Monday, November 2, 2009

On Time

Last week, I came across this blog article by Miss Snark's First Victim, Authoress. And while I love the MSFV and Authoress herself, I have to admit that I had some immediate, gut-wrenching feelings of bitterness when I read this:

Suffice it to say that the main thing that keeps my writing going is an almost religious adherence to my Daily Writing Time.

1:30 to 4:00. That's my weekly time-of-day during which nothing else is demanded of me. I have no commitments or obligations, no pre-scheduled poop. And I refuse to make appointments or have meetings during this time.

Monday through Friday, 1:30 to 4:00, you'll find me with Beatrice [her computer]. Don't bother me.

Now don't think I don't still love MSFV (I do!), but my first reaction to reading this was a combination of bitterness and jealousy.

I don't have a Daily Writing Time.

I would *love* to have a Daily Writing Time, but I'm more likely to grow a third arm.

And I admit that I, like Authoress, sometimes feel less of a writer when I don't write daily.

But...let me show you my schedule last week (the week where, ironically, the only blog post I could post was a short one on how I had no time):
  • Monday: 
    • 5:30-6:10am: Wake up, get dressed, etc., etc.
    • 6:10-7:00am: Drive to school, while eating breakfast in the car and thinking of lesson plans 
    • 7:00-8:00am: Arrive at school, finish lesson plans, copy work, prepare for class
    • 8:00-3:30: School, which included:
      • Comforting a student who broke up with her boyfriend and the world has now ended omfg
      • Doing three complete lesson plans, made from scratch, comparing the poetry of the Chinese T'ang Dynasty and Japanese Heian period, complete with graphics, power-points, interactive features, and student work
      • Lead the yearbook class in developing the school's yearbook
      • Conferenced with another teacher on method of essay writing
      • ET CETERA
    • Around 4:30-5:00: Arrive home
    • 5:00-6:30: Cook, wash dishes, talk with husband, try to be human
    • 6:30-8:00: Various sundry activities, including calling my mother who thinks I'm dead if I don't call once a week, washing the dog who thinks life isn't complete unless he rolls in mud, changing the sheets (again) after the muddy dog decides he can clean himself (on the bed), keeping up with friends who I love but live all across the country
  • Tuesday:
    • All the same activities as Monday, but add to that a 1 hour Creative Writing Club meeting with a group of students across the school--which includes reading their work, counseling them on writing, and preparing questions to ask the author who was visiting that week via Skype 
  • Wednesday:
    • Repeat Monday, but add in:
      • Yes, you read that right: six hours. From about 6:30-12:30, I sat in my chair and graded.
  • Thursday:
    • Repeat Monday, but add in a husband who was late from his own college class, and me, who was so exhausted from Wednesday that I just collapsed into bed
  • Friday:
    • Do you sense a pattern yet?
So, it's Saturday now (I'm scheduling this to post on Monday).

Now, take a glance at my schedule. Can you tell how jealous I am of *anyone* who has a Daily Writing Time?

And it's all nice and good to say, "If you really wanted it, you'd do it."'s. Not. That. Easy.

What am I supposed to sacrifice? The day job? That pays the bills. Dinner with my husband, who I already neglect? A clean house?

Well, in truth, I do already sacrifice those things. The husband bought dinner one of those nights, and I let the dishes go a few days. And in that, I gained myself about 3 hours of writing this week.

Three hours.

Authoress does that a day.

Hell yes, I'm jealous.

But then, when I see things like this, I'm no longer jealous--I'm also mad.   Do you know the number one thing, according to that list, that's a "nasty" habit of writers?

1. Not Keeping A Regular Schedule

Somewhere along the line, you’ve either fallen out of your previous writing schedule, or you never had one to begin with. Very bad, indeed.

If you have a 9-5 job, schedule an hour of writing (or more) each day, either early in the morning or later at night. For those of you under few time constraints, use that to your advantage. Try to schedule several hours of writing at the most convenient time for you.
Most of all, once you have a routine, stick to it as much as possible.

*bangs head on wall*

So...I should wake up at 4:30am? Or I should stay up until 2 (and then wake up 3 1/2 hours later) to get that writing in...?

Very early on, I had to come to terms with the fact that I didn't have a regular writing schedule...and I never would. And here's the kicker:
That is OK.

Really. It's fine that I don't have a writing schedule. I might not be able to write every single flipping day, but that doesn't make me less of a writer. Because when I do get a break--a holiday, or a long weekend, or the ever-longed-for summer break...well, then I can write for hours and hours and hours at a time. It doesn't matter that I write every day. In all honesty, if I wrote every day, I'd write crap. During the workweek, I'm too focused on teaching in the morning and too burnt-out in the evening. I know. I've tried. I actually have done the wake up at 4:30am, or stay up until 2am before. And what I wrote was drivel.

Here's the thing:
We all write differently.

I write best when I write in huge chunks. I think it's because time *is* so precious to me--when I can set aside a day for writing, I really write--I focus 100%, and can crank out 5,000+ words in one sitting...and they're better than if I had done them a thousand words a day. 

A four hour block works for Authoress. A strict schedule works for the author of the list of "8 Nasty Habits You Should Quit to Fuel Your Writing." And writing in flurries whenever I can snatch some time works for me. Whatever way *you* write, don't ever think it's wrong--as long as you're writing, you're a writer. A block of time in your day planner doesn't make you a writer--it's the words you can put on the page, whenever you do actually get them there.

(And, PS, the same goes for NaNo, whether you're participating or not. Which, for the record, I'm not.)


Christine M said...

Stop banging your head against a wall.

You are a real writer.

As soon as you throw day jobs and real life into the mix I'm sure that most people have trouble truly keeping to a writing schedule.

I can get a lot done while my kids are in school (but the years when I was working, or before the kids were in school full time - I got a lot less done). And even days when I supposedly have free time - there are other things that need to get done.

And that is true for everyone.

Write when you can.

And don't worry about what other people consider essential!

Scott said...

Beth - I write when I write, and I don't when I don't. Some nights, all I want to do is veg out on the couch with the dogs and watch TV. You know what? I do exactly that rather than try and force myself to write.

Life is far too hectic sometimes for a daily writing routine. As for me, if I can, 6:45 PM until 7:30 during the week, and whenever I can find time on the weekend. If I don't write, I don't stress about it, because I know the words will flow when they want to flow. : )


MeganRebekah said...

We all have different schedules, different responsibilites and a different way of being able to write. Don't let someone else dictate how you feel about your time.
I know that I could have never found the time to write at my old job because the hours were insane and unpredictable.

Personally, the minute I "schedule" in writing, I don't want to do anymore. I want writing to be fun and enjoyable. If it's firmly scheduled, then it's a chore, and who wants to do chores? If I ever had a contract and was under deadline, it might be different. But right now, it's a bonus in my life, not the main focus.

Keep working hard, when you can and however you can. The rest will work itself out.

Anonymous said...

Can I get an amen? *Listens* ... *Crickets*

Well, even if I don't get one, I'm going to agree whole-heartedly with this one. I write when I can, and if I spend too many nights in a row buried in the laptop, my wife feels neglected. It's a heckuva balancing act, but as long as I can make some forward progress on a WIP each week, I feel reasonably writerish.

Keep on keeping on, as they say!

storyqueen said...

I hear you!! I, too, am a teacher with a similar schedule, but add to the mix three kids with afterschool activities.......Aaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!

Here is a little trick that works for me....
(Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but I don't eat in the lounge anymore, I just sit in my room/office and write. Even if it is just a page a day, it keeps me connected with the WIP, which is Very Important for someone like me, who tends to forget everything writing related if the pencil is not, at that moment, scribbling stuff.)

My chunks of writing are soooo small, but I make do, because what I lack in time, I make up for in motivation. Working with kids who write is very inspirational.

But yeah, I just kind of want to throw pumpkins at people who get to write all day long, or who get three hours in a day.

That's just not my life.


WindyA said...

man, I so feel you! With a day job, 2 kids under 5, 1 in preschool twice a week, carpool once a week, and the basics to keep the house running, yeah. Scheduled daily writing time? I think not.

Donna Gambale said...

Yes! I'm quite the slow writer, and if I wrote every day I'd start to hate it. I reassure myself with the fact that I THINK about my novel every day, and the days that I occasionally choose to watch TV or read in my very marginal free time... well, that's for sanity, and it helps me learn (what works/doesn't with plotting, characters, etc).

My pages and chapters simmer a lot in my mind before I sit down to write. I do try to set a more lax goal so that I don't let myself slide too much - in general, I write a 20-page chapter every 2-3 weeks (5 days to think, 7 days (18-ish hours) to write, 5 days to revise). Sometimes I write more. And I've learned that if I don't sit down to write at least a few days/week, I start to get grouchy. That alone makes me feel like a writer.

As long as I'm moving forward steadily, I feel accomplished -- you should too!

Lizzy Mason said...

Thank you for this post! It makes me feel so much better! I'd love to have three hours a day to write! But I think having a life is a key part of being a writer.

I mean, think about it: if all you did all day was write, what would you have to write about? My inspiration comes from my day-to-day dealings and it's important (for me) to remember that when I start beating myself up about not having time.

I'm with Storyqueen--if I can manage it, I sometimes stay at work for an hour after everyone else has gone home and write. Those days, my boyfriend has to wait until like nine to eat dinner, but he deals with it. I'm also lucky b/c he works nights a couple days a week and I make that my write-like-crazy time.

But it's not productive to feel bad about not having time to write. It only makes it that much harder for me to get in the groove when I finally do!

Good luck finding time!

PJ Hoover said...

Awesome post, Beth! Throw a couple kids in the mix, and that's why I wrote from 9:00-11:00 pm until I quit the day job.
you nailed it when you said different things work for different people, and as long as we're writing, that's what counts!

Kelly H-Y said...

Amen to that! Just write when you can and don't worry about everyone else's schedules! I'm impressed that you fit writing your blog and visiting other blogs into your schedule ... you must do that at 2 AM! :-)

Heather Zundel said...

Oh well said. And trust me, you are certainly a real writer. I've read your work remember.

Anonymous said...

I think that advice works better for people who sit in front of their computer googling and wonder why their novel doesn't write itself.
You do have to make time, but how and when you make that time is (like you said) completely individual.

And the worst thing you can do to stress yourself out is beat yourself up for being busy. It sounds like you have a wonderful and full life and (not to get too cheesy) but that is a blessing in itself.

Sometimes I lie in bed in the morning (when my head is blissfully calm and empty) for 5 extra minutes and think about where I am in the book and what I want to work on when I do get to sit down in front of my computer again. And as far as I'm concerned that counts as writing time.

ElanaJ said...

Beth, I think this is the biggest lesson I've learned since attempting this whole writing thing. I used to beat myself up if I didn't write 1000 words a day. Like I wasn't a real author or something if I didn't pen something every. single. freaking. day.

Finally, I gave myself permission to NOT write everyday. And I ignored everyone who cries foul if you don't write everyday.

I used to get all depressed when I realized that I don't outline, and hey, everyone who is successful outlines, and hey, if you're not outlining you're a loser.

I tried it. Failed. Felt more like a failure. Decided I didn't NEED to outline, and that I could write without one because I'M DIFFERENT.

I came to grips with what works for me. And it's different than anyone else I know. And that's okay. Whenever I start feeling inadequate, I shut off Firefox. That usually works.

So you're doing just fine in my book!

Crimey said...

I too don't have a timeframe set aside for reading. I just try to write a bit everyday. Like you said, we all write differently.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I work full-time at a demanding job as an attorney so don't always have time to write everyday either. I do try to get up by 6:00 am and try to write for about 30 minutes between getting my daughter ready for school, exercising, & getting ready for work myself. Then I try to sneak a few hours in on the weekends. I also take a few vacation days a year where my husband is at work & my daughter at school so I can be home alone to write. That's all I can do and have to accept it's the best I can do and that's okay. I'm grateful for my day job and appreciate the financial security it gives me. I read an interview on Cynsations last week of Cyn Balog who wrote Fairy Tale in 30 minute intervals on her lunch break. So we all should take heart that others have grown their writing career while also holding down full time jobs. I try to remember this when I get tired and discouraged.

Amy Tate said...

Beth, you know what struck me in this post? The part about you comforting a student who broke up with her boyfriend. Forget the writing time for a minute, and think about what that meant to her. You are an incredible teacher to do that. So many folks wouldn't make the time. You pour out your life for others and that is evident in this blog. You're work will find its way, gal. I have no doubts!