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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Amy Burle: Write! Write! Write!

Amy Willoughby-Burle is the author of Out Across the Nowhere, a collection of short stories. Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals such as Potomac Review, Inkwell, Sycamore Review, Reed Magazine, The MacGuffin and many others. She is the editor of Blue Lotus Review, an online journal for literature, art, and music.

Amy was raised in the small coastal town of Kure Beach, North Carolina. She graduated with a BA in English (and an unfinished Masters in Creative Writing — "sorry Mom and Dad") from East Carolina University. She spent several years in her husband's home state of Missouri before getting homesick for North Carolina. She now lives in the mountains near Asheville with her very gracious husband and three children. In her spare tune she searches the universe for hidden portals to magical places.  Please welcome her to the A-Z Blog!

The Secret Hidden Portal to “Writing Time.”

During my time on the A to Z April Challenge I chose to post excerpts from my novel in progress The Lemonade Year. As a homeschooling mom of 3 (4 by the time this post appears), homemaker and part-time grocery clerk, I knew I wanted to try my hand at daily blogging, but my writing time is limited.

Who’s isn’t, you’re probably chortling. Well, that’s my point exactly. I’ve been asked on many occasions—“How do you find time to write?” Answer” “I don’t.”

I make the best use of the time I already have. There’s no extra time hiding under the couch cushions. Believe me, I’ve looked. Writing time already exist within your day, you just have to utilize it. That sounds a lot like good old fashioned time management doesn’t it? You nailed it. That’s all it is. There is no secret portal to “writing time.” Darn.

Here’s some advice that I give for making sure you use the time you have and use it well.

1.      No amount of time is too small. Don’t wait for some magical large amount of free time to present itself. It might not, so keep your writing utensil (laptop, notebook, etc.) at the ready. Keep it open and available. Write even if you think you’ll only get 10 minutes or 250 words on the page. All that writing will add up fast! All the days you spent waiting for more time will go by even faster!

2.      Don’t worry about writing crap. You will. I do. It’s called a first draft. Don’t say things like “I can’t write till I know exactly what’s going to happen or how I’m going to say it.” There’s a good chance that you’re just stalling. That’s why you revise and edit.

3.      Don’t set up too many rituals around your writing. You can LIKE, but don’t NEED to have complete silence, a cup of tea on the upper, right hand side of your desk, sun shining in your window, to be wearing your favorite shirt or drinking from your favorite cup, etc. 

4.      Be able to write anywhere. You don’t need a writing desk, a private room, or a padded wall sanctuary. Be flexible. If you know you’re going to be sitting in the waiting room at the orthodontists for 2 hours, take your laptop or notebook and write. Your legs stretched out across two chairs make a fine desk. (Yes, I actually did this.)

5.      Write when you’re not even writing. At the start of your day, turn your brain on. Tell it which scene, character, plot twist, etc. you plan to deal with that day. Let your brain churn while you’re driving, folding laundry, filing, making copies, whatever. This will surprise you. Ever been searching your brain for the name of some actor in a movie you saw 20 years ago only to give up, assuming you’ll never remember it and then 2 days later, while you’re in the middle of a meeting, you shout out the actor’s name while your boss is talking. See what I mean?

6.      Monitor the time you spend online. Answer e-mails and visit message boards quickly and effectively. You don’t really NEED to know whose cat just ate a box of crayons or whose adorable children just built a replica of the statue of liberty out of toilet paper rolls. You don’t HAVE to comment on these things. Don’t let the internet become a time vampire. Be purposeful, blogging and following blogs that are meaningful to your overall goal. Networking IS important in this business (HUGELY), but those contacts will only come in handy if you actually have a product for sale. Keep a good balance on these two aspects of the writing business.

7.      Be realistic. You know what you will do and what you won’t do. Don’t plan to write for 2 hours starting at 5am if you know you aren’t going to do that. Don’t sabotage yourself and your writing by setting goals that you aren’t going to keep.

8.      Don’t tie your writing time to your goals for a perfect life. Meaning: This is not a New Year’s resolution. This is real. Don’t include “finding” time to write into eating healthy and doing yoga twice a day and remodeling the guest room into a writing den and wearing only organic cotton. Don’t make your writing part of a list of things you aren’t really going to do.

9.      Understand that writing and the completion of a great poem, a powerful short story and yeah, you bet—a novel—is a long process. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s not sitting at Starbucks and toying around with an idea. It’s long hours of writing and rewriting, plotting, sub-plotting, rethinking the whole damn thing and starting over. Be ready for that. Be ok with that.

10.  Don’t let fear lead to failure when you haven’t even given success a shot. Believe in yourself and your writing!
Now Write! Write! Write!

Thanks for taking the time to be with us today! This advice is great for all levels of writers. We appreciate you sharing with us!


Ian Martyn said...

I would also add that once you get going writing can be addictive. I get withdrawal symptoms if I'm away from it for to long.

Ian Martyn

Jeremy [Retro] said...

Some great.. solid advice, thank you... keep writing, check!

Jeremy H.
A to Z Challenge Co-Host

New Look, New Name and Same Stuff...

Sue McPeak said...

Yes...turn on that brain and let it plan and write. Love this 'Think Tank' that most of us do, but have not found just the right way to describe how it's done. Very well done and useable guest post. Thanks!!!

Sue CollectInTexasGal~Today's Post~
Tombstone Tuesday...Who Was Inez?

Fran Clark said...

What a brilliant post and so timely for me. I've just let my novel sit and gather dust (if that's possible for a Word Doc) but I'm dusting it off as I type and I'm just going to go for it!

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Good Morning guys! Thanks for the comments to far. I'm here all day, popping on and off. Please feel free to ask any questions. Thanks, Tina, for setting all this up! Thanks, readers, writers, bloggers, folks in general for taking the time to read my post and I hope you enjoy it. I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say and again, feel free to ask me anything and if I know the answer, I'm happy to share it!

Sandy said...

Some good advice, not just for writing; but for life in general. Far too many people nowdays expect things to happen in a perfect manner and seem unable to work through real life. I've often thought we've made life too easy for kids who grow up without having to learn to work through a problem. From too much protective gear while riding a trike, to collecting trophies for doing anything...whether successful or not. To removing them from a class where they don't like the teacher, to letting them do school on line where they don't have to deal with people and the list goes on and on. A paragraph today and one tomorrow soon add up.

Wall of Honor

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Sandy, good point--it is very easy to get caught up in the little things here and there that are not really important and suddenly we look back and there is sooo much that we wanted to do that we've not "gotten around to."

Or to use the excuse that it's too difficult to do any given thing, and were it easier, we'd of course, get it done.

kalpana solsi said...

point no 6. monitor the time you spend online- is very important. I lost track of the time reading various UBC posts. One has to ration out time for reading.

Unknown said...

This is so true. All of it. Even the "searching for free time under the couch", which, incidentally, is eaten by the breeding ground of dust-bunnies that force you to use the time you found to clean their mess...sigh...Fantastic advice! I'm going to get off the online succubus now and write something:)

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

lol--Sam, you're right--one time waster does lead to another. I'm going to apply my advice to dishes and laundry straight away. To heck with clean underwear.(ok, not really)

And I'm of course, not suggesting that we shut down the internet--heck you can spend an over amount of time doing something useful too--like searching for agents and publication avenues and not get any writing done either.

It's all about the balance. I mean, we're all online right now. But if you can take this moment that you stopped to read this blog spot and turn that time into something that inspires you to write, then it was time well spent. And if you make a useful connection with another writer or blogger that helps you keep your eye on the prize, then awesome.

Writing, the past, was a very isolating art--but these days, we're able to network and it isn't such a lonely endeavor anymore. It's easy to get caught up in that and forget to work. And it's way more fun than folding the towels.

Mina Lobo said...

I took a time management class through my employer some years ago and the takeaway which still resonates strongly in my mind is: do what's most important FIRST. Writers need to value their writing before anything else; blogging, Facebooking, Pinning, Tweeting, etc., comes after.
Some Dark Romantic

Sheena-kay Graham said...

You give some great advice sometimes writers get too wrapped up in the process instead of actually writing.

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

I admit I was a little weary about advising people online not to spend too much time online. (Irony?)

I didn't want it to come off as "hey, this what you're doing right now, reading stuff online, you shouldn't be doing it." because that's not really what I meant at all.

I just meant not to make it the biggest piece of your time pie. So, yeah--Mina--like you said--hit the most important things first and then use your free time as you will.

Susan Woodring said...

Amy, this is a great post. I love how you view "finding" time--you just have to make use of the time you already have. Also, I plan on adopting the thing about telling your brain what to think about today. Yep. Thanks!!

Rob Z Tobor said...

I use a rather battered old desktop, so writing is limited to one location. But I can draw anywhere, so when I cant write I draw.....

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Hi Susan! Thanks for your comment--yeah, people always ask me "how do you make time to write?" man, if I could "make" time, how awesome would that be! It really is just about using what you already have.

Likewise, creating story isn't just about the time you put words on the page--it's about the thought process that leads to it and all the ideas along the way--and you can think anywhere, any time.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

But what if I'm conducting crayon-eating cat research?
There is always time to write if you make time.

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Interesting point, Alex--I didn't consider that perhaps you might have a cat character with a crayon addiction. :-)

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Folks, Tina, it's been a real pleasure being here today. I have enjoyed it! I'm so happy to have been introduced to A to Z and can't wait to see what comes next. Goodnight, ya'll. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!