Tag Archives: time management

Lessons From the Couch

I’ve been in recuperation mode for eighteen days now. I think I could have squeaked in my goal of a three week recovery time (a week less than the doc’s minimum–I’m so stubborn, aren’t I?) if I hadn’t sneezed. Yes, I pulled a not-quite-healed stomach muscle and I’ve been back to hobbling this week after feeling so good over the weekend. Alas, a few more days on the couch.

But the couch is a pretty good place to reflect. With the schedule I keep, I don’t sit on it often. Over the last  five days, however, I’ve blown through an amazing 1,600 pages, and before that I clocked a spectacular nine hours of movie time in one day. Unheard of! All this to say, the couch has taught me a lesson: there’s something to be said for loosening the rigidity of one’s schedule.

Does this mean I intend to become a couch potato? Ha! You don’t know me if you think so! But couch sitting does give one time to reflect, and there’s definitely some chains to be broken. One of the things I’m going to free myself from is the third weekly post on my blog. In fact, once my summer reading reviews run out (some time in December!), I might even drop to once a week. Again, unheard of! I intend to drop some other I-always-do-that activities as well. It’s not so much that I’m overwhelmed this year, I just don’t want to be so locked into place. Maybe I’m feeling rebellious, but I wanna do what I wanna do. Maybe I’ll post three times. Maybe I won’t want to. Either way, I won’t have to.

What I want to do most is get my latest book into print. Then I have a grain of an idea for a YA book that I’d like to start. But I don’t want to be confined to the writing schedule I keep last year, either. I intend to give myelf a full year to get it done. That means I get to have a life as well. *Sigh* Why is it that I must always remind myself about balance?

In the meantime, I’m feeling a little heavy on relaxation. I’m eager to get out walking, driving, even cooking again. As things get back to normal, I intend to continue mixing in the things I love with the things I must do, but I’m not going to let myself become bound by them.

Now a question for you: Do you ever feel like you have to do things that don’t really have to be done? What?

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?

Balance vs. Burnout

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

That’s pretty sound advice, wouldn’t you agree? After all, it was given by a man with a brilliant mind—the one who drafted the Declaration of Independence, served as president of the United States, instigated the Louisiana Purchase, and sent out the Louis and Clark Expedition. He was a man of foresight, wisdom and action, and the many writings he left are still highly regarded. But I take issue with this one. I think it’s possible to do too much in a day, particularly if you are a writer. I’m a prime example.

I am a highly energized, highly motivated person. I’m mom to three young children who have homeschooled in different configurations for the past six years. I’m responsible for family meals, shopping, taxiing, cleaning, laundry—everything but lawn care and repairs. I exercise pretty faithfully. I plant and preserved a huge garden every year. And I’m involved in several church ministries. My typical day starts at six thirty and I hardly sit down until my youngest is tucked in bed at eight. Then I have time to blog, read, or write.

For the last several years, my writing has been very seasonal. I read in the summer (because we do a lot of camping and because I usually have sixteen thousand out-of-school neighborhood children in my house at any given moment, neither of which are conducive to writing), and I write in the winter when Michigan days are short and cold and routine. I get obsessive about both. In the summer, especially since I began my book blog, I try to read the vast majority of the yearly 104 books I review. And in the winter I try to finish writing an entire novel. When you only have four hours to write each day, that’s a real challenge. I tend to not have a life from October till April. I don’t watch tv. I rarely go out with friends. I hardly ever pick up a book. I write. And I write. And I write, with the exception of the nights I simply fall into bed exhausted.

Let me put out there that I wouldn’t recommend this schedule.

This spring, I’ve vowed to start “putting off until tomorrow.” I’m calling it balance. Rather than simply cramming a hundred books into my noggin during my homeschool break, I have several projects I’d like to accomplish, including the creation of audio books, planning a story new arc, and rewriting a manuscript. I’m allowing myself to be obsessive about any of them for no more than two weeks at a time. Then I put them off and switch to something else. By alternating projects with reading, I won’t get all my books read, but now I’ll have time to read during the winter. Likewise, if I lay down my winter manuscript in favor of a book, I may not get it all done by spring. But neither will I be exhausted, burnt out, and grouchy. As an indie author, I have the freedom to extend my own deadline.

We’re all busy. I only know one writer personally who writes full time. The rest of us must balance our writing with jobs, family, and real life. My schedule will not lighten until my kids are grown up, and I in no way am trying to hasten that. Parenting is the sweetest adventure of all. I want to enjoy these years that are over so quickly. But if I’m serious about writing—if we’re serious—I think “putting off,” taking breaks, and finding balance is a much more sustainable approach.

It’s your turn. How do you balance writing with real life? Can you tell me the identity of the man I quoted without Googling it?  I’m currently lost somewhere in the Smokey mountains on one of our family camp-outs, but I’ll respond to comments when I get home in a week or two.