Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Writing

Okay, so I've heard some people say they don't get any writing done during the summer. But it's my most productive time of the year! I know, I know. I don't have little children at home, and the one I do dances 16 hours a week. Even if I wrote 1000 words per hour of her dance, I could write 16,000 words per week.

And still have all her free time to spend with her.

So I get it. Everyone is in a different stage of life. But I do work during the other times of the year, serve on my community's library board, and hold a demanding job in my church. I have times where I feel like I can't write too.

So how do we do it?

Some tips, garnered from the last 9 years since I started writing.

1. Make those 15 minutes count. Sometimes I literally have 15 minutes in my schedule. I tell myself I'm going to write one scene in that 15 minutes. It could be 400 - 500 words, and that's more than I had before.

Don't let those little windows of time get away from you. If you have four of them spaced throughout the day, you've written 2000 words.

2. Micromanage. Yes! Finally a way to satisfy my micromanaging tendencies. If I'm having a particularly busy day of teaching, running errands, taxi-ing people everywhere, meetings at night, etc. I learn to micromanage my time. I tell myself, "You'll have one hour from 9:00 - 10:00 pm tonight. Write 1000 words then."

Then I don't have to think about writing all day. I don't have to have this well of anxiety in my stomach that "I haven't written yet!" I don't have to be impatient with the people and situations I'm in and how they're cutting into my writing time.

Trust me, I've had all of that over the years. And it doesn't help the creative process to be under stress about trying to be creative.

3. Outline. I used to be a complete pantser. The thought of outlining gave me hives, and I thought I'd never do it. But now that I'm trying to produce more as a way of promoting my work, I find that I can't just keep pantsing my way through a book. The revision process is just too hard. And sometimes, if I can't think of anything, I'm not productive during writing time either.

But if I outline -- at least a little bit -- I find that I don't have long stretches of staring at the blank screen. My revision process is much smoother, allowing me to get to publication or submission faster -- and onto the next project faster too.

4. Schedule days off. When I first started writing, I thought I had to write everyday or I wasn't a real author. That is totally false. Some people are full-time writers, and they "go to work" everyday and write. That's great for them. Works for them. Some people are binge writers and purge all their words in a weekend or a few days each month. They're real writers too.

If you write words on a page, you're a real writer. Everyone will give you advice on how to be a real writer, but the only person who can determine that is you. Even if you don't write everyday.

I schedule my writing time by project and week. So I look at my week and I see what days I have what activities, and sometimes I just say, "I will not be writing on Thursday." And that's okay. And it's freeing. And I still make my writing goals without feeling like a failure. And the last part of that sentence is key.

Anyway, I know these tips have worked for me during my busy times (hello September, October, April and May). Using them, I've managed to keep my productivity up and still live a balanced life.

What helps you stay productive, even when you've got kids at home or other distractions? 


JeffO said...

Great advice all around, Elana. One other thing that helps me is to keep an eye on the end: I want you to read my book. The only way you will get to read my book is if I make time to finish it. No writing, no book!

Taffy said...

Thanks, Elana! I've come to discover if I have sort of an outline, then I can plan what to write when I sit down at my laptop. I LOVE your idea of looking at the schedule and knowing there might be a day you can't fit in writing and THAT'S OK!.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

I've always done a basic outline, even its just a couple of sentences per chapter - pantsing is too scary! - but the thing I'm trying to do now is reverse my mornings and afternoons and try not to get online AT ALL until after my word count is done. Plus mornings are cooler during the summer.

Still working on the no guilt on no writing days . . . I'm really good at guilt in every area of my life. :-)

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