Slow and Steady Writes the Novel

In my last Friday Freebie, before I vacated for the Smokies, I posted about trimming our writing schedules to avoid burnout. Today it may seem like I’m talking out of the other side of my face: quit procrastinating and write!  But I don’t think these two bits of wisdom are contradictory at all. You see, writing, like anything else, requires balance. Too much is not good, and too little is just as bad. And it’s real easy to get in a vicious cycle that includes both.

I shared a little about how obsessive I get in the winter, pushing my WIP till I want to scream. Then in the summer, once the novel is wrapped up, I take it easy. Before I know it, the kids are starting school and I’ve done nothing but read for months! Don’t get me wrong, I like to read, I want to keep up on the children’s market for professional reasons, and maintaining a book review blog requires a certain amount of reading, so it’s not exactly a waste of my time. But it sure is hard to abandon the months-long leisure habit and return to the hard work of producing my own stories.

Because hard work it is–only non-writers will tell you it’s not–and that’s why we find so many reasons not to do it. But writing is the key to our success. Few of us will experience the instant wealth and mega-stardom of J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins (not to minimize how hard these ladies worked to get there). But for most of us, generating a fan base and an income is a slow process that requires producing, producing, producing. So we need to identify those things that hinder us.

I already mentioned burnout as a huge obstacle. Another hangup, in my case, is the internet. It’s so easy for me to pop online when I sit down to write and waste an hour checking my sales reports, reading through the handful of blogs I follow, returning emails–sometimes I even get absorbed in research. Again, these are all necessary activities, but they need to be controlled. I like to set time limits for myself. Fifteen minutes and I’m on to writing. I might even disable the connection so I’m not tempted to hop back on.

Another thing that hinders my writing is a busy family schedule. Sometimes there’s not much you can do about that: everyone has to eat and likes clean clothes. I’ve been fortunate to be able to stay home with my kids, who are still quite young, so I needn’t work around an outside-the-home job (I’m trying to make writing my career), but motherhood comes with a pretty big job description all its own. However, when additional activities arise, ask yourself, do I need to help with every classroom party? Must I teach Sunday school and Wednesday night  Bible club? Can Daddy coach AYSSO himself? I will never advise putting career ahead of family, but occasionally making time to write comes down to hard choices.

A third hindrance I run into is the sheer number of projects I hope to accomplish. My blog tour (next month) took an amazing amount of time, upwards of 80 hours. I’m currently recording podcast episodes of The Candle Star and it, too, turned into a real beast. I took time this spring to publish most of the Christmas plays I’ve written for church over the years. I also like to create and publish materials to help teachers use my books in the classroom, but I haven’t even had time to think about doing that for my new release yet. In the meantime, I really want to develop the story arc for a new series I’m planning. So how much time have I spent on my WIP this summer? Not enough to release it in November as I hope to if I keep this pace. Now that the blog tour is a wrap, I plan to hit the manuscript hard.

One final thing that keeps me from writing is my blog. Yes, my blog! While I love it, I keep a close eye on how many weekly posts I can sustain. I’ll never abandon my MMGM Monday posts, and I’m trying really hard to build the instructional nature of my blog with these Friday posts, but if I have to, I can always cut my Wednesday book reviews (and the hours spent reading for them) temporarily or long-term. My books have to come first.

We are all busy, but if we are going to make a go of this writing thing, it’s going to require, well, writing! Like the tortoise, we’ll only finish if we keep plugging away. So let’s get to it!

Now you tell me…what hinders you?

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6 thoughts on “Slow and Steady Writes the Novel

  1. thiskidreviewsbooks

    My blog takes a lot of time but I really like doing it and I think it helps me be a better writer. I also can’t concentrate…my mind wanders…hey look a bird…wait, nope, that’s an alien…

    1. Michelle Isenhoff Post author

      Blogging is a great way to exercise those writing skills regularly. And, yup, I really have to concentrate sometimes, too, when the writing gets hard.

  2. janellenferrigan

    Interruptions definitely slow me down. I have this thing where I can’t just start writing. I need to mess around first – on my blog, twitter, email, internet -whatever. I’ve tried crushing this habit, without a lot of success. I’ve accepted it as part of the process. And it isn’t bad as long as I’m not interrupted and then I start over. Although thankfully, my second, third and sometimes fourth messing around sessions are usually shorter than the first.

  3. Andrea Mack

    I think what hinders me in writing is my own fear that what I write today won’t be as good as what I wrote yesterday. I usually have lots of time to write, but I putter around for a long time, instead of just jumping right in.

    1. Michelle Isenhoff Post author

      Oh, I do that! That puttering thing, I mean. It helps me to back up a few pages and reread what I worked on last and do a bit of editing. It kind of works me in then I can keep going when I reach the end.

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