Maximize Your Write Time

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If you’re like me, you have a full-time job, and writing is squeezed into the small spaces of your life. This is not such a bad thing, because if you truly love to write and you’re committed to improving, you’re going to carve out the time to make your writing happen no matter what.

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So, the big question: how do you maximize that time? Like sand through an hourglass, those moments slip away fast and there’s no getting them back. Here’s a few things I’ve found helpful:

1) Know what you need. I sit down armed with a cup of coffee, my laptop, my earbuds and my notebook. Figure out what needs to be at your desk/table/chair, etc. and have it ready to go. I pack my laptop bag every night before going to bed so I can grab it in the morning and head out the door.

2) Come in mentally prepared. If you think about your writing projects when you’re away from the desk, you already know what needs to get done that day. When you can’t be writing, ponder what you will be writing and bring those thoughts and ideas to the desk with you.

3) Just say no. There is nothing else you need to do during your writing time. Repeat after me. Nothing else. Don’t let sneaky (or maybe not-so-sneaky) thieves come in and steal those precious minutes. Banish Facebook, Twitter and all of their social media cousins to another part of your day.

4) Embrace the pressure. Use the fact that you only have a limited amount of time to your advantage. Focus in, drill down and give it everything you’ve got. It’s not surprising that sometimes, I get more writing done and the quality actually seems better when I have less time.

Life is short. Write it up!

1,200 Words a Day, 6 Days a Week

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Okay, it’s official. This is a pep talk post. When you’re in the trenches as a writer, you have to remind yourself that you are making progress, even if it feels like you’re perpetually on a stationary bike.

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Every morning, I get up, go to the café and write 1,200 words before going to work. Sometimes, I can write more on Saturday mornings because I have a more time, but it depends. Nonetheless, 1,200 words a day, 6 days a week. Awesome. Except some days, I just feel like I can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a never-ending routine, day after day, week after week. Words, words and more words.

I know I am doing the right stuff, it’s just not always exciting or glamorous. Sometimes, it’s just work. Plain, boring, plant-your-butt-in-the-chair-and-bang-it-out work. Still, these three challenges bring me encouragement, and I hope they do the same for you.

1) Just keep going. I know it’s obvious, but it needs to be said. Keep your head down and just keep plowing forward. It was Thomas Edison that said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So keep perspiring!

2) Look back. Glance behind and see how far you’ve come. If you’re writing regularly, you have probably accomplished more than you think. Let it soak in and really encourage you.

3) Look forward. What’s your next finish line, even if it’s a small one? This draft? This chapter? This page? I keep visualizing printing out the rough draft of my current novel, holding the glorious weightiness of it’s 200+ pages in my hands. Golly, what a feeling (until I have to start revising. Eek!)

Anything worth doing will never be easy, and guys, writing is so worth doing. I’m not a quitter, and I bet you’re not either.  Let’s keep after it.

What do you do to keep moving forward when writing gets difficult or boring? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Write it Down (So You Can Fix it Up)

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It’s snowy in Portland right now. I braved the elements to get this photo. Just for you.

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Then I came inside and put these on.

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So nice. In this quiet weekend, and it is very quiet since Portland basically shuts down when it gets a decent snow (whimps, the lot of us), I’ve been reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This is a wonderful book that has so much to offer by way of pithy advice and useful quotes for writers. In fact, here’s a great one:

“Almost all writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something–anything–down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft–you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft–you fix it up.”

This was such a great reminder today, as I am definitely on the down draft. I was literally wanting to gag this morning at some of the ridiculous things my characters were saying and doing, but you know what? I got it down. Now, at least, I have some material to re-shape on my second draft. Stupid words are better than a blank page and honestly, a few of those words may not end up being so stupid when I read over them again (but I doubt it).

When my brother was little, he refused to take piano lessons. When my mom asked him why, he said he didn’t want to take lessons before he knew how to play. Ludicrous, right? But we do that with our writing. We expect to sit down and play a concerto before we’ve mastered “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

We have to play a lot of dumb pieces before we hit the good stuff.

So how about you? How do you break through the resistance? How do you “get it down” and keep pushing forward in your writing?

Living a Story

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Several nights ago, along with a couple of peers, I sat with a sweet older lady who shared stories of her life. They were fascinating, but it wasn’t the stories that stuck with me; it was what she said about them.

“These stories,” she told us, “These stories are who we become.”

That struck me. The story I am living right now is shaping the person I am becoming. So, this of course begs the question “What kind of story am I living?” I wish I were braver, better, kinder, more courageous and more content. I spend time thinking about those things, but how much time do I actually spend trying to live them?

I read an excellent post recently by Jeff Goins. You can read the entire post here, but below are a couple of choice quotes that stood out on this theme of living a story:

“Every first draft is ugly, all good writing is rewriting, and a great life comes from making mistakes. The point is to get on with it.”

“…There comes a time when you can’t just write about life. You have to live it. Even when it scares you half to death.”

Fear. I am afraid of a lot of things right now. The future. Failure. I have been afraid to write this blog for fear of what others will say. The picture below aptly describes me.

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I’ll stand outside of the cave, I’ll pose in front of it, I’ll even act like I’m embarking on a grand spelunking adventure, but deep down, I have no desire or intention to actually go in, to explore, to face the darkness. It’s too scary.

This has to change.

Below are a few ways I am attacking fear as a writer this year:

1) This blog. Putting my writing out in public is scary. Time to get some gumption.

2) Telling others about my writing. I have been ashamed of something I love so intensely for far too long. Time to speak up.

3) Attending a writer’s conference. This one freaks me out. You say the word “networking” and I want to run for the hills, but you know what? I have plenty to learn, and I have something to offer. Time to step out.

How will you face the fear as a writer this year? How will you live a great story?

January Reading

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This is my Dad and I. At the end of this last year, I had a brilliant idea to start a reading contest with him for 2014. The rules would be simple: we keep track by the number of pages read, and we check each other’s progress at the end of each month. Loser at the end of the year buys the other breakfast. Or an Amazon gift card. Or a trip to Disneyland (just kidding, Daddy). He loves to read, as evidenced by his study, which is full of books, floor to ceiling. Needless to say, I was sure I had a worthy opponent.

I was right. My dad kicked my butt in the month of January, reading double the amount of pages I did. Ouch. Well, look out February, because I’ve been schooled and now I have something to prove.

Stephen King spoke true when he said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” When there is so much writing to do, it can be easy to think that reading is optional, a nice leisure activity. However, reading is like putting gas in your car. Without it, you are going nowhere.

So, I’m reading. Join me?