Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Autumn Already? ‘Tis the Start of Something New…

On my way to work this morning I saw a leaf fall, and then several more.

Autumn already? I thought, accelerating around a curve only to find three deer in my path. I slowed, and they leaped into a nearby hayfield.

So…I’m seeing deer in the morning again, leaves are beginning to brown and drop from trees, and school is starting. It’s early yet, I know, but I’m thinking of new beginnings.

I usually feel this way in January, when like countless others, I try to get my act together.

Maybe it was prompted by a blogpost by fellow Broad, Hunter Liguore, of Sword and Saga Press. Her article, The Fear of Writing struck a chord within me. It begins as an essay discussing the various reasons people don’t allow themselves to write, but morphs into a strategic plan for getting writing done. For folks who are already writing, but (perhaps) lament their lack of time or discipline, the tail-end of Hunter’s post is where the real meat is.

I’ve always advocated using little bits of “found time” to get writing tasks done, but Hunter goes so far as to suggest stealing time from other activities in order to gain a large block of time you can devote to your writing. It’s a different way of looking at things, and makes a lot of sense.

And it all starts with a making a list. Hunter refers to it as a “writing actions” list, but in my mind, it’s a to-do list. When you wake in the morning, you should plot out all the writing items you want to accomplish during the day. For example, this might be a typical list for me:

  1. Write 500 words.
  2. Plot chapter 2.
  3. Research five possible agents.
  4. Draft a query letter.
  5. Find a market for a completed short story.
  6. Edit a previous chapter.

Once you know what you need to accomplish, start considering what you can do during the day (at work or between classes or kids’ naptimes) in order to leave you more time for the most important tasks. I call it using “found time,” Hunter calls it stealing. Call it what you want, it’s often all that’s needed for added productivity.

For instance, I have a clipboard filled with blank paper in the car. While I’m waiting at a stoplight, I usually plot out a scene, write 30 – 50 words or jot down some ideas for a story. You can do the same while standing in line at the bank or waiting in line at the local coffee shop.

Instead of using these “found bits,” Hunter suggests using time you may have devoted to another task. Say your morning routine takes an hour. Can you shave off 15 minutes by altering it? Use the time to plot a scene or return emails (so you won’t have to do it later and cut into your writing) or do your evening chores with that morning block of time, thus freeing it later for writing.

Hunter offers other good suggestions, and has written an oath you can take to commit more time to your writing. (Is taking an oath to silly? Perhaps you won’t feel obliged to honor it, even to yourself. But, you could print it out and leave it in strategic places around the house to remind others not to bother you while you’re writing.)

I keep a running to do list of writing items, but I like Hunter’s targeted approach. With this change of the season, I’m going to give it a try.

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