Tag Archive for claiming time

Crazy-Busy Writer

When the young writer didn’t communicate in his usual combination of valley-speak and text-speak, I knew something was up.

“I’m crazy-busy,” he spouted, jittery as an overly caffeinated Chihuahua.

crazy.4 I paused to inhale, maybe have a thought, so he anxiously interrupted to cement his point.

“Like, OMG, cray-cray busy!”

Oh, NOW I get it!

Sure, times seem fast, and we get busy, but does it make us crazy? Has the world gone mad, or are there just so many more options to pull our focus: smartphones, iPads, apps, games, social sites, blogs, internet radio, as well as televisions in restaurants, cars and, well, everywhere while at the same time we have tiny TV-computers in the palms of our hands?

Nowadays, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise.  Writers, like everyone else, are not immune to Crazy-Busy Syndrome.

To sit at my home studio desk and fully concentrate on my own or a client’s writing, I have to:

  • declare a strong intention (involving gigantic musty books, fire, and a magic wand a la Dumbledore)
  • turn off my iPhone (a crime in some states)
  • darken the computer screen and disengage audio alerts (can’t shut it down, I might need it)
  • hope the UPS delivery doesn’t arrive (shopping is SO easy these days)
  • ignore the cats screaming for their evening meal at high noon, even with abundant dry food in their bowl (when will they make apps for cats?)

Without disengagement, the ‘ping’ of a text message, the appearance of a new email’s little golden envelope icon, or “Meow!  Meow!”  and WHAM!  Cray-Cray!  Where did my focus and time go?

A retired professional I know can’t even write in her own home as she’s pulled by her past students, her sorority planning committees, her church friends, as well as her neighbors.  The epitome of graciousness, she would never ignore a doorbell, a phone call or anyone reaching out.

“I need to hide, and I mean in another country, but that takes too long.”

crazy.3 - CopySince she is years into retirement from an institution with offices available, I suggested she call a work friend and set up a temporary space as most of the current staff doesn’t know her.  Also, I mentioned, there are rooms at public libraries.  I could tell that the idea of getting out of the house where she lives alone to have some privacy seemed absurd or, in today’s terms, crazy.

The world keeps spinning, and ideas keep coming and going, so when do you find the time to write?  And where do you take the time?  Writers have to claim the moments and protect the space to have sanity, peace and the opportunity to write.

Disclaimer — It’s true: writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.

Dance With The Deadline

frank.frankenstein.1931As if Frankenstein himself is busting down the door, many writers are freaked slap out by the deadline.  The writer will cower and bargain with the monster, begging for more time to explore and re-work.  Any argument tempts nature like a rooftop experiment in an electrical storm ultimately making the writer feel crazy-mad, defeated and, well, Abby Normal.  The enraged, unsympathetic beast snatches the writing anyway, then escapes deep into the inky night.

The term ‘deadline’ strikes fear in many, not just writers.  Coined during the Civil War when prison camps were spur-of-the-moment and without fencing, guards simply drew a line in the dirt circling the encampment.  Prisoners knew they would be shot dead if they crossed the ‘dead line.’

frank.9The newspaper industry adopted this powerful language to have the latest news printed and distributed in a timely manner. Editors’ deadlines implied “If you don’t submit your writing on time, printing presses will roll, and your story is dead.”  Consequently, so was your career.

When I work with editorial deadlines, I prefer to avoid last minute pressure by setting a personal deadline about three days in advance of the real one.  In most cases, I am able to submit my copy ahead of deadline.  This gives the client extra time, plus it demonstrates a strong work ethic which brings more assignments to my desk.

So what if you don’t have an editorial deadline or a gun pointed at your head?  You can hire a monster (i.e. me, minus green makeup and bolts in my neck), or you can be creative and do it on your own.

Karen wrote consistently as a member of my Creative Writers Workshop, but struggled to finish a story.  In conjunction with private coaching, she decided to try using a contest deadline as motivation.  The word count added more limitation, yet provided her with a crash course in sharper revision and final editing.  She hit the word count with characters to spare and the deadline on target.

Kirby protects her scheduled writing times on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  To complete and publish her book, she set a firm November deadline so she could have books printed by early December. She factored in time for her completion, my editing and the printer’s process.  Even with snags, all ended well with her wrapping up books as gifts for the holidays.

Cammie quickly discovered the necessity to schedule coaching sessions every other Saturday with a deadline of Wednesday midnight to get her work to me for meeting prep.  Using this system, she completed her ambitious project, a major feat considering she had not written beyond undergrad projects, much less 128 polished pages in a new genre.

Basically, the deadline is a commitment to an amount of time, a certain number of words written, or a project completion date.  Your editor, printer, writing group and coach are counting on you, so count on yourself.  Meet your goal.

If you want to be a successful writer, make nice with the misunderstood monster.   If the term ‘deadline’ frightens you, change it.  Use ‘goal,’ ‘aim,’ ‘target,’ or ‘destination,’ whatever feels good to you. frank.3Embrace the deadline’s positive influence as a vital partner in the dance to complete your writing project.

Affirm:  My deadline is a positive motivator.  I do my best work, and I celebrate meeting my deadlines, the final one, as well as every small step along the way.

So, the dance is over.  What do you do After The Deadline?

Images: Frankenstein (1931) with Colin Clive and Boris Karloff; Young Frankenstein (1974) with Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle.

Writing Retreat

beachwriting2Through planning and packing for a group beach holiday, Gale was both large-and-in-charge and a nelly nervous wreck.  Even in the overstuffed minivan, out of the driveway and on the interstate, she remained anxiously edgy until our gang was far enough away to make it completely idiotic to turn back.

However, like the eye of a storm, the calm was only temporary as the excitement of arriving and unpacking led her to explode when she discovered an item had been left behind.  Time for our tactical maneuvers: fire up the ice-filled cocktail blender to counteract her verbal tirade; pour a chilled one for her as a booby trap; then escape to the safety of the surf.

Getaways are intended to be good for our spirits.  We all need time away from work, demands, relations, to-do lists, pressures, bad news, and you-name-it, yet sometimes we take those issues, even the folks attached to them, along with us.  Even if we love every part of our daily lives, we still need to relax and recharge to bring a new perspective and life-affirming peace.

Take your writing with you when you go.  It can serve as both a vent to release frustrations and a path to inner calm.  Settle your external turmoil by exchanging your hurricane-force whirlwind for writing’s gentle breezes.  Allow yourself to listen compassionately to those internal blurts that attempt to sabotage your happy writing, and let them go as you focus your practice on the comforting messages wafting to shore.

Just as ideal destinations change according to season and mood, so can what you choose to write. Splashing in a fictional stream of consciousness, playing with prompts discovered in your new surroundings, or strolling the sands of your mind’s thought waves can all be centering and energizing.

And when you get away, remember that whatever you forgot to take is most likely available where you are going. . .or, perhaps, you might not need it anyway.  Sure, take care to pack the basics; for me, that’s my laptop, sunscreen, bathing suit and hat.  The key word for me is ‘essential.’

That’s what I realized as I wrote under an umbrella during mid-week wearing the only bathing suit I’d worn of the four I brought.  As the gulls squawked overhead, I wrote about how lugging a suitcase of clothing and three pairs of shoes beyond my flip flops was silly.  I also wrote about how much fun Gale could be, but only in small doses, and that another week-long trip with her wasn’t in my best interest.

Retreat, I wrote, isn’t about fleeing the enemy, but surrounding myself with positive energy and empowering habits.  Like frolicking in the breakers, beachcombing for treasures, and playing with good friends, I am centered, renewed and delighted through writing, a reliable retreat wherever I am.

Affirm:  At home or away, my writing is always a good journey, an easy-to-get-to destination that renews my spirit.

Disclaimer:  It’s true; writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.

Second Nature

Rivaling the crisp new leaves flapping in the spring breeze, their noisy excuses were abundant.


“Revisions take so long and winter was so short, and that’s my best time to write.”

“I can’t focus on writing with a stuffy head. The pollen was the worst!“

“All that rain made me blue. . .”

“And now it’s too pretty outside to stay in and write!”

Ah, springtime’s seasonal allergy of excuses that clogs ideas in your head or simply drains them away.  Too bad there isn’t a pill for that. . .

Does the season really affect your writing’s progress?  With any goal, aren’t some tasks more time consuming than others?  And can you prioritize and balance according to the changing weather of your schedule and keep a commitment to consistent writing?

Khaled Hosseini, author of the bestselling The Kite Runner and upcoming As The Mountains Echoed, said “There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it.  (When) you’re about fifty pages into it, that romance wears off, and then you’re left with a very stark reality of having to write the rest of this thing…what it takes at that point is discipline.  You have to punch in and punch out every day regardless of whether it’s going badly.”

AESOPUse what you are given in the moment to make your best plans.  One client accepted the temptation of a warm, sunny day to take a Frisbee and a notepad to the park for energetic fun and people-watching writing motivation.  Another writer used the weekend’s chilly downpour as inspiration to get into the mood of her short story’s Alaskan autumn setting.  Across town, I edited a client’s books and wrote on my projects to the shower’s centering patter.

Nature has been a major tease this springtime with wildly shifting weather and smatterings of blossoms instead of one glorious show.  Though somewhat unusual, we must remember that’s just nature.

A good writing practice goes with the flow as the successful writer perseveres beyond discouragement, difficulty, and distraction with dedicated focus, action and creativity.  Like breathing, the writer who persistently progresses has turned practice into second nature.