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!