while tracking daily output.

Best wishes to you, Patti. If you write quickly, which it seems you do, you'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

Patti Hill said...

A million thanks for a day of great ideas to get me writing with my new schedule. As of this afternoon, I'm employed! Glory to God! That means I'll be trying out your ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.

Megan Sayer said...

CONGRATULATIONS Patti!!!! Fantastic news!

Footprints From the Bible by Cynthia Davis said...

Quiet mornings after my husband leaves for work and before I leave...that's when I say I write. Whether it's on the WIP or not is another question :) Truthfully, I get a few hundred words on paper most mornings, unless distracted by Facebook and other online time gobblers.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I add my congratulations and best wishes. Be gentle with yourself as you learn.
Megan, I am the same. I have not yet called one of my misbehaving children by a character's name, however, the day may come.

Ellen Staley said...

What fantastic news, Patti! Congratulations on the new job.

Lynn Dean said...

I agree with Patricia. Evenings, for me, are more productive than mornings, even if I'm already tired when I sit down to write.

But I also agree with the commenter who said that she got more done when time was limited than plenteous. I think it's because I appreciate it more and therefore steward it better.

It takes me a while to find my groove, so if I only had 15 minutes, I'd probably spend ten of it searching for my muse of inspiration. But I can never stop after only 15 minutes. Writing is my reward. No matter how long it takes me to find the time--even if it's been days since I could make time to write--once I'm there, the time flies. And when you're inspired, it's amazing how much you can get done.

MandyB said...

As I plunge into NaNo 2010, I am all too conscious of time and its effect on my life. With only 30 days to complete a piece of work with 50,000 words (or more!)the limitations of finding time whilst working full time and being a wife and mother as all too evident. Last year I was blessed with only a four day working week - alas not this year so I am 'squeezing in' writing in any and every nano- second I can find. (No pun intended)
So thank you for the words of wisdom - I will take them on board.

BK said...

And if the exercise of seeing how many words you can turn out in 15 minutes doesn't work for you, have your 7 year old niece demand you write a story for her -- in 30 minutes. You find out just how much you can get done under pressure. LOL!